Fekadu W. 05-15-18
Taye Abera is a smallholder farmer in Dangela Woreda of the Amhara region. He is used to cultivate and growing low-yielding varieties of cereals and legumes for years. Without access to proper extension support, Taye said, his yields were insufficient to feed his family and generate income for his livelihoods. According to him, he used to harvest about 30 quintal of wheat from his two-hectare plot.
But the current and the last harvest season have seen bountiful produce. Taye and his neighbors could not believe his wheat yield; he harvested over 50 quintals from the same plot. He and his friends attribute their bumper harvest to a change in the way extension advice is being provided, including information about improved agronomic practices.
Secret in public, the government has employed at least, two agricultural development agents to help provide development services to farmers in rural areas and enable them access modern knowledge and information about agricultural production (to enhance farmers’ capacity to increase productivity and sustainability).
Currently, Taye and neighbors said they are benefiting from advice and information being offered by development agents. They said earlier their assistance and advice was focused on theoretical aspects of boosting productivity, now the miracle has come with shifting style and involving practical issues that tangibly help farmers to become productive on their fieldwork.
By the same token, the tremendous change in productivity has been observed by Hailu Abegaz, the development agent, responsible for the woreda. He has been organizing training on agricultural extension in the locality. Equipped with handy tools and teaching aids, he is used to visiting the village of Taye where scores of farmers await him to imitate invaluable advice.
Hailu said he and his team are providing intensive trainings and lessons to help farmers to promote their product and become beneficiaries of the agricultural extension program designed to boost productivity across the country. Seeing the benefit of farmers in the area, he is motivated to continue delivering a wide-ranging agronomic advice to farmers.
He said seeing is believing. The advice and technical training has effected tremendous change in the life and productivity of farmers. Knowledge-based inputs have become the main factors of behavioral change in the life -style and productivity of farmers. He said he easily and skillfully deliver extension messages to a large group of farmers, resulting in significant productivity and ultimately in higher adoption rates.
Taye reminisced the demonstration offered by the development agent was absorbing. The agent made them understand every detail about modern agriculture and boosting productivity. The very useful lesson, Taye and his friends said, enabled them to properly understand as to how to use proper spacing in the field, the appropriate timing of fertilizer application, and the correct application mechanism.
This helped Taye and his friends better understand and capture the agronomic advice, and properly implement the lessons in their cereal and legumes plot, which resulted in significant yield increases. By gone are bygone. He said many years had passed without productivity, mostly due to bad weather and lack of technical know-how. Hence forth, he said, he will try to apply the lessons he gained from the agent and burgeon his productivity. Even, he stressed, his lesson has helped him forecast productivity and apply drought resistant seeds and high-yielding varieties of crops as advised by the agent.
Similarly, modern teaching-aids and demonstration equipment being provided to agriculture extension sector has been helping very much. Unlike the previous times, these equipment are significantly enhancing efficiency of agriculture extension system, attain higher scale effectiveness and efficiency, facilitate adoption of new agronomic practices resulting in yield improvements (and higher income for farming households throughout Ethiopia).
Currently, the business-minded activity of farmers has set the country in momentum of transition from small-scale subsistence farming (low out-put production system for only family consumption) to market-oriented and extensive type of production. Hence, it is important to keep up with the farmers’ demand for technology inputs and market linkages. Similarly, this business oriented mentality of famers has encouraged various stakeholders to engage in agro-processing activities thereby benefiting from country’s agricultural and industrial sectors.
Regarding assistance, those farmers adopting improved crop varieties and farming practices have made significant gains in their crop production and productivity, such that they are producing surplus that tends to be supplied in the market and this in turn is resulting in substantially increasing their income. In the contrary, those farmers who are not willing to use improved crop varieties and apply modern farming practices have not made any significant progress and are characterized by very low productivity (evidenced by Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research-EIAR).
This contradicting situation makes the overall volume of the country’s production far below the full potential along with commodity value chains. Moreover, according to EIAR, there is also significant difference between those farmers who are adopting improved crop varieties that determine 60% of the productivity (along with improved farming practices that limit 40% of the productivity) and those farmers who are not adopting improved crop varieties.
Therefore, the use of only improved crop varieties and crop farming with these technologies characterizes the country’s low agricultural sector productivity, taking other factor that determines the productivity of the crop sub-sector as being constant. In order to boost the productivity of the sub-sector to its fully exploitable level, Ethiopia needs not only to enhance access and use of improved crop varieties along with its full package by the farmers but also work to improve other factors that determine the productivity of the sub-sector.
Ethiopia’s agriculture, which is still at the early stage in using modern farming technologies. However, there are opportunities that help the sector propel forward. For instance, Ethiopia is in a good shape to transform its traditional and subsistence agriculture to a mechanized and commercial one. Besides, as a driving force, the farmers are expressing a noticeable eagerness for using more technology inputs and market linkage (as witnessed by the growing interest of farmers to grow cash crops and participate in the agricultural commodities transaction in their respective locality).
Needless to mention, the Ethiopia's economy is chiefly agricultural, with more than 80% of the country's population employed in this sector. Major Ethiopian export products include: coffee, livestock products (skins and hides, leather, live animals and meat), oil seeds and pulses, fruits, vegetables and flowers, textiles, natural gum, spices and mineral products.
Parallel to the current efforts underway to increase the supply and improve the quality of these export products, Ethiopia is highly encouraging agriculture-based investments in areas that are not currently exploited (including engaging in value-added export sectors).
Ethiopia has tremendous potential for investment in agro-processing. Many of its agricultural products can be exported without being processed, while others can be processed before they are brought to domestic and foreign markets. Nonetheless, the government is encouraging agro-processing and export of value-added products and it gives incentives to investors interested to engage in agro-processing and export of value-added agricultural goods.
With a view to boosting agricultural productivity, Ethiopia has launched its first Agricultural Extension Strategy in March, 2017. The strategy is expected to create effective and efficient agricultural extension system in the country. It will also help expand market-oriented, demand-driven and pluralistic agricultural practices and methods. Besides, it will contribute significantly to the attainment of food and nutrition security, poverty reduction and wealth creation, among others.
The strategy is designed to be implemented by smallholding farmers, pastoralists and semi-pastoralists across the country. In light of its easy and affordable application, it may play a crucial role to improve agricultural productivity and livelihood of smallholders by developing innovative, systematic and dynamic agricultural services; the program’s main beneficiaries are small and medium-scale farmers with an average land holding of less than 1 hectare (ranging between 0.25 and 2.3 hectares and small holding farmers (women and the youth) are encouraged to have greater participation in the agricultural sector.
As a major component of the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-2), the country is striving to strengthen extension programs and promote agricultural growth across the country. Capitalizing on GTP-2, unreserved effort will be exerted to redress export deficit of the agriculture sector (that declined by 1.9 billion Birr while the targets was 3.9 billion Birr) and realize agricultural sector development objectives; bring about accelerated and sustained growth of agriculture; bring about a significant shift in agricultural productivity; build productive capacity and thereby enhance the contribution of the sector to the economy and stabilizing the macro economy, among others.
Ethiopia has been implementing various agriculture-related programs through formidable endeavor. Currently, its strategic priorities include agricultural production and commercialization through institutional strengthening, scaling up of best practices, market and agribusiness development; and rural infrastructure development and management though small-scale agricultural water management and market infrastructure development. All the activities one way or another witness interest of the country to ensure food security, enhance export revenue and speed up agro-processing. Based on what has been achieved so far, Ethiopia will continue scaling up its agriculture outputs.