Ethiopia is in the grip of one of the worst droughts in its recent history. According to government and humanitarian agencies, some 10.2 million people need emergency food assistance, as acute malnutrition (especially in children) rises sharply across the country.
The impacts on health, education and the economy are devastating. The World Food Programme recently reported that two in five Ethiopian children suffer from stunted growth, while 28% of all childhood mortality is caused by under-nutrition.
As a consequence, Ethiopia loses around 16.5% of its GDP per year, holding back prospects for sustainable growth, prosperity and transformation that are so desperately needed.
Over the last decade, the country has done much to combat the problem of food scarcity, and some progress has been made – but the problem persists.
With such a long history of food insecurity and reliance on humanitarian assistance and food aid programs, Ethiopia has typically struggled to develop sustainable (and scalable) models of localized food production. But the situation is changing. Where government and charity have been struggling to deliver a long-term solution to this ongoing challenge, could business provide alternative approaches?
Encouraging entrepreneurs to tackle the issue of malnutrition
Of particular importance is livestock production, specifically poultry, which is raised by some 60% of all Ethiopian smallholders and provides an excellent source of protein. The problem is that many local breeds take a year to reach market weight, produce a limited yield of eggs, and tend to be overly susceptible to disease.
Specializing in more resilient breeds, one of the country’s largest poultry producers is championing a franchise model in an effort to solve this problem – a model that directly addresses food security and healthy diet, while also supporting entrepreneurs and creating jobs.
Rather than raise the chickens themselves, EthioChicken supplies their agents with day-old chicks, which can then be matured and their eggs or meat sold. This can realize an annual profit of up to $120 per agent – a significant contribution to household budgets in a country with an average per capita income of just $470 a year.
This ability to generate revenue is essential, but the firm never loses sight of its social purpose. As Co-CEO, Joseph Shields, explains: “Our focus goes beyond profit growth – we’re also concerned about producing a source of protein to make a difference in our country. We want to continue to scale our business, so that we can help keep more children healthy.”