Pre-scaling of new improved maize variety showcased at BENEFIT-REALISE Oda Bultum University field day

On September 20, 2019, close to a 100 people representing farmers, government officials, university heads, researchers, extension workers, NGOs,, cooperative/union, BENEFIT agricultural experts (REALISE and ISSD) gathered in Oda Bultum (Kara Kebele) to visit the recent success achieved by BENEFIT-REALISE in introducing new improved variety of maize with production practices through its pre-scaling activity. The field day organized by Oda Bultum University, the programme implementing partner, was a success to create awareness of the new improved variety, get expert insight on its performance, understand BENEFIT-REALISE pre-scaling approach and discuss the roles of stakeholders to reach more farmers for sustainable change.

The field visit started with a welcoming remark from the project focal person, Mustefa Abdulkadir and an opening remark from Oda Bultum University President, H.E. Dr. Muktar Mohammed. Dr. Muktar in his remark appreciated the close working relation between the university research and community service directorate and the programme and highlighted the need to strengthen the collaboration to improve the livelihoods of food insecure farmers in the surrounding area. Following, an overview of the programme by BENEFIT-REALISE Deputy Manager, Dr. Mulugeta Diro, the group was guided to visit farm clusters where BENEFIT-REALISE introduced BH-540 maize variety. The event included exhibition of local food made from maize and poster presentation on the Cluster 2019 activities.

Based on the findings of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) conducted in 2018, the Oda Bultum University has been carrying out different on-farm demonstration and pre-scaling activities in 2019 to address major challenges related to lack of access to improved crop technology.  The cluster reached 224 farmers through pre-scaling of maize production technologies, for which the farmers field day has been organized.

A clustering approach (7-10 farmers per cluster) was used for pre-scaling to facilitate the training and management process. The approach was found useful to increase interaction of farmers and create a fertile learning environment.

Mohammed Adem, a 32 year PSNP beneficiary selected for the pre-scaling activity said “I did not know about this variety, and even if I did I would not have been able to afford it or know where to get it from. So I really appreciate the programme provided seed along with training.  And the training and close follow up visits taught me new practices I can use to get maximum performance from my crop. From my 0.25 ha I am expecting to get 10 -15 quintals. I am planning to use half of it to meet the needs of my family and children and invest the remaining in buying the best seed and other inputs for the next season. Now, I am in a better position, in terms of capital and knowledge that will allow me to invest, save and grow. If next year is as good I won’t need any more support from the government safety net programme.”

During the PRA exercise, one of the issues raised by PSNP farmers was the fact that less attention is given to PSNP farmers in introduction of new technologies. It was noted that the government uses model farmers who are  capable to invest on full packages to introduce new varieties and technologies. That is why, even though the programme focus is on PSNP farmers, a conscious decision was made to include 20% non-PSNP farmers in most of the programme interventions. Working with both groups will give insight on the responsiveness of both groups if given the same opportunity.

Eyobe Asrat .jpgEyob Asrat, a young non-PSNP farmer is happy with the progress he is seeing so far. He said “The new variety is better since it takes only three month to mature, while the local variety takes four. It is also bigger than the local which means higher yield. From my 0.25ha I am expecting to get 12-15 quintals, which means better income allowing me to invest on my farm even more than I was able to do before. If we are able to access these improved varieties regularly there is no reason why we can’t earn more changing our lives for the better.”

The participants also had an opportunity to see and compare four new varieties introduced by MoA. Even though there are already notable differences in terms of plant vigour, cob size, etc most agree it is too early to tell which will perform the best in terms of yield. The farmers highlighted what makes the programme intervention different is (i) provision of seed,; (ii) training in agronomic practices and the close follow up from experts to ensure farmers get maximum benefit from the introduced variety; and (iv) market linkage with the nearby union to buy the maize.

During the discussion, the participants appreciated the level of success achieved within such a short period of time. Representatives noted this kind of collaboration is relevant to ensure new varieties that are coming out from research centers reach farmers on time. The participants also raised and discussed issues related to market, the possibility of reaching more farmers with similar efforts, preference for open pollinated vs hybrid varieties, validating other recent varieties such and BH-549, how to link with PSNP efforts for further scaling and how to link with seed producers for the coming season etc.

In addition to its pre-scaling activities, BENEFIT-REALISE Oda Bultum University activities in 2019 included on-farm demonstration of Desho grass technologies under soil bunds, demonstration of fruit and vegetable technologies in home garden areas, on-farm demonstration of Papaya technology, demonstration of food type common bean technologies, demonstration of highland sorghum, pre-scaling of early maturing and striga resistant sorghum technology, re-scaling of chickpea technology, among others.

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