Dairy start-up at Ethiopia refugee camp

Uprooted from their homes, Somali refugee women in Ethiopia’s Melkadida camp have found new independence by opening a dairy cooperative. The cooperative of 20 women generates up to 540 Ethiopian Birr daily – equivalent to US $26. This is enough income to sustain the business and support their families.

“We want self-reliance for ourselves and we want to be able to support our children,” says Jamila, seen here showing off a floating milk thermometer, surrounded by her co-workers. “We are used to selling milk. In our culture it is the women who sell milk and we are glad we are able to do the same here.”

The tin-roofed start-up at the camp, 70 kilometres from the border with Somalia in southern Ethiopia, buys up goat, cow and camel milk from local herders. The women test, pasteurize and store the milk in solar-powered refrigerators for resale.

“It is in our culture that the women stick together,” says Jamila. “All women in the world should come together so they can thrive as one. A woman who does not work cannot even have a cup of tea.”


Reporting and photo by Diana Diaz for UNHCR Ethiopia