A scaling approach targeting youth as promoters of market-oriented sheep fattening

Photo Nahom Ephrem/ICARDA
Published: 21 February 2021
Last edited: 21 February 2021
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To improve incomes from sheep fattening in rural Ethiopia, a new community took an approach that leveraged youth as influencers and promoters to scale up the adoption of improved sheep fattening technology and practices. Youth received a start-up package, participated in youth group training, received support from a community of practice, and disseminated their knowledge by organizing field days. Sustainability is demonstrated through the continuation of this approach despite the project end.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Hot desert
Rangeland / Pasture
Food security
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Peace and human security
Science and research
Standards/ certification
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Erratic rainfall
Extreme heat
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations


Menz, Amhara, Ethiopia


Unemployed youth in Ethiopia live mostly in rural areas, where farming is the traditional livelihood. Ethiopia faces a shortage of land in parts of the highlands where population densities are very high and farm sizes are very small, thus solutions must consider interventions that allow for small farms and/or grazing on public lands. Sheep fattening is a long-standing practice in Ethiopia targeting festive seasons, perceived to be a low-risk activity and more profitable than large ruminants. Fattened rams using commercial techniques accrue higher net profit compared to traditional techniques in Ethiopia. However, there has been minimum progression by farmers towards commercial-based fattening due to challenges including feed scarcity, poor husbandry practices, disease prevalence, labour shortage, and poor market access. 


Primary beneficiaries: youth ages 15-32

Secondary beneficiaries: community farmers

How do the building blocks interact?

The connection is that the youth groups share their new skills and knowledge with the wider community of farmers. Open field days allow the youth groups to do this. Indeed, open field days organized by the youth groups themselves help promote ownership, management practices and business development in the wider community. Helping the emergence of cooperatives with a to-do mindset and skillset fit for the business. With better knowledge of finance through open field days and training, the youth groups and the community have easier access to loans. Then, the CoPs help feed into the youth groups through innovative actionable ideas and ways forward. Finally, linked to the cooperative’s development through community-based breeding programs, the youth groups are better organized which serves to disseminate improved fattening practices. 



  • Increased entrepreneurship: At least 412 youth have increased ram numbers from 0-1 to more than 6 rams per fattening cycle, and 437 youth are undertaking 3-4 fattening cycles per annum, up from 2.
  • Fatter sheep: Fattening rams have increased average daily weight gain from between 56-122g/day to 94-198g/day (44-67%), while utilizing only locally available feed resources.
  • Higher-income: Participating youth were able to sell sheep from between ETB 1200-2500 to ETB 2200-4000, an increase of 45-70% higher price than sheep fattened by traditional methods, and their incomes increased by an average of ETB 15000 ($500)  in the first year consisting of 3 fattening cycles.


In addition to increasing her income, 18-year old Tesfanesh shares her experience: “I was a village girl who couldn’t speak much in front of men. After becoming a group member, I have become a girl with high self-esteem and confidence.” 

Contributed by

ICARDA Solutions