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USAID honors Women in Agribusiness Leaders

WALN2Conference (17)

USAID honors the winners of the Innovated Business Plan Competition with prizes worth 500,000 Ethiopian birr.

The Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network, WALN, in partnership with USAID Agribusiness Market Development (AMDe) and Livestock Market Development (LMD) programs, held its second annual conference January 13, 2016 in the Ethiopian capital.

Both USAID projects are part of the Ethiopian government’s Agriculture Growth Program.

Over 600 people, including WALN members from all over Ethiopia, government and USAID representatives and private sector stakeholders attended the conference to applaud the women and their hard work over the past six months. The WALN organization targets high-potential women leaders in agribusiness sectors to build skills in business planning, management and marketing and to develop leadership skills that enable growth and confidence.

The USAID-funded AMDe announced the five winners of the 2015 Innovative Business Plan Competition, and delivered prize money worth over 500,000 Ethiopian birr ($23,500 USD). The competition was held among WALN’s latest round of members: 125 women business owners who went through the WALN boot camp of better business, leadership and networking.

“WALN opened my eyes to how to run a business. I now recognize that I was blindly running operations. The training put me on the right track to create a professional organization with a much higher chance for success,” explains Fasika Gulta, owner of a poultry farm in Amhara and one of the five winners of the competition. “I didn’t even have a business plan before WALN.”

This year’s winners include two poultry farmers, a dairy farmer, a baker and a fruit farmer specialized in the production of cactus fruit.

Business Plan Competition 1st Place Winner, Rahel Mulatu, from Oromia stands with ECX CEO Ermias Eshetu and AGP-AMDe Director, Vanessa Adams

Business Plan Competition 1st Place Winner, Rahel Mulatu, from Oromia stands with ECX CEO Ermias Eshetu and AGP-AMDe Director, Vanessa Adams

The USAID program initially launched the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network in May of 2014 with 94 participants from the regions Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR and Addis Ababa. In its first year, 90% of WALN members successfully completed the training program. To date, the group has reached over 1200 women, and is currently registering itself with the Ethiopian government and building a block of agribusiness leaders watching out for the interests of Ethiopian women, proving there is an urgent demand for women business organizations and leaders.

“WALN members are challenging the stereotypes of agriculture in Ethiopia. WALN has increased your confidence and reduced your fears. These skills make a real difference and make a difference every time you enter a new market, find a new client, or apply for a loan,” Ramona M EL Hamzaoui, the USAID Deputy Mission Director in Ethiopia, told WALN members on Wednesday.

Breathing New Life into Business

Sosina Sisay started her poultry business back in 2001 with just a few chickens. She specializes in the marketing of 1-day and 15-day old chicks, and sells eggs on the local market as well. Last year, she lost nearly all her chickens to a virus, and she hit a low-point in which she wondered if she should continue business.

“I had a lot of problems that were much bigger than losing the chickens. I had no business plan, no idea about financial management. Basically, I didn’t know how to run a business,” she says. Her sister told her about WALN, she applied in early 2015 and joined the 2nd Round of Members in June.

“I wrote down all my problems, and WALN taught me how to deal with them.”

After the business training sessions, she began thinking strategically about how she could differentiate her products. One day she notice that the color of the egg’s yolk depending on the type of feed. She noticed yolks came out white, yellow and pinkish, and started marketing them as such.

“Chefs use eggs in a variety of foods and the colors affect the presentation of the food,” she says. However, she wouldn’t disclose the secret ingredient to get pinkish egg yolks.

Sosina Sisay tells the conference about chicken yolk marketing

Sosina Sisay tells the conference about chicken yolk marketing

“The US Government is committed to support initiatives that empower women. The opportunities for women leaders and business-owners are tremendous and continue to expand. WALN’s growing success proves the importance of the role of women in agribusiness and signifies the role they play in the development of Ethiopia.” explains US Ambassador Patricia Haslach.

Members of the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network

Members of the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network

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The Agribusiness Market Development (AMDe) and Livestock Market Development (LMD) are the Feed the Future initiative’s flagship programs in Ethiopia and represents USAID’s contribution to the Government of Ethiopia‘s Agricultural Growth Program. The $3.5bn global hunger and food security initiative was created by President Obama and sustains the U.S. Government´s commitment as one of Ethiopia’s largest partners in developing the agriculture sector, which is a fundamental cornerstone of the Ethiopian economy. For more information visit www.ethioagp.org

 

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