Bereket Demeke was a broken man. He faced extreme anxiety over not knowing where his family’s next meal would come from and owed more than 10 million ETB in business debt as a result of a recent drought – which caused a devastating hit to his animal export company. “I was on the verge of losing everything,” Bereket lamented.
For Bereket, the year 2014 started off in despair but changed dramatically after the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) project invited him to attend the Gulf food Trade Show in Dubai, kicking off a series of events that would help restore Bereket’s confidence, not only in his business, but himself.
Gulf food is one of the largest food and beverage industry-related events in the world, attracting thousands of companies and more than 85,000 visitors from 120 countries. Booths featuring juices, vegetables, spices and meat from the U.S. to Japan to Kenya sprawl across the 10,000+ square foot pavilion center. Gulf food revealed a new world to Bereket– one interconnected by global trade and eager buyers looking to cement new partnerships.
To ensure sustainability after the program ends, AGP-LMD sponsors businesses to participate in trade shows in which they have never attended, and requires cost-share from each business to demonstrate their commitment to expanding their market. Bereket fit these criteria as he had neither exported his products outside Ethiopia nor attended Gulf food. AGP-LMD supported Bereket at every step of the way, from helping him to prepare a sales pitch, to developing professional and attractive business materials. Having travelled at his own expense, Bereket was determined not to leave the trade fair without some major sales. After several days of negotiations, Bereket finalized a contract for his first international export of 2,000 live animals.
Fulfilling Bereket’s first contract would be no small feat— as this required a significant amount immediate financial investment. In fact, he needed 16 million ETB in order to deliver the sale. AGPLMD worked with Bereket in applying to USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA), a first for his business, to acquire a loan. When the DCA approved his application, Bereket knew this was the turning point in his business operations. “That was my breakthrough,” he recalled. “With the help of USAID, I managed to supply the required live animals to fulfill the contract.”
AGP-LMD identifies international market opportunities and potential buyers for Ethiopian livestock producers. But the work does not stop there. AGP-LMD works with the livestock businesses they are partnering with to ensure they are not constrained due to a lack of capital, like Bereket’s story, and provides assistance to improve their access to finance and investment. The project also delivers training and when needed, supports the meat and live animal exporters to meet necessary requirements for entering new markets, such as HACCP, ISO, and Halal certification.
In Bereket’s case, AGP-LMD coupled the loan assistance with training in business management and marketing. “I have been shaped by this program and now have a better foundation of business knowledge,” Bereket commented. “I follow a modernized and improved marketing system and see that I have the capacity to do business better.”
In one year, Bereket managed to pay the entire credit back and since he began working with AGPLMD, he makes an average profit of over three million ETB annually. But he is not the only one whose life has positively changed due to his business’ success. The community is also benefiting immensely. As Bereket’s business grows, he needs more live animals to meet the demand. Residents around Mojo, where his business center is located, are supplying their livestock, generating a new income for those families. Bereket has even been able to offer new employment opportunities as his sales continue to increase.
“USAID AGP-LMD has transformed me and my business,” Bereket said in summing up his experience with the program over the past two years. Over the past four years, AGP-LMD has facilitated more than USD $98 million, exceeding its life of project target of USD $93 million. With a little less than a year left, AGP-LMD will continue to expand Ethiopia’s meat and live animal value chains’ access to international markets.
Site: AllAfrica News: Ethiopia