Improved Sheep Fattening Skills for Ethiopia's Youth

Yeshareg Tesfa (18 years) is one of 485 youth who have participated and benefited from the youth sheep fattening program. Photo by Nahom Ephrem
Yeshareg Tesfa (18 years) is one of 485 youth who have participated and benefited from the youth sheep fattening program. Photo by Nahom Ephrem
  • Jane Wamatu – Scientist  


ICARDA equips unemployed Ethiopian youth with an innovative package of sheep-fattening practices and technologies to improve their income and access to market enterprise. 


Across Ethiopia’s rural communities, selling fattened sheep in festive seasons is a highly profitable and low-risk activity that could employ many jobless young. Yet, as a result of multiple challenges, including lack of husbandry skills, feed scarcity, poor husbandry practices, disease prevalence, and poor market access, the appeal of the sector has been low. With the aim to scale out improved sheep fattening practices and technologies to enable the enhancement of incomes from sheep fattening in Ethiopia, ICARDA’s sheep fattening project has been pivotal in expanding opportunities in agribusiness to youth as a means to advance rural livelihoods and economic development across 3 regional states in Ethiopia. An entrepreneurial culture has been integrated into an approach that involves a progressive expansion of a network of sheep fattening youth groups and cooperatives and on-farm model champions as disseminators of proven sheep fattening technologies and practices, and facilitators of participatory learning. 

To harness the entrepreneurial potential of the young farmers, ICARDA initially organized 485 youth into 44 groups and developed a cost-free and easy-access sheep fattening start-up package, which helped them promote the adoption. It consisted of improved sheep fattening technologies, training on better husbandry practices, and entrepreneurship skills development. The package also included a fattening ram, salt-lick blocks for mineral intake as well as a feed trough and watering trough to encourage clean feed. As well as in-package training, ICARDA continuously supports youth groups in their efforts to hold open field days, thus, inviting livestock farmers to learn sheep fattening management practices, and offering them business development tips and livestock ownership guidance. 

Communities of Practice (CoP), composed of researchers, key sheep value-chain actors, development agents, and higher-level policymakers was formed to garner support from regional and local administrations and provide an enabling environment for youth groups to undertake sheep fattening. The CoPs provide the young groups with training on policies required to promote sheep fattening technologies, offer mentorship, and strengthen coordination between local technical and financial support providers.



  • Increased entrepreneurship: 412 young people multiplied their ram numbers from one to more than six per fattening cycle, and another 437 achieved a shift from two fattening cycles a year to up to four.  The 44 youth groups have increased their membership by an average of 55%. 


  • Fatter sheep: The new ram fattening methods have increased the animal’s average weight gain by 44 to 67 percent while using locally available feed resources. 


  • Higher-income: The young farmers involved in the project were able to sell their sheep for 45-70 percent higher prices than those bred by experienced farmers using traditional methods.  


Further Reading:  


Jane Wamatu. (30/4/2019). TAAT Sheep Fattening Scaling Project - Technical Report  


Esayas Mulatu, Jane Wamatu. (19/2/2020). Sheep Fattening Business Case for Youth Groups. 


Getachew Animut, Jane Wamatu. (31/12/2014). Prospects to improve the productivity of sheep fattening in Ethiopia: Status, challenges and opportunities. Amman, Jordan: Haramaya University.