A flash of hope shines amidst the devastating drought and looming food shortages currently afoot in Ethiopia: ACDI/VOCA’s Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development II (FEED II) project. FEED II, a USDA Food for Progress Program, has been strengthening Ethiopia’s livestock feed production capacity for several years. Project efforts to strengthen the livestock industry are especially critical now, since the spring and summer rains failed last year due to the effects of El Niño in the Pacific. Livestock grazing lands have dried up, bringing to the fore the importance of available animal feed.

Ethiopia’s livestock population is the largest in Africa, with some 80 million cattle, sheep, goats, and camels and 32 million poultry. These animals contribute to the livelihoods of some two-thirds of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

High-quality affordable feed is fundamental for the health of this massive livestock population. Begun as FEED in 2009, FEED II develops feed resources and smallholders’ capacity to use them. FEED I established 13 feed-manufacturing cooperative unions and FEED II is establishing 12 more. The project also provides training, technical assistance, and in-kind support to the unions and their members.

These co-ops located in the drought-impacted areas can fill drought-related feed orders, which enable smallholders to maintain their stock of animals despite insufficient pasture. Families aren’t forced to sell off their livestock at below-market prices and are able to bounce back faster once conditions improve, leading to greater flexibility and food security.

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