Cattle fattening is an important component of livestock farming in Gamogofa Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. The Zonal Bureau of Agriculture reports that there are about 3.5 million cattle in the zone. Although the area is agro-ecologically suitable for cattle fattening, smallholder cattle fatteners are not earning much from the sector. The beef value chain actors who attended the livestock commodity platform meetings organized by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project identified the poorly developed cattle marketing system as the number one challenge in the zone. Smallholder fatteners sell their cattle individually in the nearby markets or to local traders in their villages. The smallholders have generally low bargaining power as they do not have market information and thus traders usually dictate the prices. Due to lack of good market and the unfair prices, a majority of these producers do not see the economic importance of engaging in cattle fattening.
Cognizant of these challenges, the LIVES project worked on potential marketing interventions to enhance the beef value chains in the zone. The project and its partners identified potential market outlets and channels; worked on improving access to market information at different levels and tried to establish market linkages between producers and traders/consumers for domestic and export markets. One of the domestic markets is the Addis Ababa consumers’ cooperative, which was established in various sub-city administrations and woredas.
The consumers’ cooperative works on stabilizing the market by supplying food commodities at reasonable prices. Because the price of beef has increased over time, the cooperatives took measures to increase the number of butcheries in different kebeles and districts in Addis Ababa to supply beef at a reasonable price.
Although the owners of the butcheries set up by the cooperatives prefer medium-sized and moderately fattened cattle, they are unable to buy the animals at a reasonable price. This creates an opportunity for smallholder producers (cattle fatteners) to establish linkages with consumer cooperatives without interference from intermediaries.
The LIVES regional team in SNNPR facilitated the establishment of market linkages between smallholders cattle fatteners in intervention districts in Gamogofa with a consumers’ cooperative in Addis Ababa. Representatives of the cooperative visited the intervention districts (Arba Minch Zuria and Mirab Abaya) to assess the potential, establish linkage and buy sample animals for the 2007 Ethiopian New Year. During the visit, the team held discussions with cattle fatteners and marketing groups organized by LIVES in the intervention districts, and concerned public institutions (Bureau of Agriculture and marketing and cooperative) on the purpose of forging linkages, the type and condition of the animals they are looking for and the possibility of sustaining the linkages. The discussion highlighted the importance of market oriented cattle fattening. The effort is believed to positively influence public institutions in forging and creating market linkages with other institutional buyers as well.
The team representing the consumers’ cooperative also looked at the type and condition of the cattle fattened by farmers and supplied to the local markets in the intervention districts. Although some of the animals supplied to market are highly fattened, the team confirmed that there are also moderately fattened animals which meet their requirement. Thus, the consumers’ cooperative representatives bought 21 fattened oxen from producers at two local markets and took them directly to Addis Ababa. This was the first transaction made between the consumers’ cooperative and producers, marking the beginning of the market linkage! This direct transaction was beneficial to both parties as they did not incur any extra cost for intermediaries, and the animals were offered at a reasonable price compared to individual sales to traders locally or buying the animals at Addis Ababa markets. The team signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with cattle fattening and marketing groups to strengthen and sustain the business linkage in the future.
In general, the intervention districts of Gamogofa Zone could supply fattened cattle to Addis Ababa consumers’ cooperatives and beyond. The consumers’ cooperative is interested in strengthening direct marketing linkage with producers and cooperatives in the future.
To exploit this opportunity and make it sustainable, cattle fatteners require technical support as well as revisiting of their fattening practices to meet market needs. Extension staff of the Bureau of Agriculture and marketing and cooperative are expected to enhance the capacity of smallholders, provide market information and provide technical backstopping. To this end, LIVES should continue to introduce and demonstrate market oriented interventions to enhance the performance of beef value chain to improve the economic well-being of smallholder producers.
Contributed by Yoseph Mekasha, Tesfaye Dubale, Birhanu Biazen and Tadiwos Zewdie.