Ato Gadissa’s started his business in 1990 with 20 cross bred dairy cows on a 17.5 hectare landholding in Ambo town. His business progressed and he now has two big farms in Ambo and Bako Tibe district. He also has shares in Anno Agro-industry company, owns a Farmer Service Center (FSC) and a mega feed processing plant. Near his farm in Ambo , he has a shop where he sells his produce, provides advisory services to producers, motivates agricultural extension service providers and represents private integrated farms in various platforms in Oromia and Ethiopia.
He was born and raised in Dengoro wereda of West Welega zone, Oromia region. After his primary and secondary school education, he got diplomas in language and general agriculture from Addis Ababa University and Ambo college of Agriculture. He studied abroad and got an advanced diploma in Agriculture from the USA. He worked as language and agriculture extension agent for more than 23 years. Through his years, he traveled the world and met influential agricultural business entrepreneurs and decision makers.
Now a fully-fledged agriculture entrepreneur, he owns about 100 crossbred cows that produce 15 liters of milk on average. Alongside the dairying, he cultivates maize, wheat, tef and chickpea; in the dry season he irrigates his land from th Huluka river and cultivates maize. Beekeeping is an integral part of his Ambo farm. He owns close to 100 modern beehives and each produces about 80 kilograms of high quality honey each year. The honey is sold to wholesalers from Addis.
The 50 hectare Dono farm in BakoTibe district is on land that was swampy but is now fertile and is suited to mechanized farming to produce maize, sorghum and vegetables by irrigation. Thousands of mango trees, five different varieties, are planted and harvested every year from this farm.
Gadissa says that being located close to research centers enabled him to continuously learn and make his own research on various crops. The challenges for farmers of getting improved crop seeds led him to produce and sell improved seeds in his Ambo and Dono farms.
On top of his full time work on his two farms, he is shareholder in a large scale farm, Anno Agro-Industry. This farm, lying on 500 ha of land in east welega zone, produces crops and livestock. The land was degraded when they started but has now been rehabilitated through the application of soil and water conservation techniques. Anno Agro-industry organizes experience sharing events for stakeholders in the area where insights and lessons on crops, livestock and the environment are shared, discussed and demonstrated. To address the animal feed challenges, Gadissa also established a mega animal feed processing plant in Ambo.
According to Gaddisa, farmers are willing to pay for better options in agricultural extension services and input supply. He thus established a Farm Service Center (FSC) in 2013. For a fee, the center provides production technologies, inputs, pesticides, equipment, advisory service and market information and linkages. Qualified experts in veterinary, extension, marketing and accounting are full time employees in the center. Gadissa’s dream is to see his farming business progressing and being a family asset – his elder son Biftu has expertise in computer science, farm machinery and accounting and works in the business.
Overall, he employs about 250 people, more than half of them women.
Gadissa’s farming business serves as an innovative model to scale up modern production practices to help smallholders take the leap from subsistence to commercial production. His focus on value addition for increased market demand and maximized profit offer lessons to be shared by others. His rich experience as a school teacher, farmer, entrepreneur and extensionist is an inspiration for experts, farmers and decision makers.
Contributed by Addisu Abera, Abule Ebro, Moti Jaleta and Nigatu Alemayehu