Improved sheep fattening skills for Ethiopia's youth

Yeshareg Tesfa (18 years) is one of 485 youth who have participated and benefited from the youth sheep fattening program. Photo by Nahom Ephrem
Yeshareg Tesfa (18 years) is one of 485 youth who have participated and benefited from the youth sheep fattening program. Photo by Nahom Ephrem

Many unemployed youths live across Ethiopia's rural areas, where farming is the primary economic activity. While selling fattened sheep in festive seasons is a highly profitable and low-risk activity that could potentially employ many jobless young people, scant progress in sheep fattening techniques have slowed down this sector’s attractiveness.  This is the result of multiple challenges, including feed scarcity, poor husbandry practices, disease prevalence, labour shortage, and poor market access.

To support the Ethiopian youth out of a job, ICARDA supplied them with a sheep fattening start-up package, which helped them promote the adoption of improved sheep fattening technologies and practices to broader farming communities. This free package includes a fattened an uncastrated male sheep, or ram, a salt-lick block for mineral intake, and a feed and watering trough. Throughout the project, ICARDA has supported the youth to run open field days to advocate for sheep fattening management practices, business development tips and ownership guidance to other farmers.

A community of practice (CoP), composed of researchers, key sheep value-chain actors and governments, provides the youth with the knowledge and policies they need to promote sheep fattening technologies and innovative practices to the community of farmers. CoPs also trains youth groups and farmers’ communities of farmers on how to finance their businesses, which grants them easier access to loans.

IMPACT

  • Increased entrepreneurship: 412 young people have multiplied their ram heads from 1 to more than six per fattening cycle, and another 437 have achieved to shift from 2 fattening cycles a year to 3 or 4.  

 

  • Fatter sheep: The new ram fattening methods have boosted the animal’s average daily weight gain from 56 to122g originally, to 94-198g a day, an increase of 44 to 67 percent achieved by only using locally available feed resources.

 

  • Higher income: The young Ethiopian involved in the project were able to sell their sheep for 45-70 percent higher prices (ETB 1200-2500 to ETB 2200-4000) than the ones bred with traditional methods. Their incomes increased by an average of ETB 15000 ($500) in the first year’s three fattening cycles.