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Sometimes a few dollars invested at the right time can change a man’s life. Kebede Bejiga Geda has come a long way since he worked as a farm laborer. And thanks to an “Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation” program backed by AFD Group, his small agricultural production company is now thriving.

A stroll with Kebede in his town in the north of Ethiopia is regularly interrupted as he exchanges greetings and warm words with friends and acquaintances. He’s popular, and for good reason: the 47 year-old does a lot for his community, from creating jobs and training for farmers to agricultural services, and products such as seeds, fodder and veterinary medicines. But Kebede had to fight to get there.  

The struggle to stay in school

About 80% of the country's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, and the poverty rate is over 50%. 

Kebede Bejiga Geda was born into a poor family in the village of Bora, in East Shewa, central Ethiopia. As his parents could not afford to pay school fees, relatives chipped in so he could study, but was eventually forced to give up the demanding routine of schoolwork and labor to pay for his lodgings. 

Returning to his family, he worked on their farm for a salary of 10 birr per day - the equivalent of 19 Euro cents. “I began to understand that one of the big problems for farmers was access,” he said. “We had to travel miles to find what we needed.” Kebede worked day and night. But after a few months, he decided to try his luck in the city.

As soon as he arrived, he went to the pawnshop and borrowed 200 birr (€3.80), which he promised to return the next day. "I thought, 'What am I doing? 200 birr is worthless! But another part of me told me to try. I preferred to listen to that voice.”

With this money, he bought agricultural products, which he sold during the day. The next day, he returned the money to the lender, with an extra 20 birr that he kept. Seeing that he was reliable, the moneylender offered him 400 birr. And so it went: he continued to borrow a little more each time, reinvesting slightly bigger profits in his growing business.

Read further: Ethiopia: Rebuilding Infrastructure damaged by the Civil War

The chance to make an impact

Finally in 2021, he was approached by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), which offered to help him open his "One Stop Shop," a convenience store that would allow farmers to save a considerable amount of time on the purchases they needed for their business. He didn't hesitate for a second. 

"Seeds, grains, animal medicines... thanks to the One Stop Shop, farmers can benefit from immediate access to the products and services they need to make their farms thrive, but also be advised by professionals, such as veterinarians or agronomists.” says Kebede. “It's a real added value for them." 

Kebede is now the owner of the One Stop Shop in Bote, Oromia. He has benefited from a program, supported by AFD and implemented by ATA, which relies on the Agrihub project to support agricultural SMEs in their business development and access to finance. 

"We also offer farmers training several times a year on best practices,” says Kebede. “I am delighted that even farmers who were not fortunate enough to go to school, or like me could not go all the way, can learn to produce better!" 

In addition, the employees of the One Stop Shop receive training each year in store management, customer relations and accounting. The objective is to strengthen their skills and to perpetuate the SME. For Kebede, these trainings have made a real difference: "We are much more efficient, and we have all been able to improve our skills, which also strengthens our credibility. Everyone is happy: the employees, but also the customers!"

With 20 million people in Ethiopia experiencing food insecurity, the hope is that such initiatives can not only grow in scale, but their benefits can extend to the wider community. 

"Because I managed to make it through, I feel I have a social responsibility to the community,” says Kebede. “This project has allowed me to realize this."