Hirut Yohannes Darare is a successful entrepreneur in the dairy and dairy processing industry, with a deep commitment to improving the lives of the farmers, and especially the women dairy farmers, who are her suppliers. Hirut used to work as cost accountant in a government horticulture corporation during the Derg Regime until the corporation was disbanded when the new EPRDF-led Transitional Government took over. She began a business selling vegetables, onions, popcorn, and tomatoes to women working in offices that became successful enough to allow her to save some money; and, in 2003 GC, she started her dairy business with two cows and some farmland that she leased in Sululta, just north of Addis Ababa. By sourcing raw milk from a handful of farmers, she began producing and distributing homemade milk products, such as butter, yogurt, traditional ‘Aib’ and cream.

After she was trained by Land O’Lakes, USAID, EDDP and SNV in cattle and feed management, she has been able to successfully impart the trainings to 75 farmers that supply her. As her business grew, she opened a collection centre in Sululta, receiving 1,500 litres of milk per day.

In 2009, in response to land ownership policy changes, Hirut moved her business to Chacha near Debre Berhan in Amhara regional state. There, again, working with partner non-profit organizations, she trained the farmers in this second area in techniques to increase their quality and quantity of their production.  Her non-profit partners sponsored her to travel to the Netherlands, Israel and Kenya for experience sharing and trainings in capacity building, conducting agri-business, leadership development, entrepreneurship, and dairy development project training. There, she learned how to make processed milk products including cheese and yogurt, which she added to her products upon returning from training.

In August 2013, she established a dairy processing plant at Chacha district at nearby smallholder dairy farmers in the middle of Angolela Tera Wereda in North Shewa Zone of Amhara region which is one of the major milk producing areas of the greater Addis milk shed. At present, her plant produces and sales a wide range of dairy products, including pasteurized fresh milk, 16 different types of cheese, 3 types of plain & flavoured yogurt, 3 types of butter and cream. She branded her products as “Tsega” and improved packaging to increase her market acceptance.

She currently employs 20 staff members and buys milk at fair prices from 450 farmers, and most of whom have improved their own quality and productivity through trainings provided by her. Her trainings include other family members (husband or wife and children) and also cover the nutritional value and economic benefits of dairy products. Farmers in Chacha call Hirut their ‘mother’, because it was she who helped them increase the value of their milk products from 2 birr to 9.50 birr per litre. She was the one who helped them to establish market linkage to their produce after she first witnessed discarding their milk while they were unable to sell all the milk they produced (in order to reduce their burden of carrying back to their home after long distance of travel for market). In addition, her innovative implementation of ‘quality payment’ system based on different ranges of milk density, i.e. paying a premium for milk with high lactometer reading (high solids content – protein and fat), further encouraged farmers to improve their quality of production. Once word got around the area from where the milk is collected that a premium was being paid for high quality milk, other farmers were eager to learn how to improve the quality of their milk, and manage their feed and cattle.

She created income generating opportunities for 15 young people with HIV/AIDS by offering credits and allowing high profit margins for distributing her products. This opportunity enabled them to be self-sufficient.

In recognition of her efforts, she received the Best Stand from Addis Ababa Women Entrepreneurs Association (AAWEA) in 2010; and, in September 2011, she was named one of USAID’s outstanding partners in their Ethiopia dairy development project. In 2014, Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs selected her as “the best entrepreneur of the year” and awarded her a Medal in recognition of her achievements.

Hirut has educational background of Diploma in Computerized Accounting and BA degree in Accounting.