AgriProFocus report on Wageningen University – 100 Years Event – “Access to Healthy Food in Metropolitan Cities in Africa”

On the occasion of its 100th birthday (1918-2018), the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in The Netherlands invited its alumni around the world to organize a Worldwide Alumni Day. With the support of Ethiopian WUR alumni, The Netherlands Embassy and the WUR-‘Bilateral Ethiopian-Netherlands Effort for Food, Income and Trade (BENEFIT) Partnership’, the AgriProFocus Network in Ethiopia organized this Alumni Day on Saturday 23 June 2018 at ILRI, Addis Ababa. Since WUR has a unique understanding of the entire food chain, the central theme of the Alumni Day was ‘Access to Healthy Food in Mega Cities’.  For the detail report please refer to AgriProFocus website here.

BENEFIT Newsletter (January-June 2018)

We are pleased to share with you, BENEFIT Newsletter for January-June 2018.  In this issue, we bring you highlights of stories, updates and news about our initiatives implemented by BENEFIT Partnership that unites four programmes – ISSD, CASCAPE, ENTAG and SBN.  Some of the topics covered include BENEFIT Partnership influencing sector policies and institutional arrangements, Leveraging opportunities to empower women in Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs), Effective learning through strategic capacity development and cascading approach, Addressing trade barriers levied by India and Pakistan: the case of Methly-bromideScaling loan guarantees to alleviate financial constraints for sesame growersImproving collaboration in mainstreaming social inclusion and nutrition, BENEFIT-REALISE (Realizing Agricultural Livelihood Security in Ethiopia): new BENEFIT  programme reaching the chronic food insecure farmers in Ethiopia, BENEFIT-CASCPAE & ISSD collaboration for home garden intervention in Ethiopia, etc .

BENEFIT Newsletter (January-June 2018)

Building effective university research and community service programmes in Ethiopia

BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia (Integrated Seed Sector Development) programme organized a one-day symposium to discuss the role of universities in agricultural innovation in Ethiopia. Realizing the key roles universities play in facilitating innovation and system changes, the symposium was organized to improve institutional arrangements of outreach programmes and change paradigms to have greater impact in the agriculture sector. The symposium that was held on July 8, 2018 in Debre Zeit was a great opportunity to identify systematic measure universities need to apply to build effective research and community service programmes.

Over 60 participants, including the State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture Presidents and Livestock Resources (MoALR), Director of Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Presidents and Vise Presidents of 15 major universities, representative from Ethiopian Agricultural Research Council Secretariat (EARCS) and BENEFIT staffs attended the symposium. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. Dawit Alemu, BENEFIT Manager and Dr. Maja Thijssen, Senior Advisor, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI).

The objective of symposium were to

  • Improve the effectiveness of research and community service of universities;
  • Identify and discuss the value of different services that can be offered; and
  • Explore business models to embed within the universities structure to deliver these services.

Four universities (Hawassa, Bahir Dar, Mekelle and Haramaya) presented current services offered by their respective universities’ outreach programmes. Each university presented background information on when and how their community service programme started, its structure, administration and staff, thematic areas covered, types of interventions included, partners and stakeholder involved, and challenges and lessons learned over the years.

BENEFIT-CASCAPE and BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia presented their experiences in brokering innovative technologies. In the afternoon, WUR-WCDI business model outreach covering the five WCDI value propositions, customer segments, channels used to reach clients, keeping customer relationships, resources, activities, partners, revenue streams, cost structure etc. was presented.

The last session of the day focused on the future of universities outreach programmes. The participants were divided in four groups to answer two questions on improving responsiveness to society issues and change paradigms for greater impact?





Consultative meeting on food Safety regulatory issues in Ethiopia: highlighting the adverse impact of Afflatoxin contamination

Contributed by Selome Kebede, BENEFIT Senor Communication Officer

Ethio-Neterlands Trade for Agriculture Growth (ENTAG) held a half-day consultative meeting on food safety.  The meeting was organized to especially highlight the challenges of afflatoxin in Ethiopia so as to take regulatory and systematic measures in addressing the problem.  It was attended by over 25 participants representing government offices, the private sector (processors and exports) and development partners.

The meeting was opened by H.E. Dr. Eyasu Abraha, State Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources (MoALR), who highlighted aflatoxin is an issue that needs immediate attention and appreciated ENTAG for organizing the meeting to support the various government efforts happening at different levels.  He stressed that once the export door is closed it is very challenging to rebuild trust and reopen it. Therefore, a better understanding of the situation is needed to develop strategies and guidelines and put good accountable mechanisms to address the issue on the ground.

In his opening remark Frerik Kampman, Aid and Trade Officer from the Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, also emphasized aflatoxin is a big barrier for trade, and it is important to find systematic measures to resolve the problem. He noted that food safety is increasing becoming an important topic throughout the world, and we should look at the issue not only as a barrier but an opportunity to expand our export market.

During the meeting food safety findings of a study commissioned by ENTAG and conducted by Bahir Dar University was shared.  The presentation covered key findings along the five pillars – national food control system, food laws and regulations, food inspection and certification, monitoring and surveillance, and information, education and communication (IEC) and training.

That was followed by presentations from ACOS plc (red kidney) and Fasica Spices plc (paper) who shared their experiences in export rejection due to high level of aflatoxin in their products.  They noted that costs associated with rejects including demurrage, customs, sea freight, storage, testing etc. can break a business in just one reject.  Other related issues included that there is no provision on how to deal with this kind of issues, lack of awareness, capacity at all levels (especially at the farmers level), lack of infrastructure and post-harvest technologies in the country, absence of accredited testing sites accepted by both sellers and buyers, challenge in motivating farmer to consider food safety, lack of standard on max allowed etc.

Next, the participants were divided to list key strategies  / activities for each of the 5 pillars, who should lead the harmonization of these activities around food safety in general and aflatoxin in particular to bring the issue to higher level attention, and who should be part of a potential task force and who should lead it.

At the end, there was an agreement to build a task force led by MoALR to translate/ summarize the suggested strategies from the group work (3-4 pagers) to submit to MoALR for action by July 18, 2018. Members in the task force include representatives from FMHACA, the private sector, Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Health and MoALR (to be assigned by Dr. Eyasu). ENTAG will play the facilitation role.

Sowing prosperity: WUR projects help Ethiopian farmers advance

June 14, 2018 – Text: Albert Sikkema

Much improved incomes, new houses, all the kids in school… Ethiopian farmers are harvesting the fruits of long-running WUR projects, as Resource reporter Albert Sikkema saw on a tour of the East African country. The secrets of this success? Straight talk and good seed.

Addis Ababa is booming. New blocks of flats and hotels are going up everywhere in this metropolis with a population of four million. The Ethiopian economy has been growing by 10 percent annually for years, and foreign investors are queuing up. On the street outside my hotel, the SUVs of foreign consultants and NGOs come and go, and fashionably dressed Ethiopians walk to work in the morning. And then suddenly a couple of goats appear on the street as well. With no one guiding them they head calmly towards… yes, where are they heading actually? Even in this modern capital, the traditional Ethiopia is never far away.

Ethiopia is one of the 15 partner countries to which the Netherlands allocates part of its development aid budget. Over the past 15 years, Wageningen University & Research has set up a number of projects in the country (see inset). In the Integrated Seed Sector Development programme (ISSD), Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) has been working for nearly 10 years on making improvements in the seed sector. And in the Cascape programme, the CDI and Wageningen Environmental Research work with farmers to identify best practices for boosting food production. I am going to visiting a few projects to see whether these programmes really are making a difference to Ethiopian food production. Because political unrest has led to a state of emergency being declared, the WUR office in Addis Ababa sends me off with a driver.

In the Kolbe Seed Producers Cooperative in Bishoftu farmers grow chick pea, teff and lentil seed.
In the Kolbe Seed Producers Cooperative in Bishoftu farmers grow chick pea, teff and lentil seed.


We leave Addis Ababa and drive along the new highway to Bishoftu, where we turn off onto a bumpy unmade road. On our way to a farmers’ cooperative, we have to avoid hundreds of donkeys carrying food and firewood from the village to the market. We are going to visit Kolbe Seed Producers Cooperative, a participant in the ISSD programme. The cooperative consists of 70 farmers, 11 of them women, who work 362 hectares of land between them. They mainly produce seed for chick peas, lentils, teff and a little bit of wheat. The cooperative provides storage for the seed, which it also packages and sells. The farmers also share a tractor for ploughing their land.

In former times, such things were unheard-of, explains extension officer Aleka Argachew of the ISSD programme. In those days, all seed came from a government institute, and was not very good quality. With the help of ISSD, the farmers have tested and selected new varieties, significantly increasing production. What is more, they no longer have to return the seed they produce to the government, but are free to sell it to other farmers. This has enabled them to more than double their incomes. All the members of the cooperative send their children to school, says Argachew. ‘The chairperson of the cooperative could even build a house in Bishoftu.’

 On our way to the farmers’ cooperative we have to give way to 100 donkeys

Until quite recently, all seed in Ethiopia belonged to the state. This was a legacy of the communist era (1974-1991). If seed was bad or was delivered too late, nobody was held responsible, says Amsalu Ayana, manager of ISSD. The programme organized farmers’ cooperatives which started to look at seed as business and a source of income. The regional government was resistant – afraid of losing control – but there are now 34 seed cooperatives in Oromia region. And direct seed marketing by farmers is now permitted in 200 of the 600 municipalities in Oromia.

WUR and Ethiopia
Wageningen University & Research has close links with Ethiopia. WUR researchers are working on about 80 projects in the field of livestock, fisheries, irrigation, the environmental impact of migration, food quality, and the strengthening of food market chains. Most of the funding comes from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has a long-term aid relationship with Ethiopia. An average of 65 Ethiopians are working on their PhD research in Wageningen every year. The number of Ethiopian Master’s students at WUR has gone down from over 100 in the academic year 2012-2013 to 12 in 2016-2017. This is because of a fall in the number of scholarships available.


We travel on to Hawassa, a regional capital in the south of Ethiopia. The landscape changes along the way. The savanna becomes greener, with more and more trees. In Hawassa, WUR works with local farmers on agricultural development in the Cascape programme: Capacity building for scaling-up of evidence-based best practices in agricultural production in Ethiopia. Behind this long name is an interesting project related to the supply chain for beer production. We visit a farmers’ cooperative in the mountain village of Guguma, one and a half hours over bumpy mountain tracks from Hawassa. Here, 2600 metres above sea level, farmers have started growing malt barley for an Ethiopian brewery which has a malt factory 150 kilometres away. They started with five hectares in 2011, and now use 72 hectares.

Farmer Mikonnen has used  his extra earnings from malt barley to buy improved cattle and build a new house.
Farmer Mikonnen has used his extra earnings from malt barley to buy improved cattle and build a new house.

The three farmers I talk to each have one hectare of land on which they grow enset (false banana), maize, potatoes and vegetables. They reserve more than half a hectare for malt barley, a cash crop they were not familiar with until Cascape suggested it, but which they now know is twice as lucrative as ordinary barley. With the extra money, farmer Mikonnen has built a new house. He can also send his children to a good school now, and he has bought improved cattle.

These farmers have discovered the cash crop malt barley, thanks to WUR project Cascape.
These farmers have discovered the cash crop malt barley, thanks to WUR project Cascape.

This programme’s strong point is that it both improved the harvest and organized the marketing of the barley, says Tewodros Tefera, Cascape cluster manager in this region. Together with the ISSD seed project, his team selected the two best varieties of malt barley. Cascape optimized the fertilizer regime and cultivation method, increasing production from 1.4 to 3.7 tons per hectare. The farmers, united in a cooperative, now supply the neighbouring farmers with barley seed.


Cascape brought those neighbouring farmers together in a cooperative too, and facilitated the contract between farmers and the brewery for the barley supply. The brewery gave the farmers an advance so they could buy artificial fertilizer. Finally, Cascape arranged for the licenses to produce seed, and the necessary checks at the regional agriculture office.

WUR is now trying to upscale the brewer’s barley project with the help of the Agricultural Growth Programme (AGP). This is a Ministry of Agriculture programme for improving food production with the support of the World Bank (700 million dollars) and the Dutch embassy. The aim is to train staff at regional agriculture offices to replicate WUR’s successful projects in other villages.

Beer brewer Heineken might well benefit from the brewer’s barley project too. At present the multinational imports the malt for its Ethiopian brands of beer, but it wants to start using locally produced malt. The brewer has asked Cascape for advice on this. If it is successful, it will be good for the farmers and for Ethiopia’s trade balance.


Ethiopia is not an easy country for foreign investors. Like China, the government is trying to introduce a form of state-led capitalism, but there are divergent views on the role of the state and the private sector. This creates a lot of ambiguity and confusion, says Hussein Mohammed, ISSD scientific coordinator in the southern region. ISSD brings all relevant parties together – government, state seed companies, private seed companies, farmers’ unions and independent farmers – and identifies the problems frankly. In this process, ISSD is not afraid to speak the truth, and this partly explains the programme’s success.

As well as being ISSD scientific coordinator, Hussein Mohammed is also associate professor of Plant Breeding at Hawassa University. His colleague in the Cascape programme Tewodros Tefera works there too. WUR has established collaborative relationships with five Ethiopian universities, thereby forging links between scientists and farmers. WUR works in the northern region of Amhara with the university of Bahir Dar, for instance. Having travelled there by car and plane, I meet Yihenew Silassie, Cascape manager and associate professor at Bahir Dar University.

Cascape is helping farmers produced their own disease-free seed potatoes.
Cascape is helping farmers produced their own disease-free seed potatoes.


Yihenew and I visit several potato projects where farmers are now producing their own seed potatoes. That required agricultural research because Ethiopian potato production is hampered by two diseases: bacterial wilt and phytophthora. Cascape tested six potato varieties for their yield, cooking quality and resistance to these diseases. The Belete came out of the tests as the best potato, and about 3000 farmers are now using it.

What makes things difficult is that the seed potatoes multiply slowly, says Yihenew. You need two tons of seed potatoes per hectare to produce eight tons of seed potatoes. But the ISSD seed project in this region has a solution. To find out what it is, we drive out of Bahir Dar and along the shores of Lake Tana, the highest altitude lake in Africa (1788 metres) and the source of the Blue Nile. Although we are at the latitude of the Sahel, the climate here is mild. We even pass rice fields. We are driving on Chinese roads: China has asphalted a lot of main roads in Ethiopia. That is good for the economy, but it is not a gift. Ethiopia must pay for the roads, my fellow passengers tell me.

At Debre Tabor, at 2400 metres, we visit a farmers’ cooperative which built the first seed potato greenhouse in Ethiopia. The greenhouse is expected to produce 10,000 kilos of disease-free seed potatoes. Next year a second greenhouse will go up and that quantity will be doubled. The more than 400 farmers in the cooperative are going to multiply the seed potatoes on their own land. They have no more than one hectare of land and use an average of two thirds of that for subsistence farming. So there is only one third left for their cash crop, seed potatoes. Nevertheless, they are not doing badly. Our conversations are often punctuated by ringtones – they all have mobile phones.

 Ringtones are heard regularly; the farmers all have mobile phones

The farmers currently produce an average of eight tons of potatoes per hectare, but ISSD’s tests with disease-free seed potatoes show that a yield of 37 tons per hectare is possible, says scientific coordinator Dereje Ayalew. So this innovation by ISSD will now be shared more widely among farming communities. The Wageningen project recently received 45,000 euros from the Dutch government to do this.


The Wageningen programmes ISSD and Cascape really are leading to higher production and better incomes for Ethiopian farmers, show evaluations by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘Amongst other things, we saw that ISSD gave farmers access to good seed material, thus improving their food security,’ says Jan Willem Nibbering, food security specialist at the Dutch embassy in Addis Ababa. What is more, says Nibbering, the programmes are leading to systemic change, with farmers getting better access to sowing seed and markets. In the words of the chair of the Ethiopian Seed Association Melaku Admassu: ‘By talking about the problems in the Ethiopian seed sector, ISSD became the agent of change in agriculture.’

Rozenkwekers Kader.JPG
Dutch rose growers
The Netherlands is the third biggest investor in Ethiopia, after China and Turkey. Dutch horticulturalists have particularly strong connections with the country. Among them is Wageningen alumnus Wim Ammerlaan, who runs the large rose nursery AQ Roses. The 1100-odd Ethiopian workers at the company pick and pack about two million roses a week for the global market. Criticism of the low wages the company pays has sometimes been heard in the Netherlands. The greenhouse workers earn just over 40 euros a month – the going rate for unskilled labour in Ethiopia but not enough to support a family. Company manager Ron van der Hoorn points out that the workers also get free night school and health care, and stresses that AQ Roses creates employment. That is important in a country with a population of 100 million, 70 percent of whom are under 20 years old. All the Dutch horticulturalists between them create 15,000 jobs in Ethiopia. Companies such as AQ Roses do not contribute directly to the development of the Ethiopian horticulture sector, in the opinion of Dawit Alemu, manager of four WUR projects in Ethiopia. They are islands of large-scale efficiency in a sea of small-scale nurseries. But there are indirect effects. Some Ethiopian workers have watched how the management does things and started their own businesses.

BENEFIT-CASCAPE Stakeholder Workshop on Effective Technology Generation and Delivery through Linking Agriculture Education, Research and Extension

Contributed by Selome Kebede, BENEFIT Senior Communication Officer

BENEFIT-CASCAPE in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Resources (MoALR) organized a one-day high level stakeholders’ workshop on “Effective technology generation and delivery through linking agriculture education, research and extension”, on May 24, 2018 at Bin International Hotel in Debre Zeyit.

Over 60 participants including State Minister of MoALR, EIAR Director General and Deputy DGs, presidents and deans of universities, Directors of the Regional Agriculture Research Institutes (RARIs), heads of Bureaus of Agriculture and MoALR Extension Directorate and BENEFIT staff members attended the workshop. The primary objective of the multi-stakeholder workshop (high level meeting) was to strengthen the competencies and leadership capacities of current leaders to promote collaboration along the entire agricultural technology generation and delivery. More specifically, the workshop objectives were:

  • To share the findings of a study on gaps  in methods and linkages along technology generation and delivery chain;
  • To establish functional linkages among institutions that are working on agricultural education, research and extension;
  • To synthesize key policy and strategic inputs the Ministry’s senior leadership team can promote to create demand driven technology generation and delivery and thereby ensure participation of the primary change agents and the farmers in the entire chain.

Three high level presentations were given for discussion – namely, the CASCAPE supported study findings of the participatory action research along with research and extension experiences in implementing the PAR approach and existing gaps. The workshop was a great success in understanding the existing gaps and develop strategic action plans to promote high impact partnership among the three institutions.

The workshop was jointly organized by EIAR and BENEFIT-CASCAPE.

Using recommendation mapping for the purpose of scaling CASCAPE best fit innovations in Ethiopia

BENEFIT-CASCAPE is developing a methodological tool that allows users generate maps that show how and where best fit innovations can be scaled in specific areas. The recommendation domain mapping method is a GIS based multi-criteria evaluation tool that builds on the suitability of each innovation taking biophysical aptitude, and socio-economic feasibility aspects into account.

Following the testing of the tool in 2017, a decision was made to capacitate CASCAPE scaling experts in two regional centers of excellence (linked to the universities of Addis Ababa and Mekele). The first of the three trainings planned for 2018,  was held on May 7-11 at Azeeman Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on “Mapping CASCAPE innovation recommendation domains – training session 1”. The training was facilitated by Andrew Farrow (GeAgrofía) and Herman Agricola from WUR. Five biophysical and socio-economists experts from Mekele University and two from Addis Ababa University attended that training.

Topics covered included:

  1. Introduction to recommendation domain mapping
  2. Underlying principles (Fuzzy logic, Script writing, AHP)
  3. Installing open source software
  4. Fundamentals of R within recommendation mapping and practical hands on exercises
  5. Accessibility modelling in QGIS
  6. Definition of activities to be carried out before next training session

The training used a stepwise method that included reviewing existing recommendation maps and the models used to create them; identifying new innovations in the same woreda to take advantage of the data already collected; consideration of existing innovations (with the same rules and membership functions) in a new woredas and maping new innovations in new woredas.

The next training is planned for 11th– 15th June 2018.

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