Here’s an interview with an aspiring businessman in Asmara. Meet Tesfaldet Ghebru, commonly known as Hani, who’s known for his toasts at his grocery store. To satisfy his customers’ needs, he decided to start pig farming. He now has a pig farm and engages in food processing, including beef, ham, cheese and other milk products.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your job.
I’m Tesfaldet Ghebru, but people know me by my nickname Hani. I was born and raised in Asmara and am a father of two. I am the son of a businessman, who was once a teacher, and that’s where I started to get attached to the business world. After completing my national service, I decided to have a business of my own since I had gained some experience at my parents’ business. My siblings and I used to make and sell toasts at our parents’ business. That experience helped me make a name in the business world and it became a passion of mine to make the best quality toasts. With the help of my friend, Abraham Michael (owner of Azeb Cheese), and others, I was able to gain knowledge about pig farming and food processing.
I started as a toast maker but when the supply of ham began to decrease, I decided to start pig farming to satisfy my customers’ needs. I’m now a farmer working in the meat processing business.
How are you able to achieve something big at such a young age?
Success isn’t measured only financially. If you are able to reach your goal or are working towards your goal, that for me is the real success. You cannot always think only about money. In the business world there are of course losses and profits. But what I have learned is not to give up and never to be discouraged by your losses. This is what has made me successful and is still making me have big dreams. This is the biggest wisdom I’ve learned from my family and friends for which I’m grateful. The support of the Ministry of Agriculture has also made me achieve a lot in this field.
Any challenges and problems raising pigs?
The problem for me is that I started this business with a lot of passion but with just very little knowledge. I had a lot of financial problems and lack of experience in the pig farm industry. Shortage of professionals and machines is also another big challenge I have faced. I started with old machines and replacing them with new and efficient ones took a lot of sweat and h a r d work. And the place’s not suitable for a pig farm. But in any case, as my goal is to make the best quality products for my customers, I have been dealing with the challenges by working diligently.
Tell us something about your meat production?
As I said earlier, I decided to work on processed meat production due to the decreasing supply and quality of ham. There was canned meat that was sold at duty-free shops prior to 2015. That got me thinking why we didn’t produce our own processed meat. So we talked about it and agreed to make processed beef and ham. We did research and kept on trying to make the products. We were finally able to make ham and beef. The beef has become a very good alternative fast food for all but particularly for those who do not eat pork for religious reasons. We are also planning to use chicken in the future and supply it at a fair price.
How lucrative is the business, and what is the demand for your products like?
I would say it has many benefits, including nutrition from different types of meat products. Our products do have a lot of demand. People, especially the young, consumed ham a lot before 2015. But then there was shortage and there was only one place that was producing it. That might have caused a decline in the demand for ham. And that’ the reason we started the business – to have a continuous supply of quality products — and that’s what we are trying to do right now.
What has been the response of people towards pig farming?
We have religious restrictions on eating pork. But people should know that not all the products that we have are from pigs. We have beef as well. We try to produce different types of meat so that people can freely choose whatever suits them.
Expatriates who work in Eritrea and would like to eat pork do not find it readily available in the amount they want. To compensate for this, some even try to have their own little pig farms. So why shouldn’t we do that as a business for our own sake and for many others who need pork. So, people’s response to pig farming in general is fine although work needs to be done to raise people’s awareness about the benefits of pig farming.
You were born and raised in the city and pig farming isn’t usually city people’s choice. What would you advise those who are willing to start their own business but wouldn’t consider farming as a business?
If people love and respect their jobs and worry less about the financial benefits, they are bound to be successful. No matter what type of business you choose, success is based on what you do on your way to your goal. The good thing is any type of business benefits many people around you. For instance, there are over twenty people who work with me now, directly and indirectly.
The job has also made me a lot more creative because I try to come up with best qualities and alternative products to suit my customers’ tastes. It sure keeps on challenging me but that makes me better. The challenges bring out the best in you. So the trick is to learn a bit about farming and give farming a try. I tell you, it will be worth the try.
Any final remarks?
A little mental and physical effort will definitely bring us success, and so let’s put our energy into our work. I hope we will make our customers happy with our products. I would love to thank my friend Abraham Michael who gave me ideas and other support. My gratitude also to the Ministry of Agriculture and the administration of Maekel region. Thank you.