By Paul Ndiho
Poultry farming is big business in Ethiopia and it is growing at a staggering pace. Ethiochicken is leading the way, creating opportunities in this vast and potentially lucrative market by increasing production more than thirty-fold among poultry farmers, who struggle to earn their living through subsistence farming.
Founded nearly six years ago, Ethiochicken has since expanded into four regions in Ethiopia, with production centers nationwide, reaching farmers in small communities. The company developed innovative, economically viable models to reach rural households. David Ellis, the CEO of Ethiochicken says his company will soon reach more than 700,000 smallholder farmers with improved poultry breeds.
“Our vision is to reach one per person per year in Ethiopia by 2020 and what we do is we sell better breeds of chicken to smallholders in Ethiopia, for them to achieve more food security, earn more money and also empower women. Women are the ones typically keeping chickens at the rural level, and we do this through a network of agents where we hatch their chicks, produce feed, and then we sell a full package inputs to agents, who raise the chicken for 45 days, and sell them to smallholder farmers.”
Ellis says that Ethiopia was an attractive country for them, because the poultry market is experiencing a boom as a result of its rapid population, and economic growth.
Each of those farmers will benefit by at least $100 per year so that’d be an impact of about $100 million per year on smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.
Ethiochicken has partnered with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation (Fintrac), a Washington DC – the USAID-funded program that helps the private sector to scale and market agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers through investing in technology commercialization and knowledge exchange. Robert Rabatsky is the director Fintrac.
“We partnered with Ethiochicken through a competitive process, and we’ve run to date six of these competitive processes where we’ve put out calls for proposal – David and his company submitted a proposal, we evaluated that along with probably 50 or 60 other projects. It became shortlisted; it was a high-quality proposal and so we determined that it was eligible for consideration for funding.”
Brenna Carmen McKay, Technology Commercialization lead at Fintrac says the program invests in public-private partnerships that make agricultural products commercially available to smallholder farmers.
Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation was designed to engage private sector companies that have game-changing technologies in agriculture. Our program incentivizes these companies, who may not already be in smallholder markets, by giving them a grant as the initial investment to prove the value proposition in a smallholder market.”
Despite the success of Ethiochicken, David Ellis says running a poultry technology company in Ethiopia has its challenges.
“There’s also a lack of a poultry industry where you know, and it’s not easy to get the talented workforce; people with 5, ten years of experience doing this, so a lot of training is required. We hire fresh graduates from school and train them internally to be poultry farm managers, hatchery managers, and sales people.”
Industry analysts say Ethiochicken has potential to be very successful and the profits farmers generate, will allow families to buy food, and pay for school and medical costs.