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Women in Leadership Training Paves the Way for Milk Cooperative Success in Ethiopia

Busa Kecha Kebel Tegat Ledeget Milk Cooperative, known simply as “Busa Kecha,” is an important community resource located in Sodo Zuriya, an area of Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). Established in 2014 with 46 members (42 females and 4 males) and 50,000 birr (approx. $1,200 USD) in start-up capital collected from members, Busa Kecha set out to serve the surrounding community by providing quality milk and creating profitable opportunities for its members. However, faced with leadership challenges between the management committee members (who serve as leaders) and its general assembly, Busa Kecha closed operations in June 2020.

In November 2020, Banyan Global’s gender and youth team on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Feed the Future Ethiopia Value Chain Activity (VCA) organized a Women in Leadership training in SNNPR for women engaged in cooperatives and other informal and formal associations who aspire to take on leadership positions. The training, which covered topics such as leadership, communication skills, and decision making, also provided opportunities for reflection and goal setting. Four cooperative members from Busa Kecha participated in the training, where they developed a plan to elect new committee members, bring more women into leadership roles, and restart operations within the next six months.   

Busa Kecha members engage in group discussion.

After returning from the training, the four members called for a general assembly meeting in which Busa Kecha elected new leadership, including 17 female and three male leaders, and gained new members. Currently, Busa Kecha boasts 68 members, of which the majority (61) are women.

According to local government/Kebele cooperative experts who participated in and supported facilitation of the training, it was successful for all participants. “It was a great training and timely; it [gave] us the skills on how to communicate with [cooperative] members and make decisions”, stated Kebele cooperative expert Asamenew Berhanu.

Since the training and subsequent elections, Busa Kecha leadership has been motivated to restart the business. Besides receiving technical support and other trainings from VCA dairy specialists related to quality, sanitation, feeding, and other areas, Busa Kecha’s leaders have been actively preparing to reopen. They have readied all facilities for collection and reselling and are now equipped to collect milk from both cooperative and other community members. The cooperative plans to collect 90 liters of milk a day and will sell fresh milk and yogurt. By buying one liter of milk at 23 birr, the cooperative can resell it for 25 birr, thus netting a profit.

In addition to its regular milk collection, the cooperative opened a new tea, coffee, and yogurt shop in December 2020 and hired two new staff – a salesperson and a cook – to handle the business. Fulfilling all the goals from their Women in Leadership training plan and looking ahead, Busa Kecha’s chairperson Sebele Angelo shared, “Our vision is to be a well-known association who serves the community with quality production. I believe we will get recognition from the government very soon because of our hard work”.