Ethiopia: Smart Interventions to Transform Agriculture Sector

Wednesday, 05 July 2017

Integrating various agricultural inputs, implementing ecology based selective farming and adapting modern technologies are the major tools in facilitating the agriculture sector transformation.

Apparently, in the efforts to change Ethiopia's traditional farming practice to the modern one, extension workers and research institutions' professional support are the crux of the matter.

Farmers need access to market linkages and information to bring about sector's transformation with a view to increasing production and productivity. To realize the aforementioned proposed objective, the government, agriculture sector mainstreamed ministerial offices and several other actors have been toiling to boost production, productivity.

They as well have been supporting efforts in increasing agriculture's share to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Thus, in 2016-2017,according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ethiopia sets to cover 13. 8 million hectares of land with various crops and collect about 345 million quintals of yield in the forthcoming Summer 'Mehir' harvesting season.

So far, 10.7 million hectares of land have been cultivated, 3.5 million hectares of land have been sown . Among those 2.6 million hectares of land have been sown in a row. Besides, about 14 million quintals of various types of blended fertilizers based on soil f1ertility have been made available to the farmers during this rainy season, it said.

Moreover, Ethiopia has been engaged in transforming the agricultural-led economy into industry- led. The government has endorsed various polices and strategies, established Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and a corporation so as to transform the sector via raising production and productivity and achieving GTP II goals.

In light of this, in a recent exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald, ATA Agribusiness Market Linkage Manager Zegeye Tekilu said: " ATA was established by the late prime minister aimed at contributing to transform the existing Ethiopian farming practice. Because, compared to world farming practice status and capacity, a lot have remained to be done here. Therefore, to beef up the current agricultural production and productivity, the country has to train human power, enhance commitment and dedication."

Although, Ethiopian agriculture practice has registered long years and contributed a lot to the nation's economic development, it has not been modernized as it has been intended. Yet, the country is endowed with conducive agro- ecologies for farming.

Yes, it is possible to increase production and productivity , reach world average yield production by integrating its human power and land resources added with modern farming technologies and research outlets. " If we achieve world average yield production status , the country can achieve its middle income rank plan by 2025." he said.

The country cannot realize the set goals through increasing production and productively only. This is because it need to raise mainly everybody's income, and improve their lifestyles . More importantly, farmers need to access to market by adding values, he noted.

He pointed out that as the sector has been playing a great role in the growth of the national GDP, the government established ATA to further galvanize the sector. Hence, ATA has been implementing multi- dimensional approaches to play its own share in the sector, such as conducting various researches, taking several countries' best experiences. It has also been implementing several research findings. Therefore, to discharge given responsibility ,ATA has been working jointly with the Agriculture and Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries, Trade and Industry Ministries, he added.

So as to accomplish its objectives , agricultural inputs and farming technologies should be available and applied scientifically, rigorous trainings should be given and field demonstrations should be displayed . By far, ATA has been working thoroughly in reducing the nation's agricultural production bottlenecks, he said.

Currently, Agricultural Commercialization Cluster (ACC) focusing on market oriented agriculture practice has been implemented in 239 woredas of the country. "We have 25 clusters in Amhara, Tigray, SNNPS , and Oromia which implement six crop commodities, livestock and horticulture. Consequently, farmers can produce maize on average 66 - 70 quintals per hectare in Amhara and Oromia States, but there are places where about 100 quintals/ hectare production have been gained, he said.

What is more, ATA has registered commendable achievements in maize, wheat, teff, sesame , haricot beans and livestock . The clusters , enable to access all kinds of agricultural inputs and create market linkages . Maize is mainly implemented in Amhara and Oromia, Sesame in Tigray , haricot beans in SNNPS . Teff is also implemented in Amahra ,Oromia and Tigray . All the six commodities have registered better results . Particularly ATA has paid particularly attention on increasing farmers' income ,improvising nation's export commodity .

Therefore, promising results have been registered so far, it has made many farmers to engage in the clusters , increase production and productivity as well as create market linkages . But, there are many duties to be done ahead that can be implemented in agricultural processing.

However, lack of implementing capacity, access to agriculture finance, market linkage among others are some of the bottlenecks to be addressed by far .

According to ATA, the ACC Initiative is ultimately a nation-wide approach to integrating agriculture, agro-processing, and industry in a geographically tailored way. The roll-out of the concept, however, will be sequenced in order to test and refine the approach before scaling up.

As such, the initial implementation of the ACC Initiative is focused on 26 clusters in the four states of the country with the largest concentration of agricultural production. These first wave of clusters (designed for optimal size to encompass 5-15 woredas each and reaching an estimated 3.5 million farmers in total) were selected based on their production potential, natural resource potential, access to market, and presence of the private sector around priority commodities.

During the initial phase of GTP II, ten major commodities have been prioritized within these 26 clusters, though each cluster will prioritize two to three primary commodities while highlighting rotation crops, important for soil health and human nutrition, as well as other livestock products to accommodate the crop-livestock mixed farming system prevalent in Ethiopia's highlands.

Strategies for seven of these commodities - wheat, maize, teff, malt barley, sesame, haricot bean, and honey - have been developed, with three additional commodities - beef, dairy, and horticulture - slated for development in 2009 EC.

Beyond the initial wave of 26 clusters, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR ), Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries(MoLF) together with relevant regional partners have been tasked to implement the cluster concept nationally. Similar to the approach on other Transformation Agenda Deliverable, the ATA is expected to lead in piloting this concept in the initial ten commodities and 26 clusters, whereas the MoANR and MoLF will be responsible for scaling up the concept across the country. For 2009 EC, the ATA has already begun intensive work on the seven commodities for which strategies have been developed, focusing on an initial 14 clusters.

During the initial stages of GTP II, the ATA's support for these clusters and commodities will entail two primary areas: increasing crop production and productivity and enhancing market linkages, through a three-pronged approach comprising innovation, testing and validation. Full package demonstrations, and scale-up support to farmers. Scale-up of the full package entails encouraging farmers to use a complete set of recommended inputs and farming practices (improved seed, appropriate fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and other best practices) while ITV aims to test and validate new technologies for efficient and effective farming with the research and extension system.

Credits: Alazar Shiferaw (The Ethiopian Herald)