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Promoting cooperative based seed production: The case of ISSD Amhara Unit support to Serten-Endeg SPC

Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has pursued a range of policies and investments to boost agricultural production and productivity. One of them focuses on increasing the availability of improved seed, vital to increase agricultural yield by significant folds. In support to this effort, Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Ethiopia implemented many projects through four implementing partners, four universities (Bahir Dar, Haramaya, Hawassa, and Mekelle), Oromia Seed Enterprise, Ethiopian Seed Producers and Growers’ Association, with technical support from Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). Since 2009, ISSD used many innovative approaches to improve the seed sector, especially to identify, acknowledge and develop diverse sources for seed upon which farmers can rely on. And one of them focus on transforming Local Seed Business, (LSBs), groups of farmers organized as seed producer cooperatives into self-reliant and sustainable local seed businesses.

ISSD’s recent effort working with Serten Endeg Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC), that specializes in hybrid maize and wheat in West Gojjam zone, Burie zuria woreda Zalma kebele, is a good example how ISSD’s approach transformed a weak SPC into a self-sustained and stable cooperative capable of contributing to sustainable seed supply in the country.

At the start of the intervention, Serten Endeg SPC was characterized by lack of members’ trust, divided committee memebers, poor governance and lack of infrastructure. The woreda cooperative office acknowledged that the SPC’s management did not adhere to cooperative principles and guidelines, and members were not confident about their collective entity due to poor management transparency.

ISSD Serten-Endeg Seed Producing Cooperative washing machine picThe project first identified the gaps through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Based on the findings, ISSD Amhara unit conducted discussions with the LSB executive committee, woreda cooperative office and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA). With the assistance of the Woreda office of agriculture and ISSD Amhara unit, an agreement was reached for the LSB to work on seed quality assurance and acquire Certificate of Competence (CoC). The Woreda cooperative office audited the cooperative, assisted in carrying out general assembly meetings and contributed to improving the governance of the SPC. ISSD provided the necessary grant to the SPC for finishing a store and office construction and provided technical support and training in various areas.

As a result of this collaboration the cooperative has shown tremendous achievements and the woreda cooperative office is appreciated the improvement seen within short period of time. The cooperative recent audit found the cooperative to be profitable and members’ trust of the management committee has increased.  The cooperative is aspiring to use its member’s and rented land, to produce more crop seed and add wheat as new seed in the next season. At present, the cooperative is attracting new members. As the result of linkage created by ISSD Amhara Unit Bahir Dar University, the SPC tackled its marketing problem and sold its seeds to Amhara region farmers and Ethiopian Seed Enterprises, seed union and private seed producers.

The cooperative is also looking into an option of working with contractual seed production. Moreover, due to the project support the seed producer cooperative is now a member of Ediget Bandinet Seed Union that is found at Burie.

Recently, as a result of collaborative effort between ISSD and ATA, the cooperative installed a cleaning machine. To resolve challenges related to power supply, ISSD Amhara Unit facilitated the purchase of a generator through provision of grant. The testing of the cleaning machine was conducted in May 2020, where 25 members of the cooperative attended. That was followed by training of 4 people (one expert and 3 farmers) in operating and managing the machine.

ISSD’s Amhara Unit support in organizing the seed producer as a legal entity, obtaining certificate of competency, building basic infrastructure, linkage with market and service providers, and enhancing the seed producers’ capacity were vital in strengthening and creating a self-reliant SPC that can contribute to seed supply towards improving food security in Ethiopia.

Vegetable production changing the lives of PSNP farmers in SNNPR Ethiopia

BENEFIT-REALISE Arba Minch University Cluster has been promoting nutrition sensitive agriculture since its inception in 2018. The programme has been supporting Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) beneficiaries by increasing awareness about the importance of nutrition, introducing agricultural technologies, setting up agricultural demonstrations, provision of vegetable seeds, technical support and trainings. The intervention was implemented in four woredas namely; Derashe, Mirab Abaya, Zalla and Kucha of SNNP region, benefiting 160 beneficiaries of which 50% are women and 80% (128) PSNP households.. The effort not only improved the nutritional status of households, but also became a source of income improving the food security of PSNP households. Recent assessment done on randomly selected female participants indicated that in addition to household consumption, they were able to earn 100- 1500Birr in a single production season.

In addition to distribution of provision of seed such as swiss chard, cabbage, beetroot, carrot, Ethiopian kale and 1600 papaya seedlings, food preparation demonstration was conducted to encourage consumption at the vegetables at home. The demonstration that took place in Arguba Tenaho kebele, Derashe Woreda, was a good opportunity to discussion the benefit of balanced diet and show others in the local community the value of the vegetable production.

Birtukan Bururo who lives with her husband and a daughter in Galta kebele said “I was one of the lucky once to be selected to try growing vegetable crops. The programme staff and local development agents brought us different vegetable seeds including beetroot, swiss chard, cabbage and papaya and taught us how to plant the seeds, what to use other inputs and how to care for them. Within a short time, I became a vegetable grower, started feeding my family different kinds of food with diverse nutrition and was able to earn 1500 birr from the sales of beetroot and swiss chard. That is big change and I want to say thank you to those who made this possible!”

Another successful example is related to orange-fleshed sweet potato, not very well known by the community prior to the intervention. The taste and color gained popularity among children and elders very fast. Following the high demand, farmers like Tadese Taye from Derashe woreda are already distributing the vine cuttings to the local community (for about 50 farmers) earning a lot of money, multiplying the rewarding effects of the effort.

Overall, the impact is already visible at many levels. The provision of seeds, training on management and production techniques, close follow up, mentoring and household visits is paying off. The community is aware of the nutritional value and potential benefits of vegetables and households are earning additional income, contributing to the overall food security and well being of the family.

New publications on Ethiopia poultry sector opportunities

On behalf of the agricultural bureau of the Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa and with great support of BENEFIT-ENTAG, the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC) recently published two documents that provide in-depth information on opportunities for both the private and public Dutch poultry sector in Ethiopia. The report ‘Poultry sector cooperation between the Netherlands and Ethiopia’ and the factsheet Poultry Ethiopia include knowledge related to special requests from the Dutch sector, challenges and suggestions for support of Dutch companies already doing business in or with Ethiopia. The aim of the research is to inform the Dutch business community and to help guide the Embassy’s interventions.

The reports are based on data from the Business opportunity report ‘Invest in the Ethiopian poultry sector 2020 (ENTAG 2020)’, reports by World Bank, CSA and FAO (2016-2019) as well as interviews with both existing and potential Dutch investors and suppliers (2019).

Click here to learn more on BENEFIT-ENTAG poultry sector interventions.

Extracted from Poultry opportunities in Ethiopia.

Lessons learned from a decade of ISSD in Ethiopia

2019 marked a decade of ISSD in Ethiopia. Ten years have passed since the concept note on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Ethiopia was endorsed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), FAO and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) at Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa.

In the last ten years, ISSD Ethiopia registered many achievements in the areas of

  1. Introducing Local Seed Business (LSB) model to more than 270 Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs) and 50 development organizations across the country and enhancing pluralism in seed production.
  2. Farmers’ use of quality seed increased 28% between 2014 and 2016. The programme improved the availability and use of quality seed for more than 4 million smallholder households, reducing bureaucratic burden, inefficiency and costly rates of carryover seed in some cases by as much as 85%.
  3. ISSD Ethiopia introduced the concept of Direct Seed Marketing (DSM), piloted it, and helped scale its practice in 313 districts across the country.
  4. ISSD Ethiopia pioneered the establishment of independent seed regulatory authorities in Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR to enforce regulation and improve delivery of public services to the sector, including licensing, certification and quality assurance.

A strategy which greatly contributed to these achievements was the establishment of regional seed core groups in the four regional states where ISSD Ethiopia operates. The groups, composed of selected key decision-makers in the regional state arena, including: deputy-/heads of the BoA; directors of research institutes; representatives of public and private seed producers and farmers’ organizations; and coordinators of seed related NGO- and multi-/bilateral projects. Jointly, they formulate interventions to overcome strategic challenges, coordinate developments, facilitate partnerships, channel financial and technical resources, monitor and support interventions and embed successful interventions in working practices. Much of the attention has been directed to addressing the underlying causes of systemic problems.

As ISSD Ethiopia’s presence continued and results materialized, collaboration was increasingly solicited at federal level. After years of investment in piloting innovation and facilitating dialogue, ISSD Ethiopia generated good rapport to pursue sector wide and inclusive strategy involving institutional and regulatory reform.

Today there exists a stakeholder-owned and MoA endorsed seed sector Transformation Agenda, a draft seed policy and amendment proposal to the 2013 seed law. Whilst these results outlined are an achievement in itself, they are yet to lead to positive impact on the performance of the seed sector. What is a necessary and challenging task is still to come, in translating these documents into action and the actual implementation thereof. ISSD Ethiopia has already started raising awareness of the strategies proposed in the Transformation Agenda. It was presented to 24 MoA staff in the presence of the State Ministers, who directed their staff to incorporate the strategies in their new multi-annual plan. With the same outcome in mind, a process started at the regional level. 700 copies of the Transformation Agenda have been distributed for public reference.

Lessons learned

  1. Embrace systemic change: ISSD Ethiopia did well to focus its narrative on systems, addressing systemic changes and root causes of stubborn problems of the seed sector, and raising the ambitions of its partners. Developing the vision of tomorrow was a far better point of departure than dealing with the pressing day-to-day problems, elevating the dialogue to a far more strategic level. But it is good to note, it is challenging to work on systemic changes with professionals from different organizations as they tend to approach issues and solutions primarily from their own field of expertise and interest. We should also keep in mind systemic change is a slow game, considering that much of ISSD Ethiopia’s efforts from as far back as 10 years’ ago are only recently coming to fruition.
  2. The programme employed a sector model, which helped participants in the process to unpack complexity, realize the interdependencies between building blocks of the sector, and create a shared language.
  3. ISSD Ethiopia worked in parallel with key stakeholders at regional state and federal levels, which created familiarity and trust making communication and follow-up effective. Exchange of experiences between regional states created confidence for those lagging behind. ISSD Ethiopia’s collaboration with other partners was pivotal in building its credibility crucial for successes achieved and has earned ISSD Ethiopia government’s trust as a respected adviser.
  4. ISSD Ethiopia has been strategic in adapting to unfolding circumstances of Ethiopia’s dynamic political environment into consideration.
  5. The turnover of staff in public institutions in particular has been an enormous obstacle (but also an opportunity if you consider ISSD Ethiopia’s history with officials that have come to power);
  6. Finally, ISSD could not have been successful in its effort on sector transformation without its dedicated and skillful staff.

New effort to better understand and mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the seed sector: A collaborative effort between ISSD Ethiopia and WCDI

In response to COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on food security, BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia Program’s recent effort focuses on better understanding how the pandemic affects the seed sector and supports the development of urgent coping strategies that would enhance resilience and support continuity of activities of the seed sector. The initiative that was initiated and designed by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) aims at raising awareness on the situation and its impact on the seed sector. It is based on a country quick scan of the impact of COVID-19 and responses to the pandemic on different functions and practical activities in the seed sector.  It is implemented in four countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Myanmar), where ISSD program is already being implemented.

The first quick scan in Ethiopia was conducted in April and report issued during the first week of May. It was conducted through rapid remote survey and crop specific focus group discussions (FGDs), targeting maize and wheat seed systems. A panel of experts, representing government, research, seed companies, service delivery and farmer organizations, was established to answer survey questions on full range of seed value chain functions and seed value chain services and enablers. Closed questionnaire related to the level of impact on practical activities within the current frame in time were used to prioritize issues. A summary of the results generated automatically and further validated by virtual FGDs, focusing on maize and wheat seed systems. The validated alerts and the coping strategies are shared with pertinent stakeholders for take action.

Reiteration will be done at least monthly for the full duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly dashboards on outcomes of the periodical survey will be widely shared among stakeholder thorough meetings (taking the necessary precaution or using video conferencing taking the emerging restriction into consideration) and variety of communication tools mostly digital. [read more on “How does COVID-19 affect the seed sector” introductory brief here)

The outcome of the first of the assessment for the month of May (#01 May 2020 Seed Alert Ethiopia) has been shared with federal and regional stakeholders and decision makers, including the federal Ministry of Agriculture, the regional bureaus of agriculture and the Agricultural Transformation Agency as well as research system. (Click here a Q & A on the briefing). The May quick scan outcome highlighted the following Alerts

  • Alert 1: Precautions hamper seed processing and distribution
  • Alert 2: Short supply of inputs and labour constrain seed production
  • Alert 3: Social distancing diminishes government’s capability to coordinate EGS supply
  • Alert 3: Concern that substandard seed will make its way onto the market is heightened

For more information

 

Production of minitubers in screen house contribute to provision of sustainable disease free potato seed: ISSD Amhara Unit

Organizing farmers into Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) is a key strategy to grow and market much needed quality/farmer preferred seed. Addis Alem SPC, established to produce and market potato seed in Amhara region since 2002 GC is a good example how SPCs can play key role in seed value chain development. The SPC is one of the 4 SPCs directly supported by ISSD Amhara unit, organized with the objective of production, packaging and marketing of improved/farmers preferred seeds in the region.

In Ethiopia, potato is regarded as a high potential crop owing to its ability to provide high yield per unit area with a short crop cycle. It is an important food security and hunger reliever crop by virtue of its ability to mature in advance to most other crops at the time of critical food shortage. However, in spite of the increasing demand, productivity of potato has always been low and declining over the years due to lack of quality disease free seed supply.

Majority of farmers use farm saved, disease susceptible potato seed obtained from local market or exchanged among farmers. In spite of seed regulations in the region, the systems have largely been operating under limited human capacity and facilities without quality control. Poor functioning seed systems, lack of commercial seed production systems, inability of the informal seed system to maintain seed quality and eliminate diseases are consistently ranked among the major constraints in potato production.

Recent years efforts to satisfy the increasing demand by different researches, the regional government, NGOs and other development actors focused on increasing the areas of production rather than increasing productivity through tackling the major productivity constraints – availability of disease free quality potato seed and limited access to suitable varieties. Traditionally, seed potato production systems in the country have the responsibility of research centers and seed producer cooperatives.

In collaboration with regional partners, the work of ISSD to improve the performance of potato value chain started with analysis to better understand the main constraints along the potato seed value chain. Based on the survey result, ISSD in collaboration with Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) supported Addis Alem SPC in production and supply of disease free quality potato mini tuber using screen house.

The production started by the construction of 15 m X 8m X 3m (Length, width and height) screen house and 15mx8mx5m Diffused Light Store (DLS) in the potato potential areas of South Gondar zone, Farta woreda, Awzet kebele. The standard screen house was built using mush wire, cement (for the floor), ground water, compost, sand and forest soil with close follow up, technical support and management. Initially the SPC planted 900 plantlets in 900 pots to produce disease free potato mini-tuber and produced 13000 G0 tubers (on average 14tubers per pot) of Belete variety. During the next round the SPC produced 6000 G1 mini tuber, which was planted on half hectares to produce 200qt G2 of quality disease free seed potato.

Despite the first doubt of the farmers and to their pleasant surprise, it was possible to get 14 tubers from a single plantlet. This has increased the demand or potato seed considerably within a short time.

Misgan Mulaw, “I was able to get enough G1 disease free tubers to produce and sell 64qt of disease free seed potato to the SPC. I earned 60,500.00 Ethiopian Birr.” Similarly Ato Misganaw Haile and Awoke Fantaw produced and supplied 37 and 36qt and earned 29,600.00 and 28,800.00Birr respectively.

Ato Marew Awoke effort is a good example on the level of acceptance of the technique by the surrounding farmers. “I built my own screen house using the technique provided. And with the supply of plantlets from ARARI I was able to produce 1160 G0 tubers, and from that 6.5qt G1 disease free seed potato tuber.”

The main factors that are contributing to ensuring the SPC’s capability to become a sustainable source of quality potato source seed to the area include the cooperative’s infrastructure (screen house, ground water, DLS), experiences how to manage the screen house and its good linkage with plantlets source. Their success is currently being scaled up by Mush SPC in North Shewa zone, Basona Worana Woreda with the support of ISSD Amhara unit. Furthermore, Following a visit to Addis Alem SPC, Bahir Dar University and Debretabor universities allocated budget for construction of the infrastructure (screen house, hand dag well, DLS).  Guna union is being supported by Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) to build the necessary infrastructure to increase production and productivity of disease free potato mini tubers. ISSD Amhara unit supported by linking Guna union with various partners including plantlet supplier, the Woreda office of agriculture, quality regulatory authority and Adet agricultural research institute. The programme also  provided technical support at different levels. In addition, GO and NGOs potato platform was established at regional level to provide coordinated support for potato producers in the value chain development.

April 2020 – By Wonzie Asmare Knowledge Sharing & communication Expert, ISSD Amhara Unit

Ethiopian sesame sector post-harvest value creation and market linkages: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

In the past 5 years, Sesame Business Network (SBN) has conducted many studies and supported several specific initiatives, with the aim to increase Ethiopia sesame value creation, to establish constructive relations between value chain operators, and to improve the income of farmers and their organisations. The programme faced many challenges that made it difficult to achieve its target of achieving 10% higher farmer income from value addition and market linkages.

A three-page lessons learned paper “Post-harvest value creation: a fundamental challenge for the Ethiopian sesame sector” was prepared in the summer of 2019, highlighting all initiatives of the past 4 years and essential factors that inhibited the sesame sector product and market development. Concerning the current context, the paper concluded that:

  1. farmers can get a relatively high domestic price for raw sesame and are not rewarded for producing quality sesame or investing in value addition activities;
  2. there are no incentives for direct supplier-buyer relations;
  3. sesame is an expensive input for local food processing; and
  4. policies for creating a more enabling business environment are missing (i.e. imported oil is subsided, domestic/local oil is taxed).

As a result, post-harvest value creation is virtually absent and mainly confined to cleaning and artisanal oil production for the local market.

Lessons learned 

  1. In the last 5 years the programme was successful in efforts related to yield improvement for cost price reduction, farmers’ access to input credit, marketing credit for cooperatives to operate on spot markets (taking advantage of the high ECX prices and reducing the risk of traders’ collusion), first cleaning by cooperatives and unions, artisanal oil production for local markets using poorest sesame quality and production and marketing of rotation crops. Initiatives that did not achieve their goal included direct export of unions, trade missions, sesame quality management and grading, storage and conservation, investments in cleaning and oil extraction, development of organic value chains. Under prevailing circumstances, it proved almost impossible to develop feasible business initiatives and product and value chain development proved to be an uphill battle.
  2. Higher value markets (Middle East, Europe, North America, Japan and Korea) have clear requirements for the appearance, aroma, taste, oil content and purity of the product. Currently, buyers from these markets are not interested to directly source sesame from Ethiopian producers, mainly because of quality and food safety problems.
  3. Ethiopia has comparative advantages for producing highly valued white varieties (suitable for bakery industry), tasty varieties (suitable for tahini and halva consumers) and varieties with high oil content. There are also opportunities for value added products such as hulled, toasted, roasted, and grounded sesame, oil, tahini and halva.
  4. The inflated ECX prices are not to the disadvantage of farmers, however without market reform value chains are not developed and Ethiopia is losing its position in the increasingly competitive international sesame market. As of recent, the Government of Ethiopia has set out to control ECX prices, so as to avoid higher than international market prices. This may create a new business context, wherein ECX prices would be aligned with the international market prices. In the short run, this would not be an advantage to the farmers. Conditions for feasible post-harvest value adding activities would however be created: cleaning, storage, tracing and certification, processing, branding and labelling, packaging, wholesale and retail of food products. An important challenge is to develop these activities in a farmer-inclusive manner, e.g. to develop cooperative business activities.
  5. For developing post-harvest value creation and to establish real value chains with collaboration and transactions among different operators, a package of fundamental changes is required, some of which are the following:
    • Provision of export licenses for professional sesame exporters (e.g. unions and cooperatives), who are not allowed to be engaged in import business. This will create a level playing field with current local buyers. An important accompanying measure is to promote alternative hard currency sources for importing companies.
    • Development of a grading system that facilitates improved traceability, quality and food safety, with additional parameters like oil content, seed size and free fatty acid, allowing for market segmentation and price differentiation according to quality.
    • Promotion of direct farmer-trader/company relations and a quality-based marketing system, which starts at field and spot market level. This would be feasible if ECX prices reflect world market prices. Joint investments in cleaning and storage facilities and management would be important in this context, as food safety is a major concern.
    • Tax exemption for locally produced edible oils (sesame, sunflower and others) and promotion of sesame-based consumer goods for the domestic market. In the current situation, imported palm oil is subsidized to make it accessible for the Ethiopian population, while locally produced oils are taxed. This hinders a transformation to Ethiopian production of edible oils.
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