Ethiopia has prioritized the transformation of its agricultural sector for poverty reduction and economic growth. It has launched a clear roadmap – the Ethiopia livestock master plan – to develop the livestock sector, of which an absence of such plan had persistently hindered the successful implementation of previous investment plans.
The Ethiopia livestock master plan is a comprehensive assessment of the investment opportunities to increase meat, milk and egg production, respectively, by 58, 83 and a massive 828 per cent over 2012 levels by 2020.
It projects that such greater productivity and the resulting higher income levels would end poverty for more than 2.3m of Ethiopia’s 11m livestock-keeping households.
Achieving this would cost just over $760m over a five-year period, with interventions in three keys areas: animal genetics, feed and health.
While most livestock in Ethiopia are local breeds, research shows that crossbred cattle, if adequately fed, can produce 10 times more milk than their local counterparts. Putting into action a livestock breeding strategy to raise the number of crossbreds could pave the way for improved cattle breeds that could, with health and feeding improvements, nearly double the dairy production of Ethiopia’s small-scale farmers and herders.
Genetic livestock improvement is not enough on its own. Genetically improved crossbred animals need to be given better feeds if they are to produce higher yields of milk, meat and eggs. To accomplish this, Ethiopia will need to overcome chronic shortages of animal forage and processed feeds and increase its investment in new, improved feeds.
Realising the potential of the country’s livestock sector will also need improvements to its animal health services to tackle high calf mortality rates, inadequate veterinary supplies and inefficient veterinary services. To this end, the master plan calls for more and better public and private animal health services and a more effective regulatory body at federal and regional levels.
The bounty for attracting sufficient private and public investment, and adopting new policies to enact the livestock master plan, would be the transition of millions of Ethiopia’s family farmers and herders from subsistence to market-based livestock producers.
This would have the dual benefit of feeding Ethiopia’s growing population and helping to drive the country’s GDP growth to even higher levels.