On October 22-23, 2019, BENEFIT-CASCAPE national coordination unit in collaboration with the extension directorate of the MoA, Addis Ababa University CASCAPE cluster and Siyadebirna Wayu Woreda Office of Agriculture of the North Shewa Zone, Amhara Region organized a high-level field visit to showcase the successes achieved with wheat cluster farming as a scaling approach. The first day was devoted to visit BENEFIT-CASCAPE supported AGP (Agricultural Growth Programme) seed multiplication scaling activity of improved bread wheat varieties and BENEFIT-CASCAPE scaling activity to boost wheat production through cluster farming. That was followed by a one day high level stakeholder workshop to discuss the results of the drivers of technology adoption in the agriculture sector. In addition, the meeting was meant to hand over the 26 Best Fit Practice (BFP) manuals to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) State Mister and the Extension Directorate. The BFPs manuals were validated by BENEFIT-CASCAPE for their productivity, profitability, environmental sustainability and farmer preferences. The field visit was attended by over 200 participants including dignitaries from the Federal MoA (State Minister Advisor, extension director, mechanization director, AGP head), zonal and woreda administration officials, zonal and woreda agriculture offices officials, research institutes representatives, farmers, BENEFIT staff (Addis Ababa and Wageningen University & Research (WUR)) and the media.
For the field day, on October 22, the delegation first traveled to Romae kebele where 160 farmers (138 men and 22 women) were engaged in seed multiplication of improved bread wheat variety (Dand’a) on 186ha clustered farm land. The visit started with a brief remark by Berhau Taye, North Shewa Zonal Administrator who welcomed everyone and acknowledged the contribution of the programme in introducing new improved bread wheat varieties and good agricultural practices that is transforming wheat production in the area.
His remark was followed by a briefing from Ato Andualem Yeshew, an Agronomic Expert of the woreda who said “The successes we see here is a result of the combined efforts of improved varieties and good agricultural practice through efficient clustering approach. The variety was first introduced by BENEFIT-CASCAPE in 2018 through successful validation, demonstration and pre-scaling activities at neighboring Kebele. Following the good results achieved in 2018, the woreda and BENEFIT-CASCAPE organized field days where farmers saw that the variety was high-yielding and resistant to disease and pest. This year, we partnered with BENEFIT-CASCAPE to implement AGP seed multiplication scaling activities to address quality bread wheat seed shortage in the area.” As per the agreement between BENEFIT-CASCAPE and AGP, the programme provided improved seed, training and technical support (20%), while AGP covered all other necessary costs.
The benefit of cluster farming, that started by BENEFIT-CASCAPE in 2017 is clearly visible on the ground. It enabled farmers to access improved seed, fertilizer and row planting practices with support from the extension agents. Instead of fragmented farm land covered with conventional farming, you see hundreds of hectares of wheat farms, covered with modern cropping practice. Farmers are expecting 64-67 quintals, much higher than the average yield of 38 quintals registered across the country. Andualem said, “Working in clusters encourages farmers to use the full package and good agronomic practices. It eases the introduction and dissemination of technologies where farmers share resources and benefit from collective marketing of produce (selling in bulk).”
At the beginning of the second visit, BENEFIT-CASCAPE AAU cluster team gave poster presentations on the programme approach and key 2019 activities. The delegation then visited the success achieved in scaling improved bread wheat (Hedase) on 150ha farm land in Ejersa Kebele.
During the field visit, the group heard testimonies from the cluster administrators and members. Demesa Muluneh who is serving as the Cluster Coordinator in Romie kebele, said “Working together has many advantages such as being able to support and learn from each other. It is also relevant to ensure all farmers apply the recommended input and follow the right practice which ensures getting good quality seed.”
When asked about challenges they faced, Demesa added, “Getting fertilizer on time was a challenge. And due to the large area, there is demand for tractor to plow and combine harvester to harvest in the area; we were not able to secure a tractor to use during the dry season.” Another challenge raised was related to marketing. Even though the cluster is working with the woreda union to sell their seed, they are not sure if they will get the best price for our produce.
Other issues discussed included the shortcomings in using blanket fertilizer recommendation, the need to deal with problems of monocropping as a result of cluster farming and increase efficiency and availability of other crops and legumes seeds for crop rotation.
At the end of the visit, the delegation held a discussion to reflect on what they have seen and raise questions and issues to focus on in the coming year. In his remark Ato Abera Mulatu, Advisor to the State Minister (MoA) said he is happy with what he has seen and noted that this is a unique opportunity and approach that should expand to other surrounding areas. Dr. Yania Seid, Director for Community Services of AAU, stated that she is proud to see the level of work done in collaboration with the programme and the university’s continued commitment to provide service through its community engagement programme. Dr. Eyasu Elias, BENEFIT-CASCAPE Manger thanked all who attended the visit and for their contribution towards making Ethiopia wheat self-sufficient in the near future. Prof. Eric Smailing, BENEFIT-CASCAPE Coordinator highlighted that farmers are owners of this project and central to the success achieved so far. Dr. Abate Mekuriyaw, BENEFIT-CASCPE AAU Cluster Manager appreciated the continuous support and trust of the government offices and the farmers that resulted in creating fields that are starting to be known as “Ocean of wheat”. Mesert Haile, MoA Zonal Head closed the discussion by thanking the organizers and highlighting the relevance of working on the entire value chain components to bring sustainable change.
On October 23, 2019 BENEFIT-CASCAPE held a one day stakeholder workshop to present (handover) Drivers for Adoption study results and 26 Best Fit Practice (BFP) manuals to the MoA State Minister and the MoA Agricultural Extension Directorate. Participants were drawn from the extension directorate of MoA, AGP, zonal department of agriculture in north-Shewa zone, representatives of bureaus of agriculture and regional research institutes such as SARI (southern agricultural research institute), and BENEFIT staff (Addis Ababa and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the media. The workshop was also a great opportunity to discuss the major findings of Driver For Adoption study, Best Fit Manual preparation and development process, mechanization, incentivizing agriculture, next phase of BENEFIT, and way forward towards resolving issues raised during the visit and institutionalizing the Programme achievements.
Both the field visit and the stakeholder workshop received high media coverage nationwide. News of the events and interviews with farmers, government officials and BENEFIT-CASCAPE management was broadcasted on ETV, WALTA TV, and Ethiopian News Agency radio and television programmes.