BENEFIT-CASCAPE initiative to better understand and mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the fertilizer sector in Ethiopia

Fertilizers have played a vital role in raising agricultural productivity in Ethiopia for decades. Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Input Directorate 2020 six months report states that the estimated use of fertilizer in 2020 is 1.4 million MT. Realizing the critical role fertilizer plays in the agricultural sector, BENEFIT-CASCAPE recently initiated an activity to raise awareness on the impact of the COVID-19 on the fertilizer sector and provide advise on urgent and practical actions to mitigate risks associated with the virus. The alerts complement other efforts, for example by IFDC, that provide insights and compare countries in the functioning of the fertilizer market and supply chain.

BENEFIT-CASCAPE rapid assessment of the fertilizer sector is conducted through a survey and focus group discussions (FGDs) and covers the full range of fertilizer sector functions and supply chain operations. Its outcomes are used to create ‘Fertilizer Alerts’ to inform decision-makers in government, development practitioners, research, and farmers’ organizations, on where the impact of the crisis is felt the most, and to contribute to the immediate actions required to address the identified challenges. FGDs are planned at regional levels and the expertise and practical experience of those stakeholders in the fertilizer sector determines their participation. WCDI and WEnR, with its national partners in BENEFIT/CASCAPE, will compile a fertilizer alert using the outcomes of the survey and FGDs. In line with emerging lockdown restrictions in the countries in which our partners are based, primary parts of the rapid assessment are digital. The surveys are app-based, and the FGDs take place as much as possible virtually through videoconferencing. The team uses a variety of communication tools, including social media, blogs, video messages, and portals to share each fertilizer alert.

The COVID-19 rapid assessment introductory brief highlights that COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect the fertilizer sector in multiple ways. These include difficulty in quality inspection and certification impacting productivity; shortage of truck drivers and restriction of travel affecting access to synthetic fertilizers; decreasing market outlets discouraging farmers to use fertilizer during the next growing season; lack of access to credit and limited mobilization to distribution centers leading to less fertilizer purchase etc. Even though MoA, stated that the procurement, transportation and distribution of fertilizer is in a relatively good position to face the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown, supply of bags and the risk of COVID-19 infection for the truck drivers and workers at distribution centers, are expected to affect the timely distribution of fertilizer to some extent.

The rapid assessment has adapted a methodology that was already in use by various sectors, including the seed, sesame and horticulture sectors, and which was developed by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). The methodology and steps followed are presented here.

 

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