It is shortly after 7am; usually Tsige Allemayeh would prepare breakfast for her two sons, aged 3 and 10 years old, but not on ‘Production Day’. She puts on her flip-flops, gives her husband a kiss and sets off by foot. After ten minutes of walking, she hears familiar voices when she passes the local health post in Dura. Some of her colleagues have already gathered under the ribbed roof of the shed next to it. When Tsige appears, screams and laughter erupt. The females form one of the women groups supported by UNICEF. Together, they will spend the whole day preparing complementary food.

“I didn’t know about complementary food before but now I am able to prepare it from different types of grains. I also learned about the safe handling of food and the ratio to prepare complementary food for children,” she says. She joined the group in 2011, without any background or training in agriculture. Her husband is a policeman and together they do not own any farmland. Under continuous chattering, the women get to work. One half picks up the rattan baskets stored along the walls; the others take their positions behind the heavy machines. “The major challenge is the lack of materials, e.g. for the washing, dehulling and roasting of seeds, otherwise there are no big challenges,” she explains.


Today, Tsige is responsible for preparing the wheat. She washes it properly and separates the outer cover from the actual grain. A woman next to her is preparing the broad beans. Then the grains get roasted before the sieving procedure can begin. For the latter, the teff is added, which skips the first two production steps. “At the beginning of the project, the raw materials were provided for us. We agreed within the community that 2kg of raw materials would get them 3kg of complementary food in exchange,” she says. However, no business can survive on making losses. Now with stable demand figures, the group “prepares the food and either sells it for Br20 (ca. €0.75) or exchanges equal amounts of raw materials for the finished product”. 

The final step is the grinding, which is done by the machines in the ratio of 40% wheat, 25% broad beans and teff and 10% sugar. ”The sugar is optional. Households can add it as an additional flavour or intake of energy but the three ingredients are enough,” she explains. After having observed the difference in health and cognitive behaviours with her own children, Tsige sees it as her responsibility to educate other women about the benefits. “Fortunately, my youngest child was under-1 year old when I joined the group. […] I can see him being better looking physically, and he understands more easily compared to my first child,” she says. At the end of the day, the women will have produced 100kg of complementary food. This will last approximately one month. However, before the supplies reach zero, the women will meet again to wash, roast, sieve and grind.