An estimated 30% of the Ethiopian population lives below the poverty line, and 47% of children in Ethiopia experience stunting and wasting as a result of extreme malnourishment. Ethiopia is challenged by a diet that is significantly deficient in protein, which chicken and eggs contain in large amounts. Indigenous chicken breeds have a survival rate of 50%, produce fewer eggs, mature later and are prone to disease.
Mekelle Farms produces highly fertile, disease-resistant chickens and sells them to smallholder farmers in Ethiopia through a unique and scalable distribution model. Mekelle Farms targets the rural farmer market, supplying farmers with breeds which can thrive in the village environment, are fast maturing, and produce five times as many eggs when compared to local Ethiopian chickens. The Mekelle model farm grows the chicks to 40-days old, an age where Mekelle’s improved chicken variety can withstand the harsh environment in rural households. In tandem, local government officials aggregate rural demand for chickens on the behalf of smallholder farmers and facilitate the sale of 40-day old chickens to rural households.
The potential impact on smallholder farmer incomes is significant, as egg production is expected to increase five times and incomes are expected to double. Higher egg production will both increase the supply of protein to rural and urban households, as well as decrease the cost of protein, making this source of nutrition more accessible. Acumen invested in Mekelle Farms to fund its expansion plan. The company produces over 1 million day-old chicks per year and has plans to increase this to 2 million within 3 years.