Ministry of Finance and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ethiopia visited BENEFIT-REALISE programme interventions in Eastern Amhara Region

A delegation of 23 from the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Ethiopia and North Wollo zonal and woreda offices visited BENEFIT-REALISE programme intervention sites in Eastern Amhara Regional State of Ethiopia on March 11 and 12, 2021. The delegation included Thijs Woudstra, Deputy Ambassador of EKN in Ethiopia; Kokeb Misrak, Bilateral Director, MoF; Simachew Zelalem, European Countries Cooperation Team Leader, MoF; Aytenew Tatek, Water Policy Officer, EKN; Dr. Abebe Girma President of Woldia University and Dr. Solomon Abegaz, Vice President of Research and Community Service of Woldia University. 

The field visit, was intended to showcase the programme’s achievements in

  1. Introducing and demonstrating new crops and improved varieties with good agricultural practices to improved productivity of PSNP farmers who live in moisture stress areas;
  2. Promoting dietary diversity and Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture (NSA); including demonstration of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) to address deficiency of Vitamin-A; validation and demonstration of bio-fortified haricot bean varieties to address Fe and Zn deficiency; and home gardening activities to promote vegetable and fruit consumption to address micro nutrient deficiencies and generate income;  
  3. Piloting business model activities (small scale poultry production and small ruminant fattening business) to build resilience of households and promote job creation; and
  4. Strengthening seed business groups and facilitating linkage with the government institutes (research and extension) and other NGOs and projects to ensure availability of improved and quality seed.

The 1st day visit was at Habru woreda, where the programme efforts focused on introduction and demonstration of new improved papaya variety (Maradol), and home gardening practices. The programme provided papaya seedlings, vegetables seed and technical support that resulted in improved dietary diversity of households and generation of additional income from the sale of the surplus produce.

On the 2nd day they visited pilot business model activities (small scale poultry production and small ruminant fattening) that contributed to youth job creation and women resilience building. The pilot business models involved stakeholders’ identification and networking, capacity building on poultry production and small ruminant fattening techniques; provision of innovation grant for pullet and goats for fattening through credit (RUSSACOs); capacity building on business management, marketing, and provision of technical support in the form of coaching and follow up. The programme proved that both poultry production and fattening are ideal businesses that require minimal investment for creating a steady job for unemployed youth and women. Within a year, the youth and the women who participated in the interventions were able to generate an average of net 3514 and 2830 Birr per month from sale of egg and the fattened sheep respectively. The youth and women are now meeting their essential daily needs and can be considered as candidates for graduation from PSNP.

The delegation also visited Ediget Lehizb Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC), one of the SPC supported by the programme since 2019. The activities included capacity building on techniques of seed production and marketing; technical support in the form of coaching and follow-up; provision of early generation tuber seed of potato and innovation grant for Diffuse Light Store (DLS) construction and Multi-crop Thresher (MCT). The programme also facilitated the process of acquiring a license/ certificate Of Competence (COC) for potato tuber seed production from quarantine authority. Currently, the cooperative is offering a seed credit and threshing service with reasonable price to its members and the surrounding farmers.

During the visit the team had an opportunity to talk with beneficiary farmers, development agents, SPC management and members and government extension staff from the woreda office of agriculture. Among others, they heard how farmers are excited about new crop varieties that are allowing them to close the food gap months, address their household nutrition deficiency, and increase their income. The youth and women were appreciative of the lessons and support that encouraged them to have business oriented thinking that is allowing them to earn money to meet their daily needs. All of the visited households confirmed for the visitors, they are ready for graduation from PSNP.  The SPC members repeatedly thanked the programme for the construction of DLS and the provision of MCT, a labor saving technology that is highly contributing to their efficiency in threshing triticale crops. According to the SPC members, traditionally it took a minimum of four days to thresh a hip of triticale, but with the MCT it took less than an hour.

At the end, there was a short reflection session where participants appreciated the field visit that allowed them to better understand how BENEFIT-REALISE programme works at grassroots level and the good design of the interventions that can be used as benchmark for wider scaling. They appreciated the programme design that works on identifying best practices through the process of validation and demonstration based on the performance of crop varieties and farmers’ preference. The good alignment of the interventions with other initiatives, especially the partnering and linkage with other local stakeholders like research, cooperatives/RUSSACO, agro-dealers, is expected to ensure sustainability of the programme impacts.

At the end, Dr. Solomon Abegaz, Vice President of Research and Community Service, Woldia University said, although REALISE showed remarkable results and the interventions are well aligned and linked with relevant local institutes, the fact that the project period is too short (only three years) will create challenges in the scaling up and institutionalization, and more thinking is needed on how to take it to the next level.  

By Baye Berihun Getahun (PhD), BENEFIT-REALISE Woldia University Cluster Manager

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