Ethiopia lures new graduate with cheese

Liam Arthur (centre) is looking forward to moving to Ethiopia to continue volunteer work. He is...
Liam Arthur (centre) is looking forward to moving to Ethiopia to continue volunteer work. He is pictured with fellow volunteers Audrey Hutteman (left) and Jackie Bannon, both of the United States. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Becoming a cheese maker in Ethiopia is not a usual career choice for a graduating student.

But for 21-year-old Liam Arthur, of Dunedin, the decision was an easy one.

"I knew it was what I wanted to do. It’s something that combines all my interests."

The University of Otago student will graduate at the end of the year with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in politics, philosophy and economics.

He will then head to Lake Tana, in Ethiopia to begin his cheese-making journey.

It was a natural fit for him, combining his passions for cooking, cheese-making and volunteering.

While volunteering in Ethiopia at the start of this year, he met a local businessman who owned a dairy factory and said there was a gap in the market for locally made cheese.

"I have experience in cheese-making through growing up on a farm and then working on farms in Italy when I was 18.

"We started talking about how we could make it happen."

He and four others who were in Ethiopia at the start of the year were working to make the cheese factory a reality, but Mr Arthur said their aims were more than a profitable business.

"We want to use the profits from the business to assist with economic development. Hopefully, we can support the community over there and get them a better income.

"Volunteering is a way to help others and I see this as another experience where I can do that."

The cheese factory would begin with camembert, feta and blue cheeses, and Mr Arthur was excited to mix Ethiopian flavours like berebere (a chilli spice) and tej (a honey wine) into recipes.

"I’m excited to get creating."

Spending at least five years in Ethiopia developing the business was the plan, he said.

"I will miss home but this is another adventure for me."

Mr Arthur was raising money to support his travels and cover some of the cheese-making machinery costs.

Fundraising efforts included cooking a banquet-style dinner at Bracken Restaurant in August for his guests.

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