Ethiopian Government & AGRA Launch a US$5 Million Project Targeting Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia

14 February, 2013, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The Federal Republic of Ethiopia Ministry of Agriculture and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) today launched a new US$ 5 million project aimed at doubling agricultural production by smallholder farmers in the next five years.

The project, which will target over 90,000 smallholder farmers in six regional states, will among other things co-finance the procurement of three lime crushers to deal with high levels of acidity in soils in various states. Targeted Regional states include Oromia, Amhara, SNNPRS, Tigray, Gambela and Benshangul Gumuz.

''The current project that we are launching with AGRA is one among several initiatives that the Ministry of Agriculture has prioritized to tackle key agricultural productivity constraints in the country,'' says Prof. Tekalign Mamo, State Minister and Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture. ''There are already encouraging achievements being made in this regard, and in the next three years, our plan is to scale out improved soil fertility management packages to a minimum of ninety thousand farmers' households''.

''Recently, the Ethiopian Government has launched two important programs, the National Soil Fertility Mapping, and the Fertilizer Blending Program. While the first one will help identify key nutrients that are in short supply in the soil and thus limit yield, hence, what types of fertilizers to use, the second program is about manufacturing the required fertilizers in-country and distributing to farmers. The project with AGRA and the ongoing soil fertility initiatives, have direct linkage since AGRA is partnering to realize the desired increase in agricultural productivity using existing packages and new information being generated from the two new programs. From the Ministry side, we appreciate our partnership with AGRA and believe that, together with our stakeholders including AGP, it won't be long before we change the country's food security image''.

"We have chosen to implement this project in partnership with the Ethiopian government because we believe that the country has the potential to achieve a green revolution and become a net-exporter of food within the next few years if well supported," says Dr. Bashir Jama AGRA's Director for the Soil Health Program. "What is needed is sustained investments in the agricultural development sector and strategic support for smallholder farmers across the country through the provision of improved seeds, integrated soil fertility management practices and good extension support."

"We are confident that the project will have the expected impact because it seeks to increase agricultural productivity on a sustainable basis by expanding key interventions including soil fertility management technologies," he adds. "Priority interventions will include expanding the integration of grain legumes into cereal based cropping systems, strengthening soil-fertility advisory services, dealing with acid soil management and introduction and testing of new fertilizer formulations and scaling up the use of bio-fertilizer materials".

The project will target four key cereal crops namely maize, teff, barley and wheat and four grain legumes namely soybeans, faba beans, lentils and chick peas. It will rally for farmers to adopt integrated soil fertility management approaches. It seeks to ensure a 100 per cent increase in improved yields as well as a 60 per cent increase in access to fertilizers and improved seeds by the targeted 90,000 smallholder farmers.

Currently the national yield average for all cereals in Ethiopia is less than two tons per hectare and the figure for pulse crops is generally around 0.8 two tons per hectare. The soil fertility constraints include top soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter, soil macronutrient and micronutrient depletion, salinity and acidity.

"To address the soil fertility challenges in Ethiopia, multiple interventions are needed including the use of lime and adoption of integrated soil fertility management practices by smallholder farmers," says Dr. Bashir.