Beles Sugar Project, Ethiopia
This is a story of opportunities created by the sugar project in terms of urbanisation and side-business. Hillina moved from being employed as accountant in a bank to start and run a small business, taking advantage of government subsidies for young small & medium-sized enterprises.
“After working three years as assistant cashier at the Commercial Bank, I followed my cousin’s advice and I started my own business. I had a start-up capital of 4,000 birr to buy some chairs, cups and other materials. Some coffee house owners are from Fendika town, but many come from other areas like me. Local people get priority for jobs in the Sugar Project, because their farm land was taken by the project. On average, I use about 2 kilogram of raw coffee per day. To prepare the coffee I use charcoal. I spend around 40 birr per day for charcoal. The heaviest activity is grinding coffee. I also sell milk. I buy it from a few local farmers that I trust. But it is not enough. My customers can drink milk only in the morning. Before the establishment of the Sugar Project, milk was not sold in this area.
At the back of my café there is pool house. The customers of the pool house also are my customers. I also connect my customers who need laundry service with a girl who does this job. I also buy and sell mobile cards and bread, which is good as those customers who drink tea and milk ask for it, mostly for breakfast.
For my licence I pay annualy 1,000 bir of taxes. After I got my business licence I started to get 40 kilos of sugar from the government cooperative, at a cost of 16 birr per kilo. If I need more sugar I buy it from private shop, but it is more expensive: from 25 up to 40 birr per kilo. Sometimes I cannot even find sugar in the private shops. Since I have a license for “cultural coffee and breakfast house”, I initially thought of preparing also sanbusa (samosas) with the cooking oil I get from the cooperative. But the oil lasted only for the first three days of the week. So now I exchange the oil with the owner of an hotel, as he needs more oil and I need more sugar.”
After I started selling coffee and tea I bought this refrigerator for 8,700 birr. Now I sell also beer, water and soft drinks. The refrigerator costs a lot but it is a good investment beacuse I can offer to my customer also cold drinks. And this area is very hot.
On request of my customers, the project workers, I also started to prepare Moringa tea: they like this tea because it helps preventing many diseases. I used to buying processed Moringa powder from the supermarket, it costs 56 birr per kilogram. But recently I started to prepare the powder myself since I get the leaves from nearby the town.
Since I came here in this area my life has changed a lot. The main reason to come here was to find a job. Initially, I started to live with two of my cousins, both are government employee. At the bank I used to earn a monthly salary of 800 birr. Because of the Sugar Project there is a high demand for services and products like mine. I hired an assistant too. I am paying her 400 birr per month. This area has a lot of business opportunities. However, this year business reduced: the construction of the Sugar Scheme is moving further away and the workers do not come back to town that often.
My parents are farmers. In the past they used to produce crops, but they are getting older and my father is sick. Not I can support them: I send them 300 birr every month. I also support the children of my sister, who died. If I compare my life with before I feel happy, because now I am getting my own income I am supporting my family financially. When I first came to this area my cousins were covering all my expenses, but now I also contribute to the household expenses and the rent.
Like Hilina there are several people who started new commercial activities in Fendika, trying to exploit the growth of the town associated with the Sugar Project
“This is my shop. I am weighing besso (a flour prepared by roasting barely). Six years ago I started the work. My family started it by getting organized by the Micro and Small Enterprises office. This type of business is becoming common in this area. I am also enrolled in school, grade 10. I work here in times before or after school. My sister keeps the shop when I am in school. The shop helps us to live a better life.
The market is good and there it is growing. I have many customers: they are permanent customers like the food catering at the Sugar factory, individuals and hotel owners. Because of the Sugar Project, the demand has increased. More workers means more customers for me. In the last three years, since the Sugar Project started, customers have increased with 50 per cent.”