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A very interesting and objective report, really worth reading.
Ethiopian Agriculture Takes New Track
Tuna Geda, 30 is busy in his onion farm located near Lake Zway in eastern Shoa province of Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia. Like tens of young farmers who are now working for him, he is also a son of poor farmers who rely on rain fed agriculture farming on a quarter of a hectare plot.
In order to support his family, Tuna began working for other farmers as daily laborer when he was 15. Including the half hectares of land he got from his family after his father died few years ago, he now produces fruits and vegetables on 25 hectares and cereals on another 12 hectares.
“I decided to quit school at sixth grade after I began working for a very hardworking rich farmer in our neighborhood, named Gobenna Holla,” he says. “Then I say to my self ‘one day I will have tractor like him and become a reach farmer’. When my father died, I realized that it is time for me to act.”
Young Tuna then began using ground water renting a water pump for growing vegetables on his family’s plot. After he bought one water pump, which now reached 12, Tuna began renting idle plots from the neighborhood for expanding his agriculture.
He used both oxen and the labor of youngsters in the village to develop the land. Now he has made an advance payment of 230,000 birr to buy a large Brazilian tractor for 1.2 million birr. “I make up to one million birr every four month only from my onion and tomato farm,” says Tuna, who created job for some 50 youths in the area.
A few kilometers away from Tuna’s farm, Simbiro Dadi, 26, is also engaged in farming of fruits. He has been producing mango and papaya on four hectares for the past few years.
“I completed tenth grade and moved to agriculture borrowing water pump from other farmers like Tuna. My role model is Koricho Gragn, who became successful farmer in our neighborhood by producing fruits after studying Accounting in Asmara University four three years,” he says.
Now, Simbiro is building a hotel on 1,000 square meters of plot in Meki, a nearby town in Easter Shoa zone of Oromia where he also built a villa on 600 square meters of land.
All Eyes on Agriculture?
Agriculture in Ethiopia is being considered as one of the most backward field, which gives almost no return. Farmers teach their children to save them from being a farmer in the future. Those who cannot afford to teach their children, have no other option that pushing their children to exile to urban areas and support themselves and their family. Millions of young children of Ethiopian farmers engaged in different businesses in major cities like Addis Ababa.
Other than sending money to their parents and visiting them during major holidays like Meskel, these children have never thought of making productive their families agricultural land. As a result, Ethiopia has been recipient of foreign food aid to feed several millions of its poor farmers, which only harvest once in a year using rainwater with traditional farming technique.
To change the situation Ethiopian governments have been teaching the farmers on how to use ground water and a nearby river for irrigation to produce cash crops twice or three times a year. With main objective of introducing modern farming techniques and irrigation to small-scale farmers, technical supports through agriculture extension workers and loans for fertilizers with pesticides have been provided to the farmers.
Meanwhile, the results were not as expected, as many farmers did not act accordingly due to various reasons. Still millions of Ethiopians, including the urban people, believe that Ethiopian agriculture is hopeless and being a small-hold farmer is being poor forever.
Resistant of the farmers to new way of doing things, lack of human and financial capital at small-hold farm level, absence of role models in agriculture and the like are among the reasons for the poor performance of Ethiopian agriculture for several decades.
The struggle the country makes to liberate itself from being recipient of foreign food aid continued and major actions began to take place by the government. Government’s policy of allowing foreign investors to be engaged in mechanized farming in Ethiopia has come at the right time of ‘global food crises’ a few years ago.
Speaking to local journalists last week, Prime Minister Meles indicated that his government has recently distributed a total of 300,000 hectares of agricultural land for both local and foreign inventors. He also noted that about 2.7 million hectares of farm land in different parts of the country is also waiting for investors after being identified and secured in the central land bank.
As tens of foreign investors, including the Indian Karaturi Global and Saudi Star of the Ethiopian born-Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi began securing several thousands of hectares for agriculture, Ethiopians both inside and out of the country began opening their eyes.
Wrestling with their century-old attitude towards Ethiopian agriculture many people began to change gradually. While some Ethiopians who reside abroad joined the western ‘anti land grabbing’ campaign, other Ethiopian diaspora began returning home and sharing the land to be engaged in commercial farming.
On the other hand the children of Ethiopian farmers, such as Tuna have also began realizing that they can be farmers like Indians by using technology and become reach.
“It is not a rocket science. Improving Ethiopian agriculture performance is all about using the appropriate technology such as water pumps, improved seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and the like,” says Tarekegn Tsige, Communication Director at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Government’s award to successful small-hold farmers, which are televised, live on state TV, has also forced many people to reconsider their previous perception about Ethiopian agriculture while others took it as government propaganda.
“Be a teacher or a student or a listener and never be the fourth one. The fourth one is useless,” said Mishamo Lombebo, former solder of the previous regime, who became a successful farmer in Hadya Zone of Southern Region.
“I never think of anything else than expanding agriculture when ever I make money. Our families have inherited us the land. If we use water and listened to the teachings of agriculture extension workers, we can create wealth,” says Mishamo, who is making hundreds of thousands of birr annually from husbandry, coffee and horticulture farm of four hectares.
Water – A crude Oil for Ethiopian Farmers
Even though the country is making progress in reducing the number of its poor farmers, still above two million Ethiopians are receiving food aid from abroad. Primarily the intervention of the government was focused on provision of fertilizers, pesticides and improved seeds to some extent. The new approach now targets on creating successful model small-hold farmers by supporting them all the way using agriculture extension workers.
The support ranges from helping the farmers on how they can get ground water and river water for irrigation using motor pumps to which specific improved seed the farmer has to grow and facilitating market access.
In addition, some regions such as Oromia Regional State and Dire Dawa Administration have also realized the need for additional investment by the government where getting ground water or river for irrigation is difficult.
In a bold move of investing on a huge project that brings water close to the farmers, Oromia Regional State spent over 150 million birr on diverting a fraction of Awash River to the farmers who previously cannot have access to the water otherwise.
The money, the regional administration used for the project was meant to be distributed to farmers through safety net either in terms of food aid. Tibila Integrated Irrigation Project began three years ago. It splits the mountains that hindered Awash River to reach farmers living in the Eastern Shoa parts of Oromia Region.
Now the water has reached some 16 kilometers allowing the farmers in the area to harvest two and three times in one year. When it will be completed the water is expected to travel a total of 32 kilometers between the mountains benefiting 16,000 households who were semi-pastoralists and diverts the water into 7,000 hectares of agricultural land.
Now, the semi-pastoralists in the area have been harvesting vegetables every four month either by renting their land to others including awakened civil servants and other urban dwellers or partnering with young farmers from other parts of the country on the basis of sharing the profit.
Aragaw Gonche, 20, is a young farmer originally from Selale, couple hundreds kilometers far from where is now working. He is now farming land of a semi-pastoralist around Fentalle area using the water provided by Oromia Region.
During the previous harvest season he made 5,000 birr after planting onion on a quarter of a hectare and protecting it until it reaches for harvest. He works on sharing the revenue basis with Semi-pastoralists. The owner of the land provide him food worth 300 birr every month and shelter.
“The fact that I get 5,000 birr by working on a quarter of a hectare encouraged me to increase the land size. And now I and my friend are working on one and half hectares for semi-pastoralists,” says Aragaw hoping that they will get around 40,000 birr at the end if the current market of onion continues.
Replicating Tibila, Oromia region has also started a new project on Lake Zway. But this time there was no need to dismantle mountains as the land is flat. The Derara-Dalecha Project aims to pump into two big ponds and distribute it to 12,000 hectares of land located near Meki town.
“Since two rivers namely, Ketar and Meki are flowing to the lake continuously to the lake, we do not worry about drying the lake,” says Beriso Bekele, Dugda Wereda Deputy Administrator and Head of Agriculture. “In fact Lake Zway has been causing damages to the farms in the area several times by overflowing.”
Dire Dawa Administration, which lost lives of 500 people five years ago due to flood, is also engaged in building sediment storage dams. The dams will enable the water coming between the mountains to sink and recharge the ground water to be used for irrigation and protect the harvest bellow the mountain from being washed away.
Engaging the farmers who receive food aid under safety net program, the administration has build 16 dams so far each with 35,000 meter cube water storing capacity. “We plan to build at least seven sediment storage dams every year,” says Ibrahim Ousman Farah, Dire Dawa Agriculture, water and Energy Bureau Head.
Unlike the previous time, the fact that Deputy Administrator poison is given to individuals at the Ministry of Agriculture at most wereda (grassroots) level is also facilitating the implementation of programs that target in changing the lives of poor small-hold farmers.
"Development Army" Training
Model farmer Koricho Gragn who turned to agriculture after graduating in Accounting from Asmara University
Most of the success stories achieved in agriculture are obtained by the new generation sons and daughters of the farmers such as Tuna, Simbirro to whom the government has been awarding trophies and tractors recognizing their success.
Relying mainly on this new generation and the model farmers, the country has now set an ambitious plan of doubling the production of its agriculture output in five years and end the acute food shortage once and for all.
Expanding the new approaches of creating model successful farmers, Ethiopian government has now launched an expansion strategy of the success. The model farmers, which are awarded by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, are now assigned to train five farmers each (development army) in their neighborhoods.
The realities on the ground, visited by both private and state media for the past two weeks can be considered as a spring board for the country to achieve its target of doubling the production and began channeling the surplus into envisioned domestic agro-processing companies.
Meanwhile still regions like Oromia needs to make sure that what is being done to change the lives of poor small-hold farmers is fully benefiting. Otherwise there will be a risk making the farmers rent seekers who will be under the mercy of the so-called awakened urban dwellers.
Newbusinessethiopia.com would like to thank the Ministry of Agriculture and by the Office Government Communication Affairs for facilitating the field visit. In the future we also hope to that the media will get the chance to visit commercial farms to see how farmers in the area are benefiting from and show the reality to the world.
Last edited by Yoniii; March 23rd, 2011 at 03:24 PM.