On October 5, 2019, BENEFIT-RELAISE Hawassa University (HwU) Cluster organized a high-level field day to showcase the success achieved through its pre-scaling of improved Maize (BF 661) and validation of Faba bean varieties in Bona Zuria woreda, Sidama Zone. The visit was attended by more than a hundred people representing zonal, regional and woreda levels government officials (administration, BOA and Food security and PSNP offices), university heads, deans and directors (both from Hawassa University and Arba Minich University), researchers from Southern Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), extension workers, BENEFIT management (Addis Ababa and WUR) and BENEFIT agricultural experts (REALISE and ISSD). The field day organized by HwU in collaboration with the SNNP and Sidama zone Agricultural offices was a successful event to evaluate the performance of newly improved varieties, better understand BENEFIT-REALISE pre-scaling and validation approaches and discuss scaling possibilities and way-forward for the programme’s 2020 activities.
The welcoming remark by Oliye Odula, Bona Zuria Woreda Administration Deputy Head highlighted the relevance of the programme that started with an overall aim to address the challenges of the poorest of the poor farmers in the country – PSNP supported farmers. In his opening speech, Ato Daniel Damtew, Deputy Head of Bureau of Agriculture, started by talking about the long standing relation of the bureau with BENEFIT-CASCAPE programme (REALISE sister organization under BENEFIT Partnership) and HwU (implementing partner of CASAPE and REALISE). He mentioned the successes achieved in introducing and scaling malt barley production in Sidama Zone and he expressed his excitement on the potential of working with BENEFIT-REALISE to improve the livelihoods of PSNP beneficiaries in the area.
Dr. Tewodros Tefera, BENEFIT-REALISE Manager gave an overview of the programme and emphasized the need to work together to reach more farmers and positively influence institutional direction to address the twine challenges of PSNP farmers: closing food gap months and improving dietary diversity. He thanked Mr. Ramko Vonk, BENEFIT-REALISE Coordinator, WUR, who played a big role in initiating and starting the programme in Ethiopia. Dr. Tesfaye Abebe, HwU Cluster Manager thanked all for taking time to attend this event and give an overview of the cluster 2019 activities that is currently reaching 1,260 farmers. Their speech was followed by poster presentation on the cluster 2019 activities.
The field visits showcased validation of four faba bean varieties and pre-scaling of improved maize variety (BF H661) at Malgano Seda Kebele Farmer Training Center (FTC) and three farmer fields selected for the trials and pre-scaling activity. While visiting the FTC, Mrs. Wogayehu Derese, Crop Development expert of Bona district agricultural office and Focal Person of BENEFIT-REALISE HwU cluster, explained the processes involved in pre-scaling of maize and validation of improved faba bean varieties. Regarding prescaling of maize she indicated that “Training was given to development agents and farmers on proper agronomic practices of maize, after which the programme provided 3.25 kg of seed of maize BH 661 variety to each of the selected 150 farmers in three kebeles. In total 80% of the farmers were PSNP beneficiaries. Each farmer planted the seed on 0.125 ha of his/her land (the seed rate is 25 kg of maize per hectare). The programme didn’t supply fertilizer to the farmers, but they applied NPS (at the rate of 100 kg per ha) and Urea (split application at the rate of 200 kg per hectare) from their own sources”. One of the participating farmers named Mulatu Debisso mentioned that he plowed his field three times before sowing the maize and weeding was done twice. He added that he was getting 50-65 quintals of maize per hectare, but now he expects to get at least 80 quintal of maize per hectare, ie. 10 quintals from his plot of 0.125 ha (1/8th of a hectare).
In regards to validation of improved faba bean varieties, Wogayehu indicated that a total of 20 farmers were involved in two kebeles in addition to the two FTCs. Four improved varieties namely, Dosha, Degaga, Gabalcho and Tumsa and one local variety were planted on the plots of 20 farmers and two FTCs. At each farm/FTC 0.125 ha of land was allotted for the five varieties, ie. 250m2 of land for each variety. NPS fertilizer at the rate of 100 kg per hectare and Biofertilizer (at the rate of 500 gm per ha.) were applied to the trials. The seeding rate was at the rate of 150 kg per hectare.
Bekele Bedasa a 26 year old PSNP beneficiary farmer of 3 children said, “As you can see all new faba bean varieties are doing better than the local, especially one is performing very well. The local variety, the pods usually start from the 6th node, with the new varieties it started from the 3rd node, which means the stem holds more pods which means higher yield. But we still have two months to go before we know the yield performance.” Bekele is already inviting others to see the better performing varieties and is already getting offers for the seed for the next cropping season. All are eager to see which variety will be selected based on criteria set by the farmers themselves.
The group was also excited to see the performance of the new maize variety. The 3-4 meter high thick stem is an indication of a crop that has a high yield potential and biomass.
Overall the validation of Faba bean was done at 4 FTCs and plots of 40 farmers and pre-scaling of improved maize was implemented at 3 FTCs and 150 farmers.
Following the field visit, a general discussion was held where all participants including farmers were given an opportunity to reflect on what they have seen, ask questions and suggest way forward in future activities and scale up efforts. The discussion was facilitated by the Sidama Zone MOA Head, Letta Legesse and BENEFIT-REALISE Manager Dr. Tewodros Tefera. In general, there was a high level of appreciation for the work well done and most recognized the activities potential to address the food security issues in the area. Farmers noted that the effort is making them think beyond consumption and are ready to work hard to change their lives. Ato Ganta Gemea, Regional Disaster Risk Management Commissioner appreciated the work done in such short period of time and stated the scalability potential towards closing the food gap in the area. Other discussion topics related to the value of using FTCs as learning ground, engaging more women, work needed on package optimization and efficient use of resources, accessibility of seed for the coming season, strengthening job creation opportunities, hybrid versus open pollinated seeds, and the possibly of producing more than one time a year.
At the end, Ato Leta thanked all for organizing this field day which is relevant to facilitate learning at different levels. He urged all to work hard to take it further to ensure more farmers benefit from this effort. Mr Remko thanked all for their hard work to make the progamme a success and appreciated the potential of the activities that are set out to address two of the biggest issues in the area – closing the food gap and improving the nutritional status of households.
In addition to validation of faba bean varieties and pre-scaling of improved maize variety, BENEFIT-REALISE HUC activities in 2019 included intercropping of maize with haricot bean, demonstration of OPV maize varieties, introduction of Irish potato, Participatory Variety Selection (haricot ben, sorghum, teff and finger millet), promotion of nutrition sensitive agriculture (demonstration of quality protein maize and backyard vegetable production), introduction of labor saving technology (enset scraper and squeezer), grafted seedling production of improved avocado and mango, Crowdsourcing (haricot bean, teff and sorghum), piloting poultry production for scalable youth employment, piloting oil and charcoal from eucalyptus for youth employment and in-depth study on community nutrition: problems and opportunities. The BENEFIT-REALISE HwU cluster directly addressed 1260 households in its different interventions, out of which 38% were female. When the number of trained partners and indirect beneficiaries are considered, the total number of participants in 2019 has been over 6000 households.