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A Growing Dairy Business Empowers Women

A Growing Dairy Business Empowers Women

An entrepreneur works with dairy farmers across Ethiopia to improve access to and quality of milk.

From day one of opening her dairy processing company, Hirut Yohannes Darare’s goal was to provide for her family while improving the lives of female dairy farmers in her community and across Ethiopia.

In 2008, Darare founded Rut & Hirut and began sourcing milk from neighbors, and then eventually from over 450 local farmers, 95 percent of whom are women. When production costs started outweighing revenue, she sought out training opportunities to help increase the productivity of the farmers’ cows and the quality of the milk they produced. A Feed the Future-supported training in cattle and feed management from Land O’Lakes International Development provided her with the skills and knowledge she needed. Darare shared what she had learned with the farmers who supplied her with raw milk. In addition to technical trainings on dairy best practices, Hirut also advised her farmers on the nutritional value of retaining a portion of the milk produced for their families.

This had a cascade of benefits, as these farmers improved their production, it provided the communities with access to safer, high-quality milk through local markets. Additionally, it provided income to women since Darare sources most of her raw milk from female farmers. Income controlled by women is more frequently used on food and health care for the family, particularly for children.

Photo of Hirut Yohannes Darare

Darare purchased machinery that could process 6,000 liters of milk per day, officially establishing a dairy processing plant for her business. Today, Rut & Hirut produces a variety of dairy products, including pasteurized milk, cheeses, yogurt, butter and cream. This increases the demand of raw milk from female farmers, boosting their income and household nutrition.

“The training provided by Feed the Future enabled me to produce high-quality milk, diversify products, and maintain the health and good feeding program for my cows,” Darare said.

To ensure food safety and hygiene as her business grew, Darare joined Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE), a program that is strengthening the African food processing sector and expanding the availability of affordable and nutritious food. In partnership with Feed the Future, this program brings together Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) — a group of volunteer employees from food companies such as General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM, Bühler, The Hershey Company and Ardent Mills — and TechnoServe, a nonprofit partner specializing in private sector approaches to help reduce poverty.

“I received customized factory-based technical assistance to enhance the hygiene of the facility, strengthen inventory management, and support the development of business plans to access financing for expansion,” Darare said. Her business expanded its milk processing capacity by more than 330 percent.

Rut & Hirut’s staff learned a number of best practices for ensuring their operations encouraged food safety. Additionally, Darare shared the lessons she learned on hygiene and sanitation from Feed the Future with other factories operating in her region. Since participating in the program, Rut & Hirut has experienced a 216 percent increase in revenue from the sale of pasteurized milk, cheese and yogurt, from $149,646 to $447,531. Additionally, by following the advice to chill milk when shipping it to stores, Rut & Hirut increased the shelf life of its milk from three to seven days. Local female farmers are reaping the benefits through increased prices for the milk they supply to Rut & Hirut.

Darare said her business will continue to grow thanks to the increased capacity of the facility and increased production from farmers, increasing the availability of milk and dairy products in Ethiopia and empowering women, both of which may lead to improved nutrition.

Feed the Future works with Partners in Food Solutions and its six member companies to improve food security, nutrition and economic development in Africa by empowering their employee volunteers to share expertise and a combined 700 years of food industry experience with dynamic and promising food companies throughout Africa. Feed the Future also partners with Land O’Lakes Inc. and Land O’Lakes International Development to strengthen the dairy sector in countries like Ethiopia.

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