Agriculture continuous to be the back bone of the Ethiopian economy contributing 42.9% of GDP, and accounting for about 80% of employment and 70% of export earnings (UNDP,2013).
Ethiopia is naturally endowed with different agro-ecological zones and suitable environmental conditions, and home for many livestock species and suitable for livestock production. Ethiopia is believed to have the largest livestock population in Africa (Tilaehun and Schmidt 2012; CSA 2014). An estimate indicates that the country is home for about (56.71mill cattle, 29.33mil sheep and 29.11goats). From the total cattle population 98.66% are local breeds and the remaining are hybrid and exotic breeds. With respect to breed as indicated in CSA (2014), almost all of the sheep and the goats are indigenous with 99.78 percent and 99.96 percent, respectively.
The livestock subsector has an enormous contribution to Ethiopia’s national economy and livelihoods of many Ethiopians. Livestock plays vital role in generating income to farmers, creating job opportunities, ensuring food security, providing services, contributing to asset, cultural and environmental values, and sustain livelihoods. The livestock sector, which is largely concentrated in arid and semi-arid lowland (ASAL) regions, contributes 12–16% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 30–35% of the agricultural GDP (MoA, 2013).It also contributes 15% of export earnings and 30% of agricultural employment (Behnek, 2010).
The GDP of livestock related activities valued at birr 59 billion (Leta and Mesele 2014. Export trade in live animals sourced mainly from pastoral areas rose from USD 27.3 million in 2005–2006 to USD 147.9 million in 2010–2011, and exports of chilled meat increased during the same period from 7,717 metric tons (MT) to 16,877MT (Cullis & Catley, 2012). In general livestock plays an important role in improving food security and reducing poverty in Ethiopia. Any shocks that affect livestock will have adverse effects on the overall economy, as well as on household welfare. Conversely, accelerated growth in the livestock sector has the potential to have significant positive effects on overall economic growth and poverty reduction (FAO 2015). The immediate problem for Ethiopia is not that livestock cannot be made profitable, but rather that so little of what Ethiopian pastoralists currently produce is converted into high value-added products (Little et.al. 2010).
Twenty years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and 15 years after the adoption of the Millennium Declaration by the international community, a lack of gender equality and women’s empowerment, in all aspects of development, persist as global challenges (UN women 2014). Many aspects of livestock keeping, including knowledge, labor, ownership, and user rights are gendered, that is men and women have different knowledge about livestock, are in charge of different livestock-related tasks, own different types of livestock, and have different rights to the products of livestock. This pertains especially to pastoralist societies, with their long traditions of livestock keeping. However, while gender roles may be deeply embedded in a community’s social fabric, they are not written in stone (FAO, 2012). In particular, women tend to take over male tasks if there is no suitable male available to perform urgent work such as taking animals for grazing. Men are said to be more reluctant to take up tasks that are traditionally performed by women (FAO, 2012). Task wise, women are generally, but not always, in charge of milking and taking care of young and sick livestock, while men take the animals for herding and deal with the outside world, including selling animals and their products and arranging access to grazing (FAO, 2012).
It is known that women’s work often takes place in least valued parts of a value chain e.g. as home-based workers or informal workers more generally. In agricultural settings women are often not visible while they do a large part of the farm-activities. Moreover, it is well-documented that women-owned rural businesses tend to face many more constraints and receive far fewer services and support than those owned by men (Mayoux, 2010). Inequality is not only about inequality in incomes but also about inequality in opportunity. Gender inequality is integral to other forms of social inequality and therefore poses particular constraints to economic growth: opening up opportunities for women represents a significant force for change (World Bank, 2006).
Borana’s pastoralists, like pastoralists the world over, remain at the margins of national economic and political life. However pastoral women are ‘doubly marginalized’ since they experience the discrimination and marginalization, while also living in remote, under-serviced areas, leading a lifestyle that is misunderstood by many decision makers (Cathy Watson, 2010).
Therefore, in line with the market-oriented production strategy of the country’s policy this paper aims to identifying gender role in cattle value chain and examining the performance of actors in the chain; specifically identifying gaps and critical constraints for cattle producers in the district.