Remarks by Patricia Haslach
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network Conference
Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
January 21, 2015
Good morning and in-de-men a-de-ra-chu! It is truly a privilege for me to be here today at the first Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network Conference.
And we are especially honored to have Ethiopia’s First Lady join us this morning to officially open the conference. She has been a very important advocate for strengthening the role of women in the professional world, and her presence today also shows Ethiopia’s support for this important initiative that addresses the role of women in agribusiness.
Ethiopia is an important and valued partner for the United States Government. While Ethiopia ranks among the fastest growing economies in the world, a more empowered and engaged female workforce can only strengthen that performance. It is well known that involving women more substantially in the workforce brings tremendous development benefits to a nation.
This is just one of the reasons why the United States is proud to work closely with Ethiopia to empower women in the work force.
Women make up nearly half of the agriculture workforce in Ethiopia, but unfortunately face a number of disadvantages, including limited access to training, market information, and other resources, and problems in accessing markets and credit.
Although they provide a significant amount of the farm labor to produce agricultural products consumed or sold by their families, women are rarely involved in the decision-making process regarding what crops to grow or when to sell them.
Regardless of the strong potential of Ethiopian women to supply national and international markets with agricultural products, women farmers and entrepreneurs do not fully participate in the process to produce and market these products.
It was with these challenges in mind that USAID created the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network. It is designed to help women better plan, manage and grow their agribusinesses.
By forming a network, women entrepreneurs and business leaders can share their challenges and successes and learn from each other. Peer-to-peer mentoring is a powerful way to share information, support each other, and identify opportunities for cooperation.
Implemented through USAID’s Agribusiness Market Development project, the Network involves female business leaders who own and operate enterprises of all sizes, across the agribusiness sector, including producing, processing, trading and exporting products.
With membership comes training and mentoring. And today, we are here to recognize the first 100 women, selected from the Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray regions, who completed business skills training.
These 100 women agribusiness leaders are pioneers, and to those pioneers that are here this morning, we honor you for your commitment to participate in this business leadership Network.
You are now serving as mentors to other women, demonstrating the practical skills you obtained over the past six months. Challenging the status quo, you are truly role models of women leadership in agriculture and I applaud you!
In addition to starting the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network, USAID launched a women’s membership competition in March 2014.
Since then, participating farmers’ cooperative unions have registered over 38,600 new women members in the four regions.
I would like to congratulate Yem Tebaber Farmers’ Cooperative Union from SNNPR, which registered 5,400 new female members, the most of any farmers’ cooperative union! Congratulations to all the farmers’ cooperative unions that participated. Your efforts are making your unions stronger.
To the pioneers here today, I hope the exchange of information, ideas and experiences over the next two days will enhance your success and help you to grow, not only your businesses, but also your communities!
I want to close with a quote that really speaks to what the governments of the United States and Ethiopia are working together to achieve. The quote is from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in November of last year. “Without empowering women, everything else we hope to achieve is exponentially harder.”