Journey of change

For many young Ethiopians the journey into employment, business participation and financial independence is a journey of change along with ups and downs. Honey, Bread and Bees plus a strong community - three examples of the journey out of unemployment.

Limited employment drives women and youth to migrate from rural to urban areas

“Unemployment is a battle with oneself. It’s a battle with my consciousness every day and having a job is a huge relief”, says baker Getahun about his small business as he pushes the next baking tray of bread into the oven.

Restaurant owner Bederia Mohamed prepares carrots for the “Special of the Day” on the lunch menu. He says: "It’s very disappointing to have studied for so long and not able to find a job. Most of us hoped, when we finished university, we would serve our community. We hoped to get jobs in government offices - but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

Beekeeper Deme Abera prepares smoke to keep the bees away from the centrifuge. “A single bee is like a fly: it cannot make honey by itself. Being organised gave us the chance to learn from each other and divide responsibilities and tasks among ourselves” he says.

In Ethiopia limited employment opportunities are key drivers for women and youth to migrate from rural into urban areas and beyond to other countries. The demand for labour is growing, especially in agribusiness and the agricultural value chain development due to urbanisation and increased income. Employment opportunities for youth and women remain essential to reducing poverty, eradicating hunger and improving food security.

Job trainings empower to take change into own hands

The Green Innovation Centre of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, together with “Menschen für Menschen” provide training resources and qualifications to create jobs, develop new occupation fields and empower entrepreneurs. Improved access to quality education tackles youth unemployment and encourages young graduates to work in rural regions of Ethiopia and start small businesses.

Smoke is in the air. Beekeeper Deme Abera is covered in his white protection clothing while working on the centrifuge. His honey is well known in the Dano district, 300km south west of Addis Ababa. “Honey is my gold. It gives me a better income compared to other farmers'' he says. Still surrounded by bees, the honey flows out of the centrifuge.

Along with other young people, he benefited from the training provided by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the partner organisation “Menschen für Menschen”. Reflecting on his training, he says “Bees are an organised group of insects. They work together and they work hard. Once Menschen für Menschen organised us into groups, we became very successful in producing honey. They gave us the chance to change our lives. I see it like bees - because they don’t waste their time. I have learned to use my time properly.”

Another group of young, former unemployed men were trained in baking. The smell of freshly baked bread fills a bakery in the village of Gonde, 300km southeast of Ethiopia’s capital. After job training, Getahun Negussie opened his bakery with friends. He’s shy when asked about the secret recipe for his bread, which has become well known in the area. Already in early mornings, the queue of customers outside the bakery starts to grow. “Passion for the work I do, that’s one of the ingredients to make good bread. It gives my team the energy to keep doing what we’re doing and to bake good bread. Baking is something I do with pleasure. I’m very happy when I bake.”, he says.

Another small business that became a reality after job training, is the restaurant of Bederia Mohammed and her friends. She explains: “I used to live with my parents and I used to depend on them for food, clothing and everything else. But now that I own my own business, I have moved out of my parent’s place and I live by myself.”

Remaining challenges won´t stop entrepreneurs to grow their business

Beekeeper Deme, Baker Getahun and restaurant owner Bederia - the business journey of each came with doubts and challenges. The bakers in Gonde couldn’t get straight to work after training due to difficulties in gaining access to the right machines and infrastructures, such as electricity. Several weeks passed before the first bread was able to be baked.

Bederia feels proud about her restaurant as she explains how much has changed since starting her own business: “But as a woman, it’s really hard. It’s not common for us to stay late for work or business after work hours. People get suspicious and ask all sorts of questions.” For Bederia and other women like her, it’s a challenge that arises from their families and communities. “My female colleagues and I face harassment even on the streets when we go back home late. It’s not easy for us as women to stay out late working”.

On market days particularly, all 40 colourful chairs in the blue restaurant are taken by customers, craving her traditional home cooked Ethiopian food. Between the traditional coffee ceremony taking place on the terrace and the kitchen with pots cooking over firewood on the other side of the building, it’s a lot to organise and keep in mind.

However, Bederia acknowledges how training taught her to manage a team: “I’m very happy to have managed this business as a woman.” For her, a successful business is a matter of commitment: “A woman can do even more than a man can. We took the training in the same classroom. We have the same mindset and the only difference is a matter of commitment. Women can do anything. Women can do even more and not less if they are committed.”

Getahun, baker in Gonde, plans to expand with more branches and involve unemployed youth in his community: “They can see how we work and how we started our business. Maybe they will get some hope for their plans.”

After business training, Beekeeper Deme is able to sell his honey for a better price than before. With increased income, he built and furnished a house for himself and others he rents out. “I’m now an independent man. I have relieved my father from burden”, he states.


About the Green Innovation Centre Ethiopia project

Financed by BMZ, the Green Innovation Centre Ethiopia project is supporting the emerging private sector engagement and digitalisation efforts in agricultural extension and advisory service to enhance the agricultural production and productivity of Ethiopia. To find out more, visit the project page. 


Author: Katie Gallus
Photographer: ©GIZ/Mulugeta Gebrekidan
Publishing date: 30 September 2021