Friday, October 30, 2009

Land O' Lakes Co-Op Farms Tour


Today Haven, Mark and I went with Tsehay and Degefa from Land O'Lakes to visit dairy farms and cooperatives. We saw several small dairies that were doing well as dairymen but had also learned the value of manure to grow vegetables. They had some wonderful produce that they sold in Addis Ababa.

This Land O’ Lakes consulting project, funded by USAID, is really successful in this area. They choose a well respected farmer in each area and train him/her then have them work with the other farmers in the area. The milk production from the farms that we visited is twice that of the national average.

Land O ‘Lakes has also helped the farmers with cooperatives to collect and market the milk to the large processors. One of the cooperatives was frustrated that they were only paid half of what the processor was selling their milk for. They were seriously considering putting in their own processing facility. The Coop has also set up a cooperative “bank” where they can leave part of their milk check in the cooperative and others can borrow from that fund. It is a great system that they are very proud of and they did it and are doing it on their own without government instigation or intervention. This cooperative has 56,000 birr currently in their account available to lend out (approx $4,400.00 US).
VERY IMPRESSIVE!

It was exciting to see the entrepreneurial spirit of these farmers. They now have more than enough for their own families and are generous with others lifting the whole village with them. The management practices are still 50 years behind but they are eager to learn and improve. One lady we visited recently had 11 baby calves die within their first week of life. We evaluated their facilities and procedures and identified several major items that she could change to remedy her problem. She then told us that a neighbor was selling out and she would love to have us buy that property so we could be her neighbor.

When I see so many good people working hard to make life better for themselves and for others I really get excited about what we are doing here. With their drive and enthusiasm we can partner to catapult Ethiopia’s agriculture industry to twice its current production and beyond.

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