Category Archives: News

Lessons Learned: Enhancing the Ethiopian spices export, BENEFIT-ENTAG

The Ethiopian spices sub-sector has been characterized by use of poor yielding varieties, traditional production technologies and agronomic practices, with a lengthy value chain, adulteration, improper post-harvest handling, and high market volatility. Subsequently the export of Ethiopian spices never passed USD$2.6 million in value.

To enhance the Ethiopian export trade and private sector development the BENEFIT-ENTAG programme has been working on addressing market constraints of the spice sectors through creating better market linkages, technical and financial support to innovations, capacity building activities, and platform meetings.

In 2019, BENEFIT-ENTAG helped 14 private companies and two unions, introducing modern spices production technologies and out-grower scheme business models. The programme’s effort in strengthening market linkages focused on working with buyers based in United Arab Emirates and India resulting in more than one million USD export of Ethiopian spices. ENTAG facilitated a contract volume of 1617MT of Turmeric, Rosemary and Ajwain seed worth $1.075 million among three Ethiopian exporters and three foreign buyers based in India and United Arab Emirates. A business network has been established among 14 Ethiopian private companies, two unions, international spice and herbs buyers and technology suppliers.

Lessons Learned

  1. Inclusive trade support with technical capacity building training on production and marketing, trade missions, both forward and backward integration, and active involvement of private and government actors across the whole value chain were key success factors.
  2. The increasing credibility of BENEFIT-ENTAG and its effort to work in parallel with key stakeholders at regional and federal levels, such as Ethiopian Coffee, Tea and Spices Agency, Ethiopian exporters, commercial investors, traders, development agents, model farmers, cooperative and union leaders, was fundamental to create familiarity and build trust resulting in efficient and effective communication and follow-ups.
  3. Major challenges encountered included limited technical support in export contract facilitation and backward integration, need for export procedure and technical manuals to minimize contract defaults, and the need to work on disease outbreak and adulteration practice (ginger disease) that corrupts the quality of products caused reduction of export volume.

 

ISSD Amhara unit conducted practical training on seed production, marketing and business plan development

Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Amhara unit organized a training on seed quality management, seed marketing and business plan development for selective Seed Producer Cooperatives’ (SPCs) executive committee members, woreda experts and civil organizers. The training was designed following a gap assessment that showed SPCs capacity limitations in producing quality seed, cooperative organization, marketing, and developing business plans and strategies. The 4 day training was provided during the first week of March and was attended by 30 participants.

Under quality seed production session, the participants covered topics on land preparation, planting season, seed rate, adoption and climate requirement, variety selection, agronomic practices, pest and disease prevention mechanisms, and post-harvest handling on three priority crops (maize, wheat, teff). Issues related to certification, shortage of basic seed, and year to year fluctuation of package recommendation were raised as major challenges.

The second session focused on SPCs’  experience on cooperative organization, management, business and entrepreneurial skills, and effective governance. During this session, the participants had an opportunity to discuss financial and management skill of executive committees members, lack of understanding on share value, limited support of woreda cooperatives, and recruitment of professional staff to run the SPCs as a business.

The third session was designed to fill the skill gaps of seed producers in developing business and strategic plans. The session covered topics on reviewing and investigating alternative, marketing strategies, and how to manage financial risks. Committee members and expert practiced on how to clearly set commercial goals and objectives and outline what resources (human, financial, etc.) will be needed to achieve the commercial objectives; where these resources come from; how to utilize these resources; target production; potential customers and stakeholders etc. The participants presented their business plan for feedback and comments to enrich is further.

The training was valuable and practical, taking our level of  understanding into consideration. Furthermore, the session gave us an opportunity to discuss our cooperatives challenges and develop a business plan.”  W/o Mosit, Sertain Endeg seed producer cooperative                               

“As a new committee, the training taught us how to manage the cooperative using  business plan and  helped us create linkage with relevant stakeholders share basic skills and expereines.” Ato Agmas, Lake Markos seed producer cooperative

 

 

Partnership among higher learning institutes, research and extension to enhance agricultural technology testing and validation through mandate zonation

The different interventions of BENEFIT Partnership programmes in Ethiopia have demonstrated the importance of testing and validation to promote locally appropriate suitability agricultural technology that fit the country’s diverse agro-ecologies. One of the targeted mechanisms for sustainable technology testing and validation that BENEFIT partnership has been promoting was the creation of institutionalized linkages among higher learning institutes (HLIs), research institutes and extension within a specified and targeted area or mandate zone.

Following a number of stakeholders’ meetings to deliberate on the importance and the mechanism of the mandate zonation approach, an agreement was reached on March 11, 2020 to pilot mandate zonation in 10 zones of the four major regions (Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray) starting from the upcoming production season. A document that shows the implementation modalities and plan action along with the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed at zonal level were presented and discussed.

In general, the main objective of the piloting phase of mandate zonation for technology testing and validation was envisaged to generate key lessons that will allow the scaling up of the approach at national level. The strategic steps in institutionalization of mandate zonation for agricultural technology introduction, testing and validation agreed were:

  1. Overall leadership of facilitation, M&E and learning led by the MoA
    • Lead piloting for the first three years with selected members
    • Facilitate M&E learning among members of the National Agriculture Research System (NARS) and Regional BoA regularly;
    • Develop details of the role and responsibilities of the members of the NARS and MoA/BoA/Zonal for their respective mandate zones;
    • Design the national level institutionalization strategy of mandate zonation for technology introduction, testing and validation;
    • Establish a link with respective BOA/Zonal and Woreda offices of agriculture for wider adoption of introduced, tested and validated technologies;
    • Ensure the engagement of HLIs together with the MoSHE
  2. Regular documentation of agricultural technologies that are available and establishing a system for easy access to these identified technologies- led by EIAR and RARIs
    • One of the challenges is lack of knowledge about existing agricultural technologies. This demands to establish a database;
    • For crops, there is a national crop variety registry but limited information is available for other agricultural technologies;
    • Once available technologies are known, initial multiplication based on demand for introduction, testing and verification will be made;
    • Centralize exchange system of multiplied technologies among NARS members will be established either at national and/or regional level;
    • The technology exchange actors like Public Seed Enterprises can be considered (ESE, ASE, OSE and SSE) to facilitate the process
  3. Mandate zonation of members of the NARS for testing and validation for respective members of the NARS,
    • Pilot the approach in 10 zones;
    • Details of the roles and responsibility of the mandated NARS member and the Zonal Office of Agriculture will be clearly defined with associated budget and human resource (HR) allocation;
    • In case of presence of two or more members of the NARS, proper delineation of roles based on the areas of specialization will be made;
    • Linking Farmer Training Centres (FTCs) with nearby mandated member of the NARS for ATITV; and
    • Some members of the NARS will have wider (national or regional) mandate depending on respective role and responsibility of the national agricultural research system.
  4. Institutionalizing the process for responsibility sharing and accountability
    • Development of detail procedures along with roles and responsibilities for cascading the mandate zonation all over the country;
    • Clear linkage of the mandated member of the NARS with the zonal and woreda offices of agriculture – shared responsibility
    • Ensuring the proper linkage of the mandated member of the NARS with ARDPLAC
    • Ensuring the proper linkage of the mandated member of the NARS with FTC (s) found in each mandate zone;
    • Regular evaluation of the progress made for effective learning and continuous learning at national, regional and zonal level; and
    • As part of the activity under ADPLAC, regular updating to the constituencies of ADPLAC will be made.

BENEFIT Partnership programme will be actively engaged in the piloting process at federal level and lower level by engaging its implementing partners.

 

Provision of low interest and collateral-free credit strengthening Seed Producer Cooperatives’ financial system: Lessons learned from ISSD Ethiopia

Despite its rising number of members and increasing seed production, Koticha Kuyu Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) faced significant challenges that were affecting its sustainable development – especially in raising the necessary working capital needed to expand their business and benefit its members. Most members were not capable or willing to increase their contribution in the business and financial institutions are not prepared to offer affordable financial credit.

In response to this challenge, ISSD Ethiopia and the Regional Cooperative Promotion Agency (RCPA) of Oromia analyzed the situation of Koticha Kuyu SPC and facilitated the establishment of a Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo). The aim was to mitigate members’ personal financial constraints through the provision of low interest and collateral-free loans to secure the timely procurement of seed through the provision of input vouchers. The effort resulted in the establishment of Gamachu RuSACCo in 2015.

Koticha Kuyu SPC is located in Lokloka Abe kebele in West Shewa zone, approximately 70km west of Addis Ababa. The SPC was founded in 2013 with 41 members including four women and initial capital of ETB 19,000. Today, the total number of members has reached 59, 12 of whom are women, and their capital has more than doubled. The area under seed production in 2018 was 92.5 ha, which yielded an estimated 1,843 quintal of quality seed.

Since 2015, Gamachu RuSACCo provided ETB 166,700 (~ € 4,765) loan to 93 individual with an interest rate of 5% or less. In 2018, the scheme took off, where 46 SPC members borrowed ETB 131,900 for very low interest rate of 1%. The SPC current savings has reached ETB 230,000. Gamachu RuSACCo has enacted two forms of saving in its cooperative bylaw. The first is a mandatory saving of each member, which was increased from ETB 50 to ETB 100 per month, and the second allows for voluntary monthly savings of whatever is affordable for members. Today, over a fifth of the cooperative’s members contribute ETB 200, more than the mandatory amount of ETB 100 per month.

Lessons Learned

  1. Efficient Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo) significantly reduce SPC’s financial constraints contributing to their sustainable development. The Koticha Kuyu SPC currently has more than 200,000ETB to run its business efficiently.
  2. Time and continuous support is needed to build trust and show evidence on the benefit of RUSACCos to members. In the case of Koticha Kuyu SPC, it took three years to generate the proof of concept needed to convince members to save. While enacting bylaw that stipulates mandatory savings of members was important, voluntary savings from the members’ belief in the value of the scheme are even more powerful. For example, Ato Mulugeta Bekele, member of Gamachu RuSACCo, not only met the mandatory required savings for 2018/19 but made a voluntary contribution of ETB 5340 to his personal savings account. In addition, over time, due to the increasing drop in interest rate (as low as 1%), there is a significant increase in loan frequency and size.
  3. A well-coordinated effort (Koticha Kuyu SPC, Oromia RCPA and ISSD Ethiopia) is relevant to build capacity and provide necessary support through regular monitoring to create an efficient and effective delivery of saving and credit services.

BENEFIT-REALISE handed over a countrywide 50-meter geomorphic map

BENEFIT-REALISE programme handed over a nationwide 50-meter geomorphic map to stakeholders, including Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), at the workshop held on 9 March 2020. The base map is a tool applicable for soil/land resource mapping, agro-ecological zonation and other biophysical mapping missions. The workshop was attended by 25 participants from various relevant institutions: MoA, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia Construction Design and Supervision works (ECDSWC), Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), Alliance Biodiversity-CIAT, GIZ, Ethiopian Geospatial Information institute (EGII), International Soil Reference and Information Center (ISRIC), Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and BENEFIT Partnership (CASCAPE and REALISE).

The workshop was opened by H.E. Dr. Kaba Urgessa, State Minister of MoA, National Resources and Food Security sector. He noted that the biophysical survey and mapping missions require a huge resource and highlighted the relevance of establishing a mechanism to avoid duplication of efforts, ensure coordination and harmonize approaches to efficiently utilize the available limited resources. He also said that generating soil information is one of the major components in the country’s 10 years agriculture strategy and discussions are already underway with development actors and donors to mobilize resource and develop applicable, site and context specific soil maps. He also stated that the Ministry is ready to utilize the countrywide base map developed by BENEFIT-REALISE with technical support from ISRIC. BENEFIT-REALISE programme, involving experts from MoA, is currently conducting surveys to develop 1:50,000 soil/landscape map of 18 woredas using the base map. MoA plans to use this experience to further develop a semi-detailed (1:50,000) soil/landscape maps of 480 woredas in the coming 10 years.

Johan Leenaars from ISRIC presented technical aspects of the map including an overview of geo data, model specifications, 3-D prediction, base map, and geomorphology and soils at different scales. That was followed by a discussion facilitated by Dr. Eyasu Elias, BENEFIT-CASCAPE Manager. During the discussion, the stakeholders appreciated the effort made to develop the countrywide 50-meter geomorphic map, and raised issues related to availability of the base map to stakeholders, precision (ground truth) of the base map, costliness related to the preparation of semi-detailed soil/landscape map, and the importance of overlaying soil/landscape map being prepared by BENEFIT-REALISE with soil fertility map of ATA. Soil Information and Mapping Directorate of MoA expressed its interest to use the base map for developing semi-detailed soil maps in many other woredas. However, support from development partners in building capacity of the MoA in the area is highly needed.

At the end of the workshop Remko Vonk, BENEFIT-REALISE Coordinator from WUR, gave special thanks to all who contributed to this exercise and handed over the countrywide 50-meter geomorphic map on USB to the invited organizations.

If you are interested to access the map, please contact Soil Information and Mapping Directorate at MoA or BENEFIT-REALISE Programme Manager Dr. Tewodros Tefera at amede.tewodros@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Lessons learned: BENEFIT-SBN promotion of rotation crops in the sesame dominated production and market systems

Background

In the lowlands of north-west Ethiopia, farmers mainly depend on sesame and sorghum, respectively for cash and food. Together these two crops account for more than 90% of the cultivated land. Among others, this situation bears different risks:

  • (i) mono-cropping leading to soil depletion and increased pest and disease infestation;
  • (ii) farmers’ dependency on single cash crop that has a volatile market; and
  • (iii) a monotonous diet (low diet diversity score) of resident population and seasonal labourers.

In response to this, BENEFIT-SBN (Sesame Business Network) programme started promotion of rotation crops in the lowlands of Northwest Ethiopia, with three main objectives: sustainable agricultural production, farmer income improvement and diversification, food and nutrition security and diversity. Emphasis was put on the improvement of sorghum production and marketing, and introduction of soya and mung bean, as these can importantly contribute to soil fertility management and reduced incidence of pests and diseases.

Lessons Learned

  1. Selecting of the right rotational crops: It is important to give focus on rotation crops that are most important for sustainable farming practices, contribute to diet diversification and have market potential, with due attention given to seed supply, food habits, storage and farmer company relations and, if appropriate for livestock feeding. SBN was successful in introducing crops that are important in the context of climate change, such as short-cycle mung bean that is becoming more important as nutritious food to farmers and daily labourers. In addition, the adoption and expansion of soya bean is very encouraging in Amhara and has the potential for selling to food and oil processing companies. Nevertheless, more attention could have been given to existing alternative cash crops like cotton and sunflower, as a new emerging rotation crop important for production of edible oils. 
  1. Testing and validation: Exploring, testing and demonstrating a broad range of crops and varieties in collaboration with farmers and mandated research institutes and extension services is critical for successful uptake and scaling. Between 2014 and 2018, rotation crops were demonstrated at farmer training centres (FTC’s) and in farmer fields. Farmers have been supported to grow and market sorghum, soya and mung bean. Tens of thousands of farmers observed these plots and were triggered to consider growing them. Feedback of farmers was used to set priorities for scaling out rotation crops. A malt sorghum variety (Deber) was tested on field performance, as well as on its suitability for brewing.
  1. Quantity and quality of seed: One of the challenges faced by SBN related to getting the right quantity and quality seed at the right time. Currently, seed supply depends on research centres and seed producer cooperatives and private investors are not in place for seed multiplication for rotation crops.
  1. Capacity building (training, manuals and other relevant support documents): To ensure sustainability, it is critical to build the capacity of experts and farmers using different mechanisms. In addition to continuous training, the programme produced and distributed three practical field guides explaining recommended agricultural practices to farmers (for sorghum in 2017, for mung and soya bean in 2019). Soya bean and mung bean preparation recipes were developed and shared, mainly with women, during practical training sessions.
  1. Market linkage: The successes achieved in market linkage were achieved through the facilitation role the programme played to connecting companies to sourcing areas, including building a good understanding of delivery contracts. Unions were supported to enter in contract agreement with Diageo for the delivery of malt sorghum to malting factories. Visits were organized for companies to see the production zone and discuss with farmers. Because of the growing interest in mung bean sand soya bean, the legumes were included in the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) marketing system, to facilitate sales. For sorghum, an effort to link producers with buyers started good but was discontinued since farmers defaulted because of price volatility.
  1. Collaboration: The recommended practices for sorghum, mung bean and soya bean were developed and consolidated, in collaboration with GARC, HuARC and BoA and the promotion of rotation crops was part of the collaboration agreements with BoA and ARCs. It is relevant to plan the rotation crop promotion programme in collaboration with several stakeholders, both at the production and market side. This institutional collaboration helped to make the promotion of rotation crops a success.

Read more here.

ISSD conducted a briefing on institutional mapping and needs assessment of Ethiopia’s public seed regulatory services

On Feb 28, 2020, BENEFIT-ISSD held a half-day briefing on the major findings of an assessment conducted to better understand the Ethiopia public seed sector institutional and regulatory setup to respond to the specific needs of the sector in a more systematic and coordinated way.  The briefing was successful in creating a better understanding on the major regulatory functions of the public seed sector, review activities that are being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and other key actors, discuss major challenges and create a taskforce to oversee the coordination efforts towards improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the sector.  The briefing was attended by over 20 participants from Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), GIZ, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), Ethiopia Seed Association (ESA), AGRA, and BENEFIT –ISSD staff members.

Following a welcome remark by Dr. Amsalu  Ayana, ISSD Manager, the opening remark was given by MoA Seed Regulatory Director General, Dr. Woldehawarit Assefa who talked about the newly approved seed policy that focuses on facilitating the inclusion of the private sector, variety protection, seed quality control, quarantine, coordination, etc. He acknowledged the valuable contribution of ISSD towards improving Ethiopia seed sector and expressed his hope that this meeting will lead to a more coordinated effort to strengthen and improve the current MoA seed regulatory efforts.

The presentation by Dr. Mohammed Hassana, ISSD Deputy Director, focused on data source and  methodology used, policies, laws, regulations and directives already in place, the seed regulatory structure at both federal and region levels and issues related to quality assurance, certification, protection of breeders rights, varieties release, quarantine, staffing (management and technical), branches and laboratories in the regions etc.

Following the presentation, the participants discussed level of autonomy that can be applied taking the strength of the current regulatory system into consideration; challenges related to certification process (lack of autonomy given to the seed producers, lack of private inspection system, limited access and capacity of existing laboratories); issues related to slow varieties release submitted by the private sector (high cost and capacity to perform trials by the government and research institutes); challenges in quality assurance that is mostly the responsibility of the government; quarantine issues (physical mobility, time constraint, lack of capacity, accountability and reliability and lack of accredited laboratory).

Some of the recommendation put forward included upgrading our existing laboratories to international standard; equipping and modernizing our quality assurance system; provision of service based on a cost recovery basis; building the capacity of the regulatory structure; starting a pilot for an independent variety testing service under MoA; and improving quarantine service for seed import and export etc.

It was noted that, a well-functioning regulatory seed sector is crucial to attract private companies and safe guard the interest of the farmer to access quality seed. This requires working on regulatory capacity of both the public and private systems and coordinate efforts of those supporting the sector.

A group exercise was conducted where each organization was given an opportunity to share their planned activities in relation to the five major functions of the regulatory system for the coming five year;   (i) variety release and registration; (ii) Protecting plant breeders rights; (iii) phytosanitary services; (iv) seed quality assurance; (v) issuing import and export permits.

At the end of the briefing, a taskforce to be led by the MoA Regulatory Directorate was formed to facilitate coordination efforts and monitor progress.  As the first secretariat to serve the taskforce, ISSD will develop a ToR that will guide the taskforce efforts.  The members include representative from ATA, AGRA, EKN, ESA, MoA and ISSD.

The meeting was facilitated by Joep van den Broek, Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR.

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