Bizunesh Tadesse farms five hectares, a quite large and successful operation in her area, which is about 13 kilometers from the town of Meki, Oromia, Ethiopia. With the help of her six children, she grows wheat, maize, teff, and haricot beans, as well as tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables. Like farmers everywhere, she appreciates when a specialty crop, like the haricot beans, may have a profitable year, but typically the main problem for her farm is low or unprofitable prices for the grain she sells.
By working together with her neighbors in a multi-purpose primary cooperative, she is able to collectively purchase cheaper inputs like seed and fertilizer, and collectively sell more efficient quantities of grain to large buyers. Bizunesh is a leader in her community, actively participating at her primary cooperative, and because her neighbors recognize how well she works and produces, she was elected to represent her primary cooperative on the Board of Directors of the Bora Denbel Farmers’ Cooperative Union, the parent organization of 65 primary cooperatives.
Elaine Kub met Bizunesh while providing value chain analysis training at a meeting of the Bora Denbel board members. Bizunesh and her fellow board members were eager to understand and investigate strategies that would add value to their commodity crops, offering them a chance to capture more of the industry’s value chain and pass it back directly to the farmers who belong to the cooperatives. Milling their maize into flour, for instance, could be done efficiently at the cooperative union level and sold directly to consumers.
With greater income from the crops she sells, Bizunesh, now 45, would look forward to building a house in town so that her children could attend high school there and receive a quality education to build careers that could one day support Bizunesh into her retirement.