Ox Fattening Builds a Family's Livelihood


“I am now the ox fattening expert in my village. I give advice to my neighbors on how to feed and care for oxen,” says Menen Aleme, a 42-year-old mother of six who lives in the Libo Kemkem Woreda, in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. GRAD helped her gain a stable income by training her how to fatten oxen for market, and connecting her to service providers and local buyers that help her business thrive. The fattening business has become a catalyst to change for her family.

Menen adds, “Before I started with GRAD, I did not even have chickens. Now, I am fattening my sixth ox.” Menen fattens each ox for six months before selling and makes an average net profit of 6,000 birr ($222) each cycle. She uses these profits to invest in more business opportunities and has bought a cow, a donkey, and chickens. She now earns more than 2,000 birr ($74) per month from all her livelihoods activities. For perspective, that is more than 11 times the monthly household income families reported when GRAD started in 2012: 700 birr ($25).

For Menen and her family, the most important benefit of these profits has been getting back control of their land—which they had previously been forced to loan to a neighbor. In addition, “The income helped me to send all my children to school. My eldest daughter entered university last year. I have 3,000 birr ($111) in savings. I am so happy to see all these changes. I want to expand ox fattening in the future and buy a house in town.” 

Nearly two years after the GRAD project stopped providing active support in her community, Menen and her family are stronger than ever. Menen says her training not only helped her start a business, but has also given her status and respect in the community. Beyond those essential new skills, Menen now has access to systems and institutions that enable her to maintain and build her business. Her VESA Lewet Ayehu (or “I’ve seen changes”) continues to meet regularly, even though GRAD stopped facilitating activities with them in 2016. Building on connections the project made between VESAs and an MFI – Qala Yohannes Credit and Savings Association – Menen is now taking larger loans. Menen has taken out two loans from Qala for a total of 7,000 birr ($254), approximately 10 times the loan size she can get from the VESA. She has fully repaid both loans. “I like the loans from Qala credit, since its interest rate is 12% (compared to 18% for most MFIs). It is convenient—the location is close to home and the process takes no more than two days. The loans are not big enough to buy a good ox, but I usually add from my savings so I can buy one.”

GRAD worked with Menen and women like her to get better access to market information, and to form collectives to increase their bargaining power. Menen is now a member of Ratinesh Livestock Fattening and Marketing Cooperative which sells animal feed to members and non-members and buys fattened animals from members like Menen. Before selling, however, she checks other markets to make sure she is getting the best price.

GRAD worked with Menen so she could learn new skills which, combined with access to credit, links to markets, and access to information, was the push she needed to get started in the cattle fattening value chain. Helping her build a successful business isn’t just about the market system. GRAD’s focus on aspiration to graduate out of poverty helped convince Menen and others that they have the power to take control of their lives. Menen is now a role model and resource person for her community.