A high-level visit took place on September 30, 2019 to BENEFIT (ISSD & REALISE) programme sites in Arsi Zone, Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia. The delegation included H.E. Dr. Kabba Urgessa, State Minister for Natural Resources Development Sector and H.E. Mrs. Aynalem Nigusie, State Minister for Agricultural Input and Output Marketing Sector of the Ministry of Agriculture; Mr Thijs Woudstra, Deputy Head of Mission and Dr Worku Tessema, Senior Policy Officer for Food Security & Sustainable Development of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN)in Ethiopia; Dr Dhuguma Adugna, President of Arsi University and BENEFIT staff members. The field visit, organized by The BENEFIT Partnership Coordinating Unit (PCU), was meant to allow visitors to see the dynamics of the progarmmes’ operations and the extent to which the programmes work with the government, research institutes and other NGOs towards the development of the agriculture sector.
BENEFIT-REALISE programme visit showcased the programme’s achievements in introducing and demonstrating new crops and improved varieties with good agricultural practices that respond to the major issue in the PSNP woredas (e.g. moisture stress); progress made in fertilizer validation trails jointly implemented with EIAR, ATA, MoA; promotion and production of sweet potato to address dietary deficiency of Vitamin A among PSNP households; and demonstration of technology and provision of agronomic trainings towards achieving food security and closing the food gap in PSNP areas. During the discussion, it was highlighted that the programme is strongly working to put in place a standard for validation and recommendation process based on economic analysis and establish linkage with research institutes, input providers and market to address challenges in the value chain.
In the afternoon, the team visited the achievements of Tuka Katara Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) that has been established and supported by ISSD, as part of its local seed business development initiative, since 2013. Supports of ISSD focused on capacity building on techniques of seed production, business management, organizational management and marketing; technical support in the form of coaching and follow-up; support in organizing experience sharing visits and other events and provision of innovation grant for store and office construction. In just four years the SPC is now producing seeds of more than 10 varieties, satisfying its members’ and customers’ seed demand through increased farmers’ production and productivity. The main crops for which seeds are produced by the SPC include food and malt barley, bread wheat, faba bean, field pea and linseed. The capital of the SPC has increased from 41,257.63 Birr in 2016 to 2,390,248 in 2019. The team visited the SPC store, seed cleaning machine, small-scale thresher, weighting balance, sewing machine for seed packaging and office with furniture.
During the visit the team had the opportunity to assess the programmes’ implementation through discussions with farmer, development agents, researchers, SPC management and members and government extension staff from woreda bureau of agriculture. Farmers expressed their appreciation of the continuous training and follow-up that is fundamentally changing the way they practice farming and make decisions. They are excited about new crops being introduced that will contribute towards closing their existing food gap, address nutrition deficiency, and increase their income. PSNP farmers also thanked the programmes for enabled them to be part of the various experiments and trials which would have been impossible without the programme’s provision of necessary inputs. SPC members repeatedly noted the support from ISSD enabled them to be well-organized which led to attracting relevant partners (e.g. GIZ and ICARDA), contributing to the infrastructure development of the SPC.
Overall the visit showed the successes of BENEFIT-REALISE in validating, demonstrating and scaling out of the successful experiences of CASCAPE and ISSD (BENEFIT sister programmes) as well as that of BENEFIT-ISSD in organizing and enabling seed producer cooperatives to meet local seed demand.
At the end, reflection session was held at Arsi University campus. Excellences Dr Kabba Urgessa and Mrs Aynalem Nigussie appreciated the field visit that allowed them to better understand how BENEFIT programmes work at grassroots level and the good design of interventions that can be used as inputs for wider scaling. They also valued the fact that all interventions are well aligned with other public and non-public initiatives. They affirmed their commitment to facilitate the scaling up and institutionalization of the demonstrated evidences in the policy and development arena, along with their expectations for future BENEFIT. Mr Thijs Woudstra and Dr Worku Tessema reflected their pleasure to see BENEFIT programme’s contribution to the overall agricultural development efforts of the country with due focus on addressing systemic issues. They appreciated the good alignment of the interventions with other initiatives, especially the partnering with relevant local organizations like universities, as that is expected to ensure sustainability of the programme impacts. Dr Dhuguma Adugna, President of Arsi University indicated how the partnership with BENEFIT–REALISE is helping the University get closer to the local farming communities giving insights on how to further refine the University’s outreach programmes. At last Dr Dawit Alemu, BENEFIT Manager summarized the key messages and concluded the field visit programme by thanking excellences from MoA and representaives from EKN for participating and those involved in organizing the field visit.