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Mentors in Ethiopia Empower Fellow Women Entrepreneurs

Banyan Global leads the implementation of a mentorship program for women and youth on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain Activity (VCA), linking established producers working in coffee, chickpea, maize, poultry, dairy, and livestock with women and youth who are interested and committed to pursuing similar businesses.

Zenebu participates in the program as a mentor in the Lume woreda in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. As a wife and mother of two children as well as a successful poultry farmer, many people look up to her, including her family and mentees. After working as a health extension worker for four years, Zenebu said goodbye to a steady job with a monthly salary in exchange for starting her own poultry farming business. Although a risky decision, Zenebu has been very pleased with the results of her business. After seeing her profits at the end of each month and what this income has done for her family, Zenebu has never looked back on her decision to make a career change. 

Zenebu meets with her VCA mentees.

This brave and determined young woman was resolved to secure a sustainable livelihood for her family by any means necessary. She started her farm in 2017 with 100 chickens, allowing her to collect around 90 eggs per day. In her early days as a burgeoning entrepreneur, she made 270 birr per day and around 8,000 birr (230 USD) per month. With the gains she was seeing, Zenebu chose to focus entirely on poultry farming and realized she was happy doing her work well while still being able to look after her family. Pleased with her progress, Zenebu’s husband grew even more supportive of her endeavor, and wanted to identify ways that he could further support her. After some time, he decided to reach out to his family to obtain a portion of land for Zenebu to expand her business, to which they agreed.

With this support, Zenebu was able to procure more chickens for the following poultry farming cycle. In her second poultry cycle, Zenebu was tending to 240 chickens and began collecting around 230 eggs per day. She was able to sell each egg for 3.5–4 birr each, which allowed her to make approximately 700–800 birr per day, generating more than 20,000 birr (580 USD) per month.

After evaluating her second round of performance, Zenebu recalled how the VCA mentorship program supported her as she continued to expand her business:

“I developed self-confidence, I plan what to do, I always think about how I can increase my income and how I can expand my work, and I have healthy children who get healthy food and protection. My interaction with the VCA project helped me a lot, my knowledge on poultry farming increased, I have developed my daily recording book, and I managed to have linkages with different people who are doing poultry farming. Before, when I was working, I did a lot of community work and by the time I got home, I got tired and was unable to look after my kids and even myself. Now, all these things have stopped and I know what to do and when to do it.” 

For 2020, Zenebu planned to expand her business even more to continue providing for her family. She now has 420 chickens that are laying eggs and collects 410 eggs per day which she can sell for 5 birr each, bringing her profit to 63,000 birr (1800 USD) per month (up from 230 USD in 2017). Zenebu shares her experiences and lessons learned with VCA mentors and mentees from other regions in order to help them to improve their own businesses and achieve work-life balance.