introduing Multi-crop thresher (labor saving technology) in North Wollo Zone Wadila woreda

Crop production in Eastern Amhara, in general in Ethiopia is small-scale and non-mechanized that demand heavy human and animal power. Traditional method of using animal power for threshing results   not only in significant quantity and quality losses but also is time consuming and laborious. Despite the important benefits of improved technologies to farmers, they are not readily available for the farming community in Eastern Amhara.

In response to this BENEFIT-REALISE Woldia University cluster introduced and promoted a mechanical multi-crop thresher-model 2020 fabricated by an Indian agro machine industry named Paracash. The project provided the thresher to farmers in North Wollo Zone Wadila woreda Timtimat kebele through Ediget-Behibret Seed Production & Multiplication farmers’ cooperative. In addition to reducing postharvest loss, saving labor and time, the machine is highly relevant in improving the seed quality of the seed multiplier cooperative. 

Farmers have started using the threshing machine for cereal crops mainly wheat. The multi-crop thresher has a capacity of 2.5 quintals of grain per hour, as observed on the field on wheat crop, and has fuel consumption of 1.5 liters per hour. Farmers testified that they are saving a considerable time and labor using the machine. Threshing of quintals of wheat is now taking about 3hrs compared to the traditional method that took 7 oxen days and 4 man days.

AbebeTebekawis one of the farmers in Wadila Woreda Timtimat kebele who used the threshed said “The thresher is really a labor-savingtechnology compared to the traditional animal-based threshing method. I have finished threshing and collected grains of 5.5Qt wheat crop within 3 hours that used to take at least two days using the traditional animal threshing method. In addition, the grains are cleaner, no breakage, no dusts & unwanted matters making it perfect to be used for seed. We are thankful to the REALISE Project in Woldia University Cluster.

Sete Fentagegn, Ediget Behibret’s seed production and multiplication cooperative chair person said, “The cooperative is administering the multi crop thresher. We give priority to member farmers of the cooperative to ensure we provide improved crop seeds in future. But we are also giving the service for other farmers. Member farmers are requested to pay about ETB 100 birr and those who are not members are paying birr 125 per hour.”

Sete also added that the provision of the machine (MCT) by REALIZE Project Woldia University Cluster to the cooperative has multidimensional benefits specifically to the cooperative and generally to the farmers in the kebele. Hence, the cooperative will strongly work to provide quality seeds to farmers in the kebele as well as in the woreda.

BENEFIT-ENTAG shared its internship project experience with MSM and stakeholders

In response to the request of the Embassy of the Kingdome of the Netherlands, BENEFIT-ENTAG implemented a one and half year pilot project that aimed at linking fresh graduates in fields related to agriculture, with agribusiness companies in Ethiopia. The pilot was developed to in-house train and capacitate young graduates. Through this initiative, 189 agricultural graduates (35% female, 65% male) were assigned to 88 agribusiness companies from 1 August 2018 to 31 December 2019. In addition to four months on job training, about 90% of them also received entrepreneurship training.

At the end of the pilot, the programme shared its achievements, challenges and lessons learned with stakeholders interested in job creation projects/initiatives to use as input in their interventions – one of them Maastricht School of Management. The University approached BENEFIT-ENTAG in 2019, to get an input in designing an intervention on capacitating ATVETs and linking their graduates with agribusinesses. The project lessons were found very useful and were used to finalize its project design and start its intervention in 2020.

Following this, the Bright Future for Agriculture (BFA) project of MSM invited BENEFIT-ENTAG to its planning workshop on Jan 26, 2021, to share its experience with participants from ATVETs, universities, agribusinesses and education bureaus. The information shared was used to further refine their planning.

To get more information on BENEFIT-ENTAG Internship Programme read here.  

economic and ecological benefits of intercropping: BENEFIT-REALISE expereince in psnp households

The context

Shortage of food and low dietary diversity are the major challenges of PSNP households in Southern Ethiopia. The households face food gaps of 3-7 months per year, and even when food is available, their diet is not well balanced as it often lacks protein and vitamin source foods. Since 2018, BENEFIT-RELISE Hawassa University cluster has been engaged in selection, validation and introduction of best fit agricultural practices that are suitable to the different agroecological and socioeconomic settings of the target woredas.  

The intervention

Intercropping is considered as one of crop intensification strategies to increase agricultural productivity per unit area of land. It is more effective when we identify the most compatible combinations of leguminous crops with non-leguminous ones. In this respect, the BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University cluster considered intercropping of maize and haricot bean as one of the appropriate technologies to mitigate the dual problems of food shortage and poor nutritional status of PSNP farmers in the mid highland woredas of the cluster.

Intercropping of maize with haricot bean, has various economic and ecological benefits: Economically, the total productivity from the two crops that are grown simultaneously on the same piece of land, is higher than the sole-cropping practice of the individual crops calculated in terms of total grain yield or monetary value. The presence of legume (haricot bean) in the cropping systems improves nutritional security of households and contributes to improved soil fertility and reduced cost of fertilizers. In addition, to increasing total productivity of land, it fills the food gap months since it reaches maturity earlier than maize; it enhances the soil fertility; it reduces weed infestation and cost of weeding; and improves nutritional wellbeing of households because it is rich in protein. 

Considering these economic and ecological potentials, BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University cluster implemented demonstration and pre-scaling of intercropping of maize with haricot bean. The varieties selected for this purpose were, BH-546 for maize and Hawassa dume for haricot bean. The selection was based on adaptability of the varieties to the sites and also their compatibility. In 2019, the cluster demonstrated maize-bean intercropping practice on 80 farms and 8 FTCs, in 8 kebeles from Halaba, Shashogo and Silte woredas. Participating farmers were provided with inputs (seed and fertilizers) and training to implement the demonstrations.

Yield data collected from the demonstration trials of 2019 showed that productivity was 2-3 times higher than the farmers’ common practices of mono-cropping. The average yield obtained from intercropping fields of the sample farms was 76.1 quintals ha-1 of maize and 26.6 quintals of haricot bean ha-1, making up a total of 102.7 quintals ha-1. The intercropping yield was also compared with sole crop of the same varieties of maize and bean grown at the same sites and under the same management. The result indicated that the yield obtained from one hectare of intercropping field would have taken 1.85 hectares, if the two crops were grown as sole crop. This clearly demonstrated the potential of intercropping to maximize yield from a unit area of land.

In 2020, due to excellent performance of the technology in the demonstration trials and farmers’ interest, the project in collaboration with the respective woredas, implemented pre-scaling of maize-bean intercropping on 300 farms in the same woredas. The pre-scaling was done using the same varieties maize (BH-546) and haricot bean (Hawassa dume) on a total of 37.5 hectares by the 300 farmers. BENEFIT-REALISE provided each farmer with seed; 3.25 kg maize and 4.6 kg haricot bean to plant on 0.125 hectare of land. In-situ training was given to participating farmers and extension workers on field and crop management practices. The training on spacing of the plants has been particularly very important because the success of intercropping depends on proper utilization of available space and minimizing competition between the plants. One of the good achievements in this activity is that many farmers through participation in the demonstration and also in pre-scaling, have developed skills on field preparation, row planting and proper spacing of the intercrops. This is likely to sustain adoption of the practice in the future.

Although the two crops are sown together at the same time, the haricot bean reached the harvest stage within three months, and maize was harvested two months later. This staggered harvesting in itself is advantageous for farmers since it can contribute to filling of the food gap months. The average yield obtained from pre-scaling of intercropped maize and bean for all woredas was 64.2 qts maize and 18.0 qts haricot bean, a total of 82.2 qts per hectare. This yield is about twice the amount that is obtained from the common farmers’ practice.

The story of Jemal Dardegba is one good example that shows properly managed intercropping practice of maize and bean has the potential to significantly improve food and nutritional security in the mid highlands.

Jemal Dardegba is a 45 year-old farmer in Doboenseno kebele of Silte woreda, and is responsible for 7 family members. Jemal said, “I was given inputs (seed of maize and haricot bean) and trained by BENEFIT-REALISE experts how to implement intercropping on my 0.125 hectare of land. To maximize yield benefits I applied 12.5kg NPS (100 kg/ha) and 25kg Urea (200kg per/ha) fertilizers, as per the recommendations. Between the periods of planting to harvesting, I took very good care of my crops sometimes assisted by the kebele extension agent.  At harvest, I obtained 13.5 qt of maize and 4 qt of haricot bean from 0.125 ha. I used a popular hybrid maize variety named Shone on a plot that is adjacent to the maize bean intercropping. We compared the yield from the two fields and the maize yield in intercropping was 20% more than the sole cropped Shone variety, even without including the yield of haricot bean.

The yield I got from maize as well as haricot beans is very high. I have never harvested even half of this amount from this small plot of land. I plan to use half of the produce for home consumption and sell the rest. The income I get from the sale of maize will be used to buy a small water pump for irrigation purposes. Using irrigation water, I can produce vegetables 2-3 times a year mainly for market, but also for home consumption.

Now, I have acquired knowledge and skills to effectively handle maize-bean intercropping practice and maximize yield from my small plot of land, I can improve food availability and income of my family. I have learnt that the solutions to our problems are within our reach, but we don’t see them until somebody shows it to us. We should open our minds to learn new agricultural technologies and we should work hard to get out of poverty. I am grateful for this opportunity that showed me how to harvest more from my small plot and improve the livelihoods of my family in general”. 

Agricultural sector transformation is teamwork: A book about the experiences of the Sesame Business Network (SBN) programme in Northwest Ethiopia

BENEFIT-SBN programme recently published a book about the programme experiences in the sesame sector in Northwest Ethiopia. The book looks at the many challenges and opportunities for transforming the sector, to the benefit of farmers and stakeholders involved.

In the past eight years (2013-2020), a team of Ethiopian and Dutch professionals, have gone through an interesting journey together with many farmers and stakeholders, both from the public and private sector. Together, the evolving network of actors developed a comprehensive approach for sustainable and inclusive agricultural development. This is reflected in the number and diversity of topics that are covered in this book. These range from sustainable agricultural production to product and market development, and include specific attention for agri-finance, social inclusion, diet diversity, and for creating a more enabling environment.

The need for a comprehensive approach and stakeholder collaboration is reflected in the title: “Sector transformation is teamwork”. The purpose of this publication is to share the programme experiences with an audience of development professionals, in Ethiopia and beyond. It is especially relevant to  development professionals who aim to support sustainable and inclusive sub-sector and value chain development that offers farmers a decent income, creates employment and economic multiplier effects, and that contributes to food security and the national economy at large.

The book offers you a menu of topics, which we structured according to five main chapters: Sustainable agricultural production (chapter 2), Social inclusion and diet diversity (chapter 3), Agri-finance (chapter 4), Product and market development (chapter 5) and enabling environment (chapter 6).

The SBN support programme wishes to extend its gratitude and appreciation to all its partners: region, zone, woreda and kebele administration; unions and primary cooperatives; cooperative promotion offices; a range of small, medium and large enterprises, financial institutions (ACSI, DECSI, Cooperative bank of Oromia, Abay Bank, Lion bank), labour offices and several development partners (ATA, Agriterra, SNV, IFDC, …). Last, but not least to all farmers, labourers, and local entrepreneurs and other individuals for their work spirit and interest and willingness to work with us. The book is dedicate to all actors and stakeholders of the Ethiopian sesame sector.

Read the full book here.

BENEFIT-REALISE shared its customised extension pilot expereince via webinar hosted by the World Bank

On 17th of December, 2020, BENEIT-REALISE shared its experience on customized extension pilot via  webinar that brought together 52 Agriculture practitioners, policy makers and researchers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and India. The customized extension pilot, popularly known as ‘one timad’ package is designed for Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) households.

The webinar was opened by the Honourable State Minister Dr. Mandefro Negussie. In his opening remarks, he emphasised agricultural extension advisory service is a key policy instrument in Ethiopian agricultural transformation agenda. He indicated that the Ethiopian government has a 10 year-plan that focuses on increasing production and competitiveness; build a green and climate-resilient economy as well as bring institutional transformation. The government is also working to make agricultural extension service pluralistic, ICT based and demand driven. He finally called for a more south-south cooperation for greater change and transformation of smallholders’ agriculture.

Among the four speakers, Dr. Tewodros Tefera, BENEFIT-REALISE Manager talked about  ‘Agricultural extension service in Ethiopia: Achievements, challenges and case study on customized extension’. He briefly presented the historical evolution of agricultural extension in Ethiopia, challenges and major achievements. He underscored that one of the gaps in the extension service provision is the standard nature of the extension message and the extension package. He shared the experience of BENEFIT-REALISE and MoA pilot in customised extension for the PSNP households. The customised extension mainly emphasised designing a package for the poor and the youth segments of the population considering their commodity choice, resource endowment, scale of operation and extension message. The pilots demonstrated that tailoring the extension message to the needs of the poor has contributed to bridging the food gap months by improving productivity, enhancing diet diversity, increasing income and building the confidence and empowerment of PSNP households.

The other three speakers, two from India and one form Rwanda, shared their respective experience on extension service delivery to smallholder farmers. The general discussion was facilitated by Abel Lufafa, Senior Agriculture Specialist, World Bank, India. Participants highlighted the importance of south-south collaboration and addressing second generation issues in extension such as pluralistic extension, ICT based extension, mechanization, extension for the youth, provision of financial services to smallholder farmers etc.

Finally vote of thanks was given by Himmat Patel, World Bank, India.

For more information

Agriculture Extension Webinar Agenda

Customized extension to ensure inclusiveness presentation 17_12_2020

SEED PRODUCTION ALERT – Ethiopian Seed Sector November 2020

BENEFIT ISSD-Ethiopia took the initiative to assess the status of seed production in 2020 so as to inform stakeholders on issues that need attention. If seed production increases in 2020 as expected, it will create pressure on seed producers’ resources and capacity in terms of seed collection, processes and storage, affecting timely certification and distribution of seed. In addition, existing structural problems that limit access to fertilizer, agro-chemicals and credit will further discourage active engagement of private seed companies, increasing dependency on public companies.

Read the full brief here.

BENEFIT-REALISE / ISRIC conducted Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) virtual training

Legacy spatial soil information, mainly soil resource inventories in Ethiopia, have been generated based on conventional soil survey approaches that require expert based /mental models to generate spatial relationships between observed and unvisited sites. This classical vector/polygon based and very expensive approach is characterized with low accuracy in soil mapping and generates qualitative outputs with unknown uncertainty and purity.
With the advancement of remote sensing, GIS, geo-statistical models and techniques, soil and terrain mapping has shifted towards a modern digital approach, known as Digital Soil Mapping (DSM). DSM enables experts to generate a continuous, raster based quantitative soil and terrain information with quantified accuracy and uncertainty. It has demonstrated that reasonably accurate soil maps can be produced using quantitative predictive models and expedite soil surveys with fewer observations, leading to a dramatic reduction in field and laboratory cost.
Despite various fragmented efforts by various initiatives, DSM is still at an infant stage in Ethiopia. Since DSM application requires new skills, availability and accessibility of standardized remote sensing based environmental predictors/covariates that are not widely available in Ethiopia, the activity was undertaken with the collaboration of international partners such as Wageningen University and Research/ ISRIC (International Soil Reference and Information Centre) through BENEFIT partnership project.
To transform and institutionalize DSM at various institutions including at the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the recent effort of BENEIT-REALISE /ISRIC focused on building the capacity of soil surveyors and geospatial through provision of short term trainings. The virtual training titled “Introduction to Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) with focus on WRB soil class mapping” was given to 9 geospatial experts and 10 soil surveyors, 1 national coordinator from Soil Information and Mapping Directorate, MoA from 23 November to Tuesday 01 December, 2020.

The opening remark given by Dr. Mandefro Nigusse, State Minister of MoA highlighted the recent joint initiatives on low potential areas soil mapping and characterization with semi details scale (50 meters) is critically important for the MoA ambition to build capacity on soil information and mapping for agricultural development and soil fertility management. MoA are very grateful for Wageningen University and more particularly to ISRIC for leading the soil mapping and providing a consecutive training to our staff and other professional in the field. The training enhances the MoA and other partners such as Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Higher Learning Institution (HLI) to build their capacity and execute their respective responsibilities. We envisage such fruitful partnership to continue.

In his welcoming speech Dr. Tewodros Tefera (PhD), BENEFIT-REALISE Programme Manage gave an overview of the programme’s achievement so far (listed below) and noted that BENEFIT-REALISE and MoA partnership is forged to fill an existing gap in the promotion of sustainable soil characterization and management. He stated soil information need to be available to support decision making in managing soils for development such as food security, agriculture and livelihoods. He thanked Johan and his team (ISRIC) for their dedication and commitment to provide this training despite the global challenge we faced due to coronavirus pandemic.  

Overall, BENEFIT-REALISE programme with support from ISRIC have complemented the efforts of MoA’s national soil information system through the following deliverables/achievements:

  • Semi-detailed-50 meter spatial soil information generation across 15 weredas;
  • State-of-the-art countrywide 50meter-geomorphic map (for wider application not only for soil/land resource mapping but also for agro ecological zonation and other biophysical mapping and updating   missions);
  • Digital soil mapping capacity building of national soil surveyors and geospatial professionals; and
  • State-of-the-art countrywide 50meter-remotesensing based environmental covariates/predictor variables for further soil/land resource mapping efforts by the MoA.

building the resilience of women through small ruminant fattening business

Kidist Ayenachew, a 34 year old mother of 4 children, is one of BENEFIT-REALISE Woldia University cluster beneficiaries in Wadila Woreda, Hamusit Kebele. She was one of the 16 women selected to participate in small scale small ruminant fattening business project in October 2019.

Prior to the project Kidist made her livelihood mainly as a casual laborer and by harvesting wheat and other cereals from her parents’ small plot of land. But the income she earned was not enough to meet the basic needs of her family.

Remembering her life before the project, Kidist said, “As a landless, unskilled and economically vulnerable woman, it was difficult to raise 4 children on my own. I did not have the capacity to participate in community events and was looked down by my neighbors. I was always struggling searching for mechanisms to improve my life.”

The project provided 16 women each with 5 male sheep & two months concentrate/feed through the credit system via RUSACCOs (a rural saving and credit cooperative) and one-day skill training on small ruminant fattening techniques. The amount of loan Kidist borrowed was 8,250.00 birr to be paid back within two years in four phases (every 6 months). The money was directly used to buy 5 local breed male sheep for fattening purposes. In addition, Kidist received continuous technical & moral support by the project staff and kebele livestock experts that highly contributed to the success achieved.  

In the last three operation cycles (9 months), Kidist earned a net profit of 16,650.00B birr. She already repaid half of the loan which is 4,125.00 birr to the RUSACCOs. After covering fattening operational costs and expenses related to family food, clothing, medication, school materials for her 3 children and loan repayment as of September 2020, she has more than 3000.00 birr in her savings account. Kidist also bought house utensils, chairs and kitchen cabinets with 4,570.00 birr.  

She explained, “Since the project, my life has improved dramatically. We used to eat twice a day, now, not only do we eat three times a day but our diet has diversified. During holidays, 3 to 4 times a year, we slaughter one of our sheep for meat. I am not afraid of bad times to come since I have enough saved to recover, if needed. And each and every progress, success and stepping-up you see happened because of the fattening business I started. I plan to increase the number of small ruminants for fattening from 5 sheep to at least 10 to 12 in the coming 3 to 4 months, assuming that my net monthly income will increase to at least 5000 birr and above.” With a smile she added, “I want everyone to know that women can indeed perform well and improve their livelihood, if given the opportunity.”

From the success of Kidist Ayenachew and the others who participated in the same business, we can see that small-scale small ruminant fattening is an ideal business that requires small initial investment and can build the resilience of disadvantaged women. Full involvement of beneficiaries in terms of business idea generation, labor, material and financial contribution, skill of business management and regular technical follow-up by experts (when necessary), is crucial to ensure sustainable success.  

The ‘Realising Sustainable Agricultural Livelihood Security in Ethiopia’ (REALISE) programme is established in 2018 with the aims to contribute to sustainable livelihoods through the introduction of improved farming practices, innovations and social experiments to strengthen the current Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia.

High-level officials and key partners visited BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University cluster intervention areas

On November 23, 2020, BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University cluster organized field visit to its intervention areas in Kachabira woreda of Kambata Tambaro Zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). The visit was organized for members of the Regional Senior Institutional Advisors, SNNPR Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) officials and experts, Kambata Tambaro zone department of agriculture, Kachabira woreda office of agriculture, and the surrounding farmers.

The delegation included Dr. Agdew Bekele, Director General of Southern Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), who is also a member of Regional Senior Institutional Advisors, and Dr. Tekle Wogayehu, Vice President of Arba Minch University Research and Community Service. Ato Gizachew Walera, Head of Kachabira office of agriculture welcomed the participants and appreciated the programme’s support to the government effort towards improving the food security of PSNP households. Dr. Ayano Beraso, President of Hawassa University and Chairperson of the Regional Senior Institutional Advisors officially opened the field visit highlighting the success of the programme in demonstrating and piloting innovations that are already improving the livelihood of PSNP farmers. He added that scaling and ensuring continued use of these innovations is the responsibility of local institutions. 

Dr. Tewodros Tefera, BENEFIT-REALISE Manager gave a briefing on the role and focus areas of the BENEFIT-REALISE programme: food security, nutrition, capacity building, youth unemployment and addressing structural institutional bottlenecks that hinder progress. He gave an example of the pro-model farmers’ extension approach that excludes poor farmers and the programme’s ‘one-timad’ package that is an extension approach that is designed for resource poor farmers including PSNP beneficiaries.

Prof. Tesfaye Abebe, BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University cluster Manager, gave an overview of the cluster activities in 2020 that included 3 demonstrations, 12 pre-scaling and 3 seed and pilot activities. The cluster was able to reach 8791 farmers directly, benefiting 35055 farmers indirectly through field visits and experience sharing. In total, 43846 farmers benefited directly and indirectly.  

Posters presentations were given by BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa cluster experts covering all activities in the 7 woredas of Sidama and SNNP regions. In addition, ongoing interventions, which include demonstration of triticale, and pre-scaling of faba bean and food barley on farmers’ field and farmers’ training centers (FTCs) in two kebeles were visited.

During the discussion session chaired by Dr. Ayano Beraso and Dr. Tewodros Tefera, the farmers talked about the livelihood improvement they witnessed by applying the best fit practices (BFPs) promoted by the programme. Consensus was reached not to replace wheat with triticale in the high wheat potential areas, and only to promote it in its niche where stresses (like extreme pH levels, poor soil fertility, etc.) are prevalent and not suitable for wheat production. Hawassa University, BoA, Kambatana Tambaro zone department of agriculture, and Kachabira woreda office agriculture promised to play their role to ensure continued use of these BFPs and work on institutionalizing them. In 2-3 months, the programme plans to organize a regional workshop to handover and promote the institutionalization of its promising achievements.

Job opportunities changing the lives of youth: A partnership between Mekelle University community service and BENEFIT-CASCAPE

To meet one of its mandates in research and community service, Mekelle University has been working in partnership with different projects like CASCAPE in agriculture research activities, implementation of research outputs, and empowers local communities through improved agriculture production and productivity.  

At the start of CASCAPE-I in 2012, (known as BENEFIT-CASCAPE since 2016), the project validated, demonstrated and introduced an improved papaya variety called Maradol in Raya Azebo and Raya Alamata Woredas. In recent years, to encourage more farmers to adopt the new papaya variety and speed up the scaling process, Mekelle University CASCAPE project started to look into alternative market outlets and establishing market linkages.

In partnership with Mekelle University and Raya Azebo woreda office, the programme organized unemployed youth from the papaya producing localities, provided trainings and loan. Overall, this effort benefited both the producer farmers by buying their papaya fruits for better price and selling to consumers at 28% lower price at the university main campuses fruit shops. The papaya market linkage has helped Mekelle University to fulfill its mandate to deliver community service.  (Read the story and testimonies from the youth who benefited from the initiative here.)


The risks of crop failure due to climate change-induced weather variability are highest in small-scale agriculture, which is often rain-fed. On the positive side, mobile phones and other new communication technologies offer great opportunities to digitalize agricultural services, especially in remote places. Weather and climate information services are also improving thanks to the widespread availability of satellite data, while web-interfaces, APIs and other IT technology enable easy dissemination of this information.

This article highlights these opportunities and how we have put them into practice in North-West Ethiopia in a public-private partnership of Ethiopian and Dutch partners. Thanks to this partnership, around 10,000 farmers in Ethiopia’s sesame-growing area now receive a weather forecasting service on their mobile phone. In this article we share lessons learned from five-year programme and also our views on improving and sustainably implementing last-mile weather and climate services.

This article highlights that National Meteorological and Hydrological Services play an essential role in the partner chain of weather services. They are the mandated institution and need to be at the core of the service development. Yet most of these institutes in Africa lack the capacity and financial resources to take on this role. We believe that public-private partnerships have the potential to empower these institutions to take on this challenging task. This article contains practical ideas on how a sustainable partnership can be achieved, with our aim being to share the lessons we learned in Ethiopia. (read the full report here)

OCT 2020 – Weather Impact, SBN, NMA

Authors: Fiona van der Burgt (WI), Melisew Misiker Belay (SBN), Asaminew Teshome Game (NMA), Tomaso Ceccarelli (WEnR), Geremew Gashawbeza (SBN), Amare Mugoro


Soil degradation and depletion of soil nutrients are among the major factors threatening sustainable cereal production in the Ethiopian highlands. However, although knowledge on soil fertility status plays a vital role in enhancing production and productivity of the agricultural sector on sustainable basis, little information is available in Southern parts of Tigray. Hence, Mekelle University CASCAPE project has been involved in generating information on soil fertility and nutrient status of the Sothern Zone of the region.

As part of this effort, in 2012 and 2014, CASCAPE project (known as BENEFIT-CASCAPE since 2016) conducted a survey using Monitoring for Quality Assessment (MonQI) tool to assess the soil nutrient balance in the southern zone of the region. The survey result indicates that partial nutrient balance at field level was negative for nitrogen and potassium, and positive for phosphorus. The nutrient balance of the southern Tigray gives strong warning on the status of soil fertility and nutrient management of the area. Moreover, the soil survey to assess the nutrient status, conducted in 2013 and 2014 depicted that the soil nutrient level was below critical level except for phosphorus. The amount of organic amendment applied into the soil is insufficient to offset nutrient losses. Among others, loss of soil organic matter (SOM) in area of low input agriculture is one of the challenges. If the nutrient depletion and land degradation continue at the current rates, farmers will be unable to grow enough food crops for the ever increasing population in the area.

To solve the soil fertility and plant nutrition problems in southern zone of Tigray, Mekelle University CASCAPE Project along with its partners in the region have conducted various survey and experiments during the period of 2012 to 2019, which includes characterization of agricultural soils, MonQI survey for nutrient balance, use of inoculants, use of gypsum amendment, use of compost, farm yard manure (FYM) (Slurry) and soil-crop based fertilizer rate development and others on major crops grown in the southern zone of Tigray.

This document is intends to share experiences and lessons that the project has generated over the last 9 years to its stakeholders in the region and beyond. We believe the document will provide information on soil nutrient status and management practices and serve as reference to the extension system and other actors involved in soil fertility management in Southern zone of Tigray. Read the working paper here.

Short-term improved fallows of Tephrosia vogelii and Cajanus cajan enhanced maize productivity and soil chemical properties of a degraded fallow land in Southwestern Ethiopia: BENEFIT-CASCAPE


An improved fallow experiment was established in 2013 to examine the contribution of shrub legume species, Tephrosia vogelii and Cajanus cajan, in improving the productivity of a degraded tropical soil and crop yields compared with traditional fallow. The study was conducted on five farmers’ fields in southwestern Ethiopia laid out in randomized complete block design with farmers as replicates. After 2 years, the amount of aboveground biomass produced was 5–8 t ha-1 for Tephrosia and 3–5 t ha-1 for Cajanus. Maize grain yield was 80% higher for Tephrosia and 41% for Cajanus compared with the traditional fallow. The legume species significantly increased soil pH, organic carbon and total nitrogen levels compared with the natural fallow but there was no significant effect for available phosphorus. The magnitude of fallow benefit from Tephrosia in terms of yield advantage and nitrogen availability could be related to its high biomass production capacity compared to Cajanus. Fallowing with Tephrosia has the potential for improving productivity of degraded tropical soils. Farmers’ responses to the improved fallows were in general positive and their preference was Tephrosia fallow. Farmers can therefore use Tephrosia to enhance soil fertility by increasing N-levels, soil pH and organic matter of the soil. However, phosphate fertilizer is required as basal application to enhance N-fixation by legumes. Read the full report here.

M. Mamuye [1] G. Berecha – CASCAPE Project-Joint Ethio-Netherlands Project, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Jimma – University, PO Box 307, Jimma, Ethiopia

A. Nebiyu (&) – Department of Horticulture and Plant Science, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Jimma University, PO Box 307, Jimma, Ethiopia e-mail:;

E. Elias – Centre for Environmental Science, College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ……Bilateral Ethiopia-Netherlands Partnership for Food, Income and Trade (BENEFIT), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Mapping the major soil-landscape resources of the Ethiopian Highlands using random forest


Geospatially explicit information of soil-landscape resources of Ethiopia is lacking or fragmented for much of the country. Recently, massive soil data were collected, however these are limited to properties related to soil fertility and valid for the topsoil only. Understanding the country’s soil-landscape resources, including their qualities and constraints beyond the topsoil, remains key information for systematic and reliable scaling up of evidence-based agricultural best practices including soil fertility management recommendations. The objective of this study was to produce a coherent dataset of the major soil-landscape resources of 30 highland woredas (districts), contributing to the Agricultural Growth Program of the Government of Ethiopia. The study started with an exploratory survey to identify the major (most common) soils occurring across the landscapes followed by a full survey to assess the distribution of the identified major soils. Representative soil profiles were characterized from soil pits and classified as Reference Soil Groups (RSGs), with prefix qualifiers (PQs), according to the World Reference Base for soil resources (WRB). A large number of soil profiles were classified from auger observations. Observed soil classes at both RSG and RSG + PQ level were combined with spatial explanatory variables (covariates), representing the soil forming factors in the landscapes, and their relationships were modeled and validated by random forest. A multitude of tree models was trained using each profile for calibration in approximately two third and cross-validation in approximately one third of the models. Cross-validation showed that RSGs were predicted with a reasonable overall purity of 0.58 and RSGs +PQ were predicted with a purity of 0.48. The most relevant covariate in the models was the Geomorphology and Soils map of Ethiopia at 1: 1 M scale disaggregated into soil-landscape facets. Next models were used to predict soil classes across woredas which resulted in a 250 m resolution raster map of the most probable major soils. This raster map was generalised into a polygon map of major soil-landscape resources. The purity of this final map was estimated to be 0.54 for RSGs and 0.45 for RSGs + PQ. Soil properties relevant for agricultural interpretation, such as depth, drainage, texture, pH, CEC and organic carbon and nutrient contents, were mapped according to the RSGs depicted on the soil-landscape resources map with a RMSE/mean ratio of on average 42%. We conclude that soil expert knowledge and conventional soil-landscape survey combined with random forest modelling results in an attractive hybrid approach. The approach proves cost-effective and sufficiently accurate and can be used to inform scaling up of evidence-based agricultural best practices. Read the full report here.

J.G.B. Leenaars a, E. Elias b, J.H.M. Wöstenc, M. Ruiperez-Gonzáleza, B. Kempena

a ISRIC – World Soil Information, PO Box 353, Wageningen 6700 AJ, The Netherlands

b College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Centre for Environmental Science, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

c Wageningen Environmental Research, PO Box 47, Wageningen 6700 AA, The Netherlands

Effect of blended fertiliser application on bread wheat yield, agronomic efficiency and profitability on Nitisols of Southern Ethiopia: BENEFIT-CASCAPE journal


Continuous use of only N and P fertilisers that depletes secondary and micronutrients has been presented as a major cause for low wheat yields (2.2 t/ha) in the Ethiopian highlands. In this study, on-farm trials were conducted to compare the effects of multi-nutrient blended fertilisers on the wheat yield on Nitisols in southern Ethiopia. Five quantities of fertiliser blend (50, 100, 150, 200, 300 kg NPS + ZnB kg/ha) were compared against a newly introduced compound fertiliser (150 kg/ha NPS) and the conventionally used NP (Di-Ammonium Phosphate DAP) fertiliser at 150 kg/ha. Treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) and replicated five times using farm fields as replicates. Results revealed that application of 200 and 300 kg/ha of NPS + ZnB blend fertiliser produced significantly (p < 0.01) higher biomass (16.9 t/ha) and grain yield (3.7 t/ha) than the lower amounts. However, the marginal rate of return was highest for 100 kg NPS + ZnB/ha, but compared with DAP, the blend fertiliser did not produce significantly higher yield. Conversely, the agronomic nutrient use efficiency was significantly higher for NPS + ZnB blend suggesting the importance of balanced fertilization. Read the journal here.

Eyasu Elias1* , Beyene Teklu2 and Tewodros Tefera3

  1. Centre for Environmental Science, College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Addis Ababa University and BENEFIT-CASCAPE Programme Manager, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  2. Wondogenet College of Forestry and Natural Resources, Hawassa University, Shashemene, Ethiopia
  3. School of Environment, Gender and Development Studies, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia

*Corresponding author email:

Explaining bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) yield differences by soil properties and fertilizer rates in the highlands of Ethiopia


Ethiopia faces major food security challenges. In spite of a modest level of fertilizer use, the percentage of wheat that is imported is substantial. The Ethiopian government has invested in the fertilizer sector, thereby also moving away from di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) to multi-nutrient blends (NPSZnB). Wheat fertilizer experiments were established in seven locations (three replications) in the highlands that represented the wide range of soils found in this area. The crop was exposed to DAP, NPS and to five levels of NPSZnB (50–300 kg/ha). All treatments included 100 kg/ha urea. The average wheat grain yield at the experimental sites, when all fertilizer treatments were averaged, ranged from<2 to>7 tons/ha. Soil sampling revealed that organic carbon (28%), total nitrogen and pH, and on the negative side, Fe and Mn concentrations, were significant drivers of yield differences. Fertilizers alone (when averaged for all experimental sites) could only explain 8% of yield difference proving the ineffectiveness of blanket fertilizer recommendations. Blend fertilizers including micronutrients (NPSZnB) performed slightly but not significantly better than NPS alone or DAP alone. However, since the NP contents in the blend are slightly below those in NPS and DAP (particularly for P), a slight positive effect of Zn or B can be observed. On the other hand, Zn concentration in soils did not correlate significantly to wheat yields. Hence, determining the added effects of Zn and B remains subject for further research. Maximum yield gains to fertilizer application can only be achieved when fertilizers and soil property differences are analyzed jointly. In that case, 79% of yield differences were explained. Grouping soils into ‘recommendation windows’ then helps to come up with relevant and cost-effective fertilizer strategies. A simple calculation comparing the cost of wheat import with the cost of fertilizers needed to reach the current wheat consumption level in Ethiopia shows that the latter is by far the most cheaper option, but in need of smooth functioning of the entire value chain. Read the journal here.

Eyasu Elias a,b, P.F. Okoth c, E.M.A. Smaling d

  • a College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Centre for Environmental Science Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • b Bilateral Ethiopia-Netherlands Partnership for Food Income and Trade (BENEFIT), Ethiopia
  • c New Scape Agrosystems Ltd., PO Box 27303, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya
  • d Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen Environmental Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands

drivers of farm-level adoption of crop extension packages in ethiopia: benefit-cascape journal


Smallholder farmers’ adoption of agricultural technologies varies to a great degree with respect to spatial diversity, household related characteristics, access to infrastructure and institutional design. This cross-sectional study was conducted in order to understand the factors affecting the uptake agricultural technologies in the highlands of Ethiopia. Analysis was conducted on data collected in 2014 from a survey of 2,880 households in four major regions of the country covering 30 districts. Econometric method (two-limit Tobit model) was used to analyse determinants of farm-level adoption of crop technology packages promoted by the national agricultural extension service. Findings reveal that 71%, 66%, 60%, 52%, 46% and 29% of the sample households adopted recommended technology packages for potato, wheat, maize, tef, barley, and sorghum respectively. Results demonstrate that agro-ecology and spatial variability, distance from homestead to farm plots, slope index of the farm, access to extension services, access to credit, lagged gross annual income and membership to a cooperatives were all significant factors influencing technology adoption. The study shows there is significant variation in technology adoption between model farmers and non-model farmers. However, the productivity difference is limited to few crops. The findings suggest that investment in infrastructure, promoting access to institutional services and access to credit are instrumental to technology adoption by smallholders. The extension strategy should therefore promote inclusive strategy in which both model and non-model farmers have equal access to technology supply and extension services.  Read the journal here.


  1. Hawassa University, School of Environment, Gender and Development Studies, Ethiopia
  2. Addis Ababa University, Centre for Environmental Studies, Ethiopia
  3. Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, The Netherlands

*Correspondence details:

Submitted on: 2018, March 29; accepted on 2020, June 11. Section: Research papers

Determinants of smallholder farmers’ decisions on fertilizer use for cereal crops in the ethiopian highlands – research article


This study identified decision variables influencing fertilizer adoption and optimal fertilizer rates among smallholder farmers in the Ethiopian highlands. The fertilizer adoption and fertilizer use were examined in four regional states using a questionnaire survey, which was administered to 2880 farm households. A double hurdle model was used to analyze factors influencing the two independent decisions of adoption of fertilizers and use of fertilizers. The model estimates of the first hurdle revealed that the probability of fertilizer adoption increased by 1.2% as household education status improved, by 1.4% for an increased number of active family members, by 5.6% with improved access to credit, by 3.4% with cooperative membership, by 3.3% with an increase in farm size, by 4.6% when soil and water conservation practices are employed, and by 3.4% when agroecology of the farm is located in the medium to highland zone. Conversely, the probability of fertilizer adoption reduced by 0.9% for an increase in family size, 0.6% with 1 km distance from all-weather road, 1.6% for a kilometer further to farm plots, and 0.9% for an increase in number of parcels. The intensity of use of fertilizers was influenced by education status of the household head, family size, access to credit, membership to cooperatives, use of crop rotation, annual income, number of farm plots owned, use of soil and water conservation, and agroecology. Therefore, a concerted effort is needed to encourage fertilizer adoption and optimum fertilizer use intensity by improving households’ resource endowment, institutional capacity to deliver services, and infrastructure development. Read the research article here

Tewodros Tefera1,*, Eyasu Elias2 and Christy van Beek3,4

  1. School of Environment, Gender and Development Studies, Hawassa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
  2. Centre for Environmental Sciences, College of Natural and Computational Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
  3. Wageniningen Environmental Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands and
  4. Present address: AgroCares, Wageningen, The Netherlands

*Corresponding author. Email: (Received 26 November 2019; revised 5 June 2020; accepted 31 August 2020)

Response of Food Barley (Hordeum Vugarae L.) To Boron Blend Fertilizer Rates on Alisols in Southern Highlands of Ethiopia: BENEFIT-CASCAPE Journal


Continuous use of only N and P containing fertilizers are claimed to be the causes of other secondary and micronutrients depletion, resulting in low crop productivity in Ethiopia. In this study, on-farm trials were conducted to compare the effect of multinutrient blended fertilizer – also called boron blend (NPSB: 18. 1 N – 36.1 P2O5 – 6.7S – 0.71B) on the yield and yield components of food barley grown in Alisols in southern Ethiopia during 2017 and 2018 cropping seasons. Seven treatments involving five levels of bornblend fertilizer (50, 100, 150, 200, and 300 kg NPSB kg ha−1) were compared against a compound fertilizer (100 kgha−1 NPS) and the conventionally used 150 kg ha−1 di-ammonium phosphate (DAP). The seven treatments were replicated five times using farm fields as replicates and arranged in randomized complete block design (RCBD). Results revealed significant yield advantages of applying micronutrient containing fertilizers compared to fertilizers without micronutrients. The marginal rate of return analysis showed that the application of 100 NPSB kg ha−1 was the most profitable and agronomically efficient. Season and the soil fertility variation among farmers had a significant (p < .001) effect on food barley yield. Application of Boron blend fertilizer had 500 kg ha−1 grain yield advantage compared to equivalent amount of DAP that was highly promoted by the extension system. B-blended fertilizer was advantageous when applied during good rainy seasons in Alisols of Ethiopian highlands. For good performances of B-blended fertilizers, taking into account the soil moisture availability is advised for both better productivity and agronomic efficiency. (Read the full journal here)

Eyasu Elias , Beyene Teklu Mellisse , Getachew Agegnehu & Desalegn Ayele (2020): Response of Food Barley (Hordeum Vugarae L.) To Boron Blend Fertilizer Rates on Alisols in Southern Highlands of Ethiopia, Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis To link to this article:

Published online: 02 Sep 2020.

Soil organic matter depletion as a major threat to agricultural intensification in the highlands of Ethiopia: BENEFIT-CASCAPE Publication


Agriculture is considered as the backbone of Ethiopian economy. The government promotes rural development through policies that enhance intensive and commercially-oriented agriculture. Soil quality may be the bottleneck of these ambitions as more than half of the agricultural land shows signs of land degradation. Soil organic carbon (SOC) contents are a key aspect of soil quality, where relatively high SOC contents indicate better water holding capacity, nutrient retention capacity and better structure of the soil. In this research, SOC balances were used as indicator for short and midterm changes in SOC contents. SOC balances were calculated using data collected from 6914 fields for three years (2012-2014) using a simple input-out approach. On average, SOC balances were three tons per hectare per year. This equals 4 to 7% of the total soil organic carbon stock, which varied according to regions and cropping systems. SOC depletion rates were high in the mountainous and high cultivation intensity sites in central and northern Ethiopia where cereal based cropping systems dominates. Under the current practice, soils will eventually become exhausted and lose their productivity. This alarming trend could be reversed by integrating organic matter and nutrient management strategies and by providing alternative sources for feed and fuel supply of the community.

(read the full publication here)

Christina Laetitia (Christy) van Beek1, Eyasu Elias2, Yihenew G. Selassie3, Girmay Gebresamuel4, Asrat Tsegaye5, Feyisa Hundessa6, Mekonnen Tolla3, Melmuye Munaye7, Gebremeskel Yemane4, Seyoum Mengistu8.

  1. Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  2. Addis Ababa University and CASCAPE Project, Ethiopia
  3. Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia
  4. Mekelle University, Ethiopia
  5. Hawassa University, Ethiopia
  6. Haramaya University, Ethiopia
  7. Jimma University, Ethiopia
  8. Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

BENEFIT-REALISE Bahir Dar Cluster university support to SPCs to promote improved quality potato seed

Improved and quality seed shortage is one of the major constraints that slow down agricultural production and productivity to sustain food security of smallholder farmers. In response to the lack of public and private seed producers that can supply quality seed, especially potato tubers, one of BENEFIT–REALISE Bahir Dar cluster 2020 activity focused on supporting two Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs) to promote improved and recommended potato varieties namely, Belete and Gudeni.    

The multiplication of the Belete and Gudeni G2 class potato tubers provided by Gondar Agricultural Research Center (GARC) was carried out in 6 clusters in Dabat and Wogera woredas, under open field condition. A total of two hectares of land was covered using 40 quintals of potato tuber, by 40 farmers, 29 male and 11 female-headed households. BENEFIT-REALISE BDU cluster seed experts gave technical feedbacks to woreda expert and farmers and ensured proper agronomic practices were followed. To use the seed for further multiplication and strengthen the seed linkage with central Gondar zone, seed laboratory and quarantine office was involved in the inspection process.  

At Dabat woreda the first-round field inspection was conducted by GARC, Gondar seed laboratory and quarantine office and woreda office of agriculture. At Wogera the seed laboratory and quarantine office was not able to attend the first-round inspection due to road sliding preventing access to the site. The second-round inspection is planned to be conducted under Diffused Light Store (DLS) condition after harvest.

Thus far, both varieties are performing very well and farmers are very encouraged by the results they are seeing.  


Since its first detection of Corona virus in March, Ethiopia has been facing many challenges not only in the health of its population but also the livelihood of its people and its national economy as a whole. Agriculture being one of the main sectors affected by the pandemic, many of BENEFIT Partnership recent efforts focused on better understanding its impact, raise awareness and mitigate its effects.  

The recent report on soybean, a high potential crop for both improving farmers’ livelihood and as an export commodity, captured COVID-19 effect on the soybean value chain. In July- August 2020, BENEFIT Partnership programmes (BENEFIT-ISSD, BENEFIT-SBN, BENEFIT-CASCAPE, and BENEFIT-ENTAG) conducted rapid assessments that focus on soybean access to input, production, mobility and market. The data collection focused on northwestern, western and southwestern parts of Ethiopia for production and primary market while it focused on central Ethiopia, mainly Addis Ababa for trade and export data.

The report findings showed that the pandemic has distorted the day-to-day functions of communities, businesses and the government. Within the soybean value chain, access to input, production, mobility and market were affected in different degrees. While input provision to smallholders has been managed very well, technical support at ground level from experts and development agents was highly affected. Even though mobility of the chain actors has improved in the last couple of months, high cost of transport still remains. Overall, market has not been negatively affected to a great extent except for the higher cost of transport. The findings also showed, the sub-sector is benefiting from higher demand from Asia during this period. Therefore, it can be concluded that with minimal effect on most part of the soybean value chain along with enablers, no or minor decline can be expected from the production and productivity volume previously planned or estimated, given other things remain the same..

The recommendations in the report included facilitation of DAs and experts’ support on farm management; monitoring safety measures for DAs & experts to move from place to place; provision of outdoor trainings; subsidizing inland transport cost to maintain previous margins of value chain actors; further smoothening ECX, customs and related operation to facilitate the local trade and export process etc.

Read the full report here

BENEFIT-ENTAG 12th poultry platform meeting on the effects of COVID-19 on Ethiopian poultry sector

Like many businesses in the world, COVID 19 is negatively affecting the poultry sector in Ethiopia.  In order to identify the major effects on the sector, BENEFIT-ENTAG in collaboration with EPPPA (Ethiopian Poultry Producers and Processors Association) conducted a quick assessment in June 2020, through a questionnaire survey distributed to poultry stakeholders. The findings highlighted huge losses related to reduced access to input supplies; reduced access to market; impact on employment; lack of storage facilities leading to wastage of products; increasing feed price and unregulated market.  

To share the findings and discuss the recommendations proposed, BENEFIT- ENTAG with the collaboration of EPPPA and MoA successfully held its 12th poultry platform meeting on August 7.  The online meeting was attended by 20 representatives from MoA (Dr. Fikru Regassa, State Minister of Livestock), EPPPA, VDFACA, SNV, EMDIDI, MOFEC, Animal Health Input Suppliers (Zoetis, Ceva), Poultry producers and ENTAG.

Dr. Fikru Regassa acknowledged the value of the recommendations and noted they should be incorporated in the Ministry’s COVID 19 response plan. He also advised to divide the recommendations into short term and long term, where MoA will take the lead to providing short term support to producers, and establishing a forum with concerning government stakeholders to prioritize the long term issues such as availing forex. He also highlighted the relevance of working on import substitutions, especially parent stock, since relying on parent stock import is a major bottleneck of the sector. In addition, promoting domestic consumption to stimulate market and in general organizing forums related to enabling conditions on poultry health and breeding was mentioned as a way forward.

In addition to working with relevant stakeholders to mitigate the effect of the pandemic, BENEFIT-ENTAG is currently representing the poultry sector in a technical team organized to develop an “Ethiopian Agriculture Rural Development Policy” where all livestock and poultry policy related issues are expected to be addressed.

BENEFIT-SBN published its second sesame alert

BENEFIT-ENTAG published a Business Opportunity Report: Spices sector in Ethiopia

BENEFIT-ENTAG published a Business Opportunity Report: Spices sector in Ethiopia that looks at major trends in the development of the spices sector in the world, Europe and African and specifically the trends and business opportunities in Ethiopia. The report that was developed by Advance Consulting aims to promote one of the high export potential sectors in Ethiopia and support the development of strategies leveraging existing opportunities identified.

The report gives an overview of trends in spice production, supply, market, trade and consumption in different parts of the world and business opportunities and challenges related to major spices produced in the country (turmeric, chili, ginger, black pepper, black cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black cardamom). Looking at stakeholders’ landscape, it gives a summary of the role the government, development partners and farmer organizations play in the development of the sector.

Read the report here.

Effect of COVID-19 on PSNP programme operations and its beneficiaries

BENEFIT-REALISE published a report on the effect of COVID-19 on PSNP programme operations and its beneficiaries. The report summarizes the findings of a rapid assessment conducted to better understand how the pandemic affects the PSNP farming community livelihoods who are vulnerable and chronically food insecure groups even during normal days. The rapid assessment was conducted in four regional states covering 60 BENEFIT-REALISE PSNP woredas.

The report highlights that COVID-19 is threatening the food security and long-term livelihoods of PSNP households who face multitude vulnerabilities to the pandemic`s effect as their coping resources are limited. Its looks at the effect of COVID-19 on PSNP pathways and associated measures taken; coping mechanisms used by PSNP households; specific COVID-19 challenges faced by PSNP farmers; PSNP support needed and provided during COVID-19; impact of reversal of migration due to the mobility restrictions; and changes on the number of targeted PSNP households, payment and payment modalities.

The recommendations highlights, harmonized response with the government, donors and NGOs is required to counter COVID-19 impact on the PSNP programme and beneficiaries. The recommendations focus on provision of quick food access; supplying food items in nearby villages to reduce movement to urban in search of food items; conducting awareness creation / orientation on preventive measures of COVID-19; provision of COVID-19 protective supplies; easing restrictions with necessary preventive measures to resume the implementation of important off-farm activities; provision of permanent direct support to female headed households; and putting in place credit facilities and mechanisms to supply water nearby residences.

Read the full report here.



BENEFIT-ENTAG rapid assessment on the effect of COVID-19 on the pulse sector

Like many countries in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected most businesses in Ethiopia. One of these businesses is the pulses sector. According to the CSA 2018/2019 data, pulse covered 12.73 % of the grain crop area and 9.54% of the grain production. The most prominent export pulses are haricot bean, chickpea and faba beans.

The recent rapid assessment conducted by BENEFIT-ENTAG tries to briefly zoom in and see COVID-19’s pressure on:  (i) availability on agri-inputs; (ii) farmers mobility; (iii) pulse production; (iv) pulse export; and (v) pulse price and employment.

Among others, the rapid assessment highlights there could be a loss of 600 to 900 thousand metric tons pulse production and associated decline by 9.5% in 2020. While there has been a change in price at local markets the pandemic has had relatively small impact on employment, with only 3 % job loss. The recommendation focused on availing agricultural inputs to farmers, maintaining supply chains (production), simplifying customs procedures and increasing percentage share of pulse export.

Read the full report here.

BENEFIT-REALISE bi-annual progress report

BENEFIT-REALISE bi-annual progress report gives an overview of the programme achievements in (i) increased quality and quantity of sustainable agricultural production; (ii) improved enabling environments; (iii) one timad (quarter of a hectare) package; (iii) improving diet diversity; and (iv) capacity building.

The report highlights lessons on the value of working closely with BoA to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 and promote ownership and institutionalization; the relevance of linkage and collaboration to encourage two-way learning, enable appropriate implementation of activities and create institutional capacities in the agriculture sector; high interest in timad package and seed mini packages; and value of social inclusion.

Read the report here.


A high level delegation of BENEFIT-REALISE programme institutional advisors and Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) in Ethiopia visited BENEFIT-REALISE programmes activities in Oromia and SNNP regions on August 7 – 8, 2020.

The delegation included State Minster of Agriculture, Directors of Extension Directorate and Food Security Coordination Directorate from Ministry of Agriculture (MoA); Director of Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR); Senior Director of Production & Productivity Projects vertical, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA); Deputy Head of Mission, EKN; Senior Policy Officer for Food Security & Sustainable Development of EKN; and BENEFIT senior staff.

The visit to Arsi Zone, Zeway Dugda woreda, Oromia and Silti and Weyra Jedo woredas of SNNP regional sates showcased the achievements of BENEFIT-REALISE programme that focus on working with Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) households.

The visit was a great opportunity to have a fruitful discussion with local stakeholders and PSNP farmers on the achievements and challenges of the programme.  The participants acknowledged the success achieved in bridging the food gaps with increased productivity, introduction of locally appropriate technology including early maturing varieties, intercropping, use of farmyard manure, nutrition sensitive agriculture; promotion of agribusiness models for youth employment and ensuring quality seed access. The major challenges raised included sustainability, dependency syndrome and the slow pace of stakeholders and partners to take the successes to scale. Above all, the difficulty in bringing institutional and attitudinal changes by embedding positive changes and mainstreaming learning to break PSNP households’ shackle of dependency syndrome was highlighted as a major challenge. The visit was concluded with a discussion with institutional advisors and EKN on way forward.

During the visit, a summary the achievements of the programme over the last six months (January-June 2020), challenges encountered and lessons learned was shared. The brochure outlined the achievements in (i) increased quality and quantity of sustainable agricultural production; (ii) improved enabling environments; (iii) one timad (quarter of a hectare) package; (iii) improving diet diversity; and (iv) capacity building.

The programme activities focus on (i) demonstration and pre-scaling of best fit agricultural practices; (ii) integrated nutrition interventions which aimed to enhance diet diversity; (iii) scalable youth employment generation on agribusiness development; and (iv) institutional innovation such as one-timad package and customized extension services to PSNP households.


  • H.E. Dr. Mandefro Negussie, State Minister of Agriculture, MoA
  • Mrs. Yenenesh Egu, Extension Directorate Director, MoA
  • Mrs. Sintayehu Demisse, Food Security Coordination Directorate Director, MoA
  • Dr. Feto Esimo, Director General, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)
  • Dr. Chimdo Anchala, Senior Director of Production & Productivity Projects vertical, ATA
  • Mr. Thijs Woudstra, Deputy Head of Mission; Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Ethiopia
  • Dr. Worku Tessema, Senior Policy Officer for Food Security & Sustainable Development of EKN in Ethiopia
  • Dr. Dawit Alemu, BENEFIT Manager
  • Dr. Tewodros Tefera BENEFIT-REALISE manager


BENEFIT-CASCAPE published a synthesis report that shows the findings of an assessments on the outcome of ToTs given by the project (2017-2019) and clusters (2018-2019) to experts and woreda level SMS from four regional states (Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR).

The result of the outcome showed that, the training helped the cluster experts refresh their knowledge and added new skills and knowledge enabling them to train the target extension agents and do their jobs effectively. The training also had real value in bridging the skill and knowledge capacity gaps of the woreda SMS and helped them do their agricultural activities in a more effective ways.

Read the synthesis report here.


BENEFIT-ISSD Amhara Unit Report on Lessons Learned and Selected proceedings

BENEFIT-ISSD Amhara Unit published a report “Consolidation of ISSD Amhara Unit Best Lessons and Selected Workshop Proceedings” that highlights the programme successes  in Amhara region. The report summaries 17 key achievements in empowering Seed Producer Cooperatives (SPCs) to become more autonomous and commercial in their operations in the seed sector, promotion of contractual agreements, ensuring seed quality, provision of technical training, establishment and promotion of institutional setup (core groups, platforms) to bring systematic change and collaboration with key stakeholders towards sustainability and institutionalization.  The report covers the following topics

  1. A Thriving Community of Women Seed Producers in Amhara Region
  2. Contractual Early Generation Seed Production and Agreement Improvements to Unlock Challenges
  3. Institutionalization of the Regional Core Group and Issue of Sustainability
  4. Worth of Seed Quality Assurance in Amhara Region
  5. Regional Potato Platform Establishment
  6. ENTAG-ISSD Collaboration to Enhance Disease Free Potato Mini-tuber Production for Private Seed Producers
  7. Institutionalizing ISSD Major Achievements; Consultative Workshop with University Higher Officials and Seed Unit Members
  8. ISSD Amhara Unit Practical Training on Seed Production, Marketing and Business Plan Development
  9. Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) and BENEFIT Team Visit to Amhara Region Projects
  10. Empowering Seed Producers through Financial literacy
  11. Collaborative Training on Seed Production, Marketing and Cooperative Management
  12. ISSD Amhara Unit Participation on the 3rd Amhara Region Cooperative Exhibitions
  13. Institutionalizing Crowd Sourcing and PVS Systems in Amhara Region

The report also includes abstracts of theses published over the years by students supported through the programme.

WUR published a rapid country assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on Ethiopia food systems

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in collaboration with partner organizations in Ethiopia published a report Rapid country assessment: The impact of COVID-19 on the food system in Ethiopia” on key impacts of  COVID-19 crisis on Ethiopia food system. The brief published in July 2020 summarizes the effects of the lockdown measures on the most vulnerable groups, gaps identified in the data analysed and in government responses to the crisis, and actions required to address short-term priorities and challenges.

Key impacts highlighted in the report included

  1. Impacts on the agricultural sector will affect the entire economy
  2. The poverty rate is increasing
  3. Demand for high-value perishables is shrinking
  4. Reduced productivity and production puts the financial sector at risk
  5. Youth are facing job losses
  6. Availability of food is not an issue (yet), affordability is…

The brief also covers population subgroups who are most vulnerable to the crisis in different ways and looks at the effect of COVID-19 in relation to food system drivers, activities and outcomes.

The rapid country assessment of Ethiopia involved representatives of the following
organisations, who provided secondary data and reviewed draft versions of this  assessment: Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA); Agri-ProFocus, Agriterra, Bilateral Ethiopian-Netherlands Effort for Food, Income and Trade (BENEFIT) Partnership, BENEFIT- Sesame Business Network, BENEFIT- Integrated Seed Sector Development Ethiopia, BENEFIT Realising Sustainable Agricultural Livelihood Security in Ethiopia, Fair and Sustainable Consulting, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), ICCO/Stichting Woord en Daad, International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI), and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV).

For other WUR rapid country assessments and effects of COVID-19 on different sectors look here.

The effect of COVID 19 on sesame belt agricultural labourers from Amhara and Tigray

BENEFIT-REALISE brief “The effect of COVID19 on agricultural casual labourers: a case of sesame belt migrants from Amhara and Tigray” highlights the findings of a rapid assessment designed to evaluate the early effects of COVID19 on PSNP households wage income in sesame growing areas of Tigray and Amhara regions.

This rapid assessment covered 20 PSNP BENEFIT-REALISE targeted woredas in Tigray and Amhara regions and was conducted by BENEFIT-REALISE Tigray and Amhara university clusters.  The study used face to face and telephone interview to assess the effect of COVID 19 on PSNP household’s migration who work as casual labourer in sesame growing areas in the western part of Tigray (Humara, Welkayit and the Tahtay Adiabo) and northwest of Amhara (Metema, Mirab Armacho, Tach Armacheho, Shinfa and Quara).  A total of 125 respondents participated in the interviews. The interviews were conducted with PSNP households, kebele office head, woreda level subject matter specialist and regional experts, and by REALISE programme cluster staff using checklist.

The brief looked at the consequences of mobility restrictions and the status of PSNP households who depend on casual labour in Amhara and Tigray.


  1. The sesame sector attracts more than 500,000 casual labourers at different growing cycle: planting, weeding and harvesting. By so doing it plays key role in income generation and livelihood security.
  2. A significant number of PSNP households especially the youth entirely depend on casual labour wages earned in the sesame growing areas.
  3. The disruption caused by COVID19 and inability to earn income that contributes to consumption smoothening and investment in agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and improved seeds purchase – aggravating their vulnerability in both short and long terms.
  4. The PSNP programme support through public work and permanent direct support payments transfer is insufficient due to the increased family sizes related to migrant returnees and increasing inflation.
  5. Reassessment of eligible PSNP beneficiaries is required since COVID 19 is negatively impacting many more households who were not considered eligible prior to the pandemic.
  6. The agricultural operation of smallholder farmers particularly PSNP households need financial support and postponing repayment and cancelling of agricultural loan and credit support arrangement for agricultural inputs.
  7. Reduced labour productivity and precarious health condition of casual labourers may worsen with the continued COVID 19 pandemic, unless appropriate measure is taken.
  8. The Tigray and Amhara regional and national governments need to work with sesame investors to facilitate casual labourers movement to sesame areas as well as provide protective facilities and infrastructure in destination areas.

Rapid assessment findings of BENFIT-SBN (Sesame Business Network) on COVID-19 related challenges in the Ethiopian sesame sector also highlighted availability of labour and welfare of labourers as are of major Concern. Read the COVID-19 Sesame Alert here.

Rapid assessment findings on effect of COVID-19 on agricultural inputs availability and supply in PSNP area

BENEFIT-REALISE published a brief that summarizes the findings of a rapid assessment conducted to better understand the effect of COVID-19 on agricultural inputs availability and supply (fertilizer and seed) and its implications on the agricultural sector performance, in four regional states of Ethiopia (Tigray, Oromia, SNNPR and Amhara). The study looked at distribution of fertilizer and seed in regions in general and in BENEFIT-REALISE implementing woredas in specific. The brief shows the specific influence of COVID on PSNP households arming operation and specific arrangements to make agricultural inputs accessible to farmers

The rapid assessments undertaken by BENEFIT-REALISE university clusters used secondary data, interviews with officials at region and woreda levels and discussions with farmers at kebele levels. A total of 324 key informants and discussants participated in the data collection. The assessment was made in April-May 2020, and summarized per region and cluster.

Status of input delivery: Tigray region delivered 77.6% of fertilizer demand and 45.5% of seed demand to woredas and kebeles. Amhara region distributed 58.7% of fertilizer demand and 34.1% of seed demand. Oromia region distributed 48.8% of fertilizer demand and 26.8% of seed demand while SNNPR delivered 60% of fertilizer demand and 61.9% of seed demand. There is a wide gap between demand and supply of inputs: fertilizers (NPS and urea) ranging from 22.4-51.2% and seed 38.1-73.2%. Oromia distributed lower amount of fertilizers and seed than other regions.

Key messages

  1. There is a significant gap in fertilizers and seeds supply against the demand in all regions. However, the problem is more severe in Oromia and Amhara which are the major food suppliers in the country.
  2. Farmers’ ability to purchase fertilizers and seeds is low and the problem is more pronounced among PSNP households who depend on off-farm activities to supplement their income and is impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
  3. Farmers should be encouraged to use home saved seed, compost and backyard manure where the supply of improved seed and fertilizers is inadequate.
  4. A special fund for agricultural finance which supply credit for agricultural inputs should be put in place.
  5. Mechanized farming services should be provided to those who can afford the payment which in turn ease the oxen shortage faced by PSNP households.

The assessment was conducted by Mekelle University REALISE cluster, Bahir Dar University REALISE cluster, Woldia University REALISE cluster, Arsi University REALISE cluster, Haramaya University REALISE cluster, Oda Bultum University REALISE cluster, Arba Minch University REALISE cluster, Hawassa University REALISE cluster, and summarized by national management team in Addis Ababa.

Read the full report here (Effect of COVID 19 on agricultural inputs availability and supply)



With lessons to inspire policymakers and practitioners alike, this film tells how Ethiopian and international partners have guided Ethiopia’s seed sector transformation. This film is a companion for a new case study which highlights key elements of the approach towards facilitating systemic change in the Ethiopian seed sector. The case study shares lessons for those who strive to guide sector transformation elsewhere.



Download and read the case study here

As part of the BENEFIT Partnership (Bilateral Ethiopian-Netherlands Effort on Food, Income and Trade), ISSD Ethiopia contributes to increased quantity and quality of sustainable agricultural production, improved markets and trade, and an enabling environment for agriculture in Ethiopia.For more information on the work on BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia look at their website here 

Fertilizer alert on the impact of COVID-19 on the fertilizer sector in Ethiopia: rapid assessment conducted by BENEFIT-CASCAPE

BENEFIT-CASCAPE published its findings from a rapid assessments conducted on the impact of COVID19 on the fertilizer sector in Ethiopia. The fertilizer alerts identify current challenges and outline urgent action needed in the fertilizer sector based on surveys and focus group discussions. The activity aims to inform decision-makers in government, development practitioners, research, and farmers’ organizations, on where the impact of the crisis is felt the most, and to contribute to the immediate actions required to address the identified challenges. The alerts complement other efforts, for example by IFDC, that provide insights and compare countries in the functioning of the fertilizer market and supply chain. The activity was implemented in partnership between Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) and BENEFIT-CASCAPE in Ethiopia.

The survey and focus group discussions (FGDs) that covered a full range of fertilizer sector functions and supply chain operation was conducted by BENEFIT-CASCAPE national staff in the months of June 2020. The findings  highlighted the following

  • Alert 1: Mobility restrictions and fear of infection limit the import and national distribution of fertilizers
  • Alert 2: Mobility restrictions hamper the last-mile delivery of fertilizers to unions and cooperatives
  • Alert 3: Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures hinder farmers from purchasing fertilizers at unions and cooperatives
  • Alert 4: Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures affect interactions between extensionists and farmers

For more information


COVID-19 pandemic affects casual labourers and other vulnerable section of the community more significantly than others due to their low income, limited availability and access to foods and other livelihood necessities. The mobility restrictions imposed by the Ethiopian government to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections restrict workers from traveling to areas where there is work.

To better understand the effects of COVID-19 on the livelihoods and food security of casual labourers at household level, especially those in PSNP areas, BENEFIT-REALISE conducted a rapid assessment in selected 17 zones and 24 PSNP woredas in six clusters of BENEFIT-REALISE programme: Woldiya, Haramaya, Arsi, Oda Bultum, Hawassa and Arba Minch.

The findings highlighted the following alerts (full report)

Alert 1: COVID-19 mobility restriction and doubling of transportation tariff is limiting the movement of casual labourers to find work, jeopardizing the very means of income for food and other livelihood necessities.

Alert 2: Casual labourers inability to earn income not only effects the food security status of their households, but also means low investment for seed and fertilizer that significantly impacts next season productivity and future well being of the households.

Alert 3: Due to the nature of their work, causal labourers face higher risk of infection and need special attention in daily monitoring of their physical health and provision of necessary personal protective equipment.

Alert 4: Insufficient data and information on causal labourers and their mobility is making it challenging to meet the demands of the labour market.

Alert 5: COVID-19 has unprecedented impact on the poor and vulnerable groups. The way out requires government’s as well as NGOs and donor’s effort to facilitate special financing arrangement which mitigate households and individuals’ vulnerability to food security and abject poverty.


BENEFIT-REALISE published a synthesis of literature review on policies and interventions for rural youth employment in Ethiopia

Rural youth employment is an important development challenge in Ethiopia due to high population growth and limited opportunities for income and livelihoods for rural youth. Even though the policy context reveals the necessity of support for rural youth employment, policies on investment and business parks pay little attention to off-farm self-employment opportunities and equipping the youth with the required skills for technical, managerial, and financial aspects of their business projects.

The literature review discusses strengths and weaknesses of the policies, strategies, and looks at some relevant rural youth interventions highlighting their major achievements, success factors, challenges, and lessons learned from their implementations.

Recent efforts to enhance rural youth employment through skills development and financial inclusion are registering positive outcomes in empowering the rural youth vulnerable to migration. Identification of profitable value chains, use of integrated approaches linked with skills development, mentorship, access to finance, and business networks are proven to contribute to increased employment and income for the rural youth.

The review recommendations focused on promoting self-employment in off-farm activities; provision of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for agriculture and agribusiness; the need to focus on youth in rural areas; and the relevance of diverse, context-specific and knowledge intensive interventions implemented using integrated approaches.


Timely delivery of agricultural input in the context of COVID-19: BENEFIT-REALISE Bahir Dar University Cluster

Based on 2019 main cropping season research findings and recommendations, one of BENEFIT–REALISE Bahir Dar cluster 2020 plan focus on scaling of best-selected crop technologies. Accordingly, in the context of COVID-19, a total of 893 quintals of improved crops varieties and 143 quintals of fertilizer (69 quintals urea and 74 quintals were NPSB) for one timad package were distributed to the ten BENEFIT-REALISE intervention woredas on time. The improved seed is expected to cover 634.3 hectares of land benefiting 5842 PSNP beneficiaries.

This year’s input distribution process was challenged due to COVID-19 movement restrictions. To ensure timely delivery of inputs, the programme worked closely with its partners, namely research centers, woreda office of Agriculture, Bureau of Agriculture, and cooperatives to address issues related to seed procurement and collection process, seed shortage (both in kind and quantity), seed transportation problem, and delay of seed certification in all seed-producing organizations. In addition to frequent phone calls and on line communication, the programme collaborated with Bahir Dar University and regional COVID-19 taskforce to get vehicle movement pass cards to facilitate the procurement, collection and distribution process.

Among the total procured seed; 318.5 quintals of bread wheat, 30 quintals of food barely, 8 quintals of malt barely, 385 quintals of potato tuber, 15 quintals of sorghum, 5.7 quintals of mung bean, 100 quintals of haricot bean, 26.5 quintals of tef, 4 kgs of papay, 30 kgs of swish chad, 31.25 kgs of carrot, 32.5 kgs of beetroot, and 3 kgs of Ethiopian kale were collected and distributed to the target wordas.

ISSD Amhara Unit started Wheat Direct Seed Marketing (DSM) pilot project in Amhara region

Since 2011, BENEFIT ISSD, Amhara Unit implemented Direct Seed Marketing (DSM) on hybrid maize reaching 56 maize potential woredas in Amhara region. Compared to conventional way of accessing seed, DSM has proven to address problems related to long chains and channels, high bureaucracy, dalliance of seed accessibility and high annual seed carry over. That is why, in spite of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 pandemic, ISSD Amhara Unit conducted two DSM workshops in the first week of June 2020 taking all emerging restriction and precautions into consideration. The decision was made to keep the momentum of DSM successes achieved so far, and contribute to easing the effect of COVID-19 on the seed sector in the coming year.

ISSD Amhara unit intervention on wheat DSM started with an agreement between ISSD Amhara Unit and regional decision makers and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) to start a pilot in two zones (Jama in south wollo enewari and jiru in north showa). The workshops were conducted in collaboration with Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and BoA. A total of 40 individuals from regional agricultural bureau, seed and other agricultural input quality regulatory and quarantine authority, unions, cooperatives, zonal and woreda agricultural bureaus attended the workshop.

During the workshop, the participants looked at the region DSM performance, reasons for starting DSM in the selected two zones, existing weak awareness of DSM, reluctance of seed producers and unions to participate in DSM, dalliance to start pilots to showcase DSM successes and implementation challenges that might surface due to COVID-19. The workshop was instrumental to get commitment from relevant stakeholders, especially BoA towards a successful implementation of DSM.

At the end, consensus was reached to commence DSM using multipurpose cooperative as agents, and for unions for public seed producers to pay key role in the DSM process. ISSD will conduct monitoring and evaluation and ATA will focus on capacity building of agents. Zonal and woreda agricultural office agreed to select agents, build awareness on DSM and lead the overall implementation of the pilot.

By Wonzie Asmare, Knowledge Sharing & Communication Expert, ISSD Amhara Unit

BENEFIT-REALISE national baseline survey report published

BENEFIT-REALISE published its national baseline survey report conducted in 18 selected implementing woredas in four regions namely Amhara, SNNPR, Oromia and Tigray. The household survey was conducted in November and December 2018. A total of 1902 (1283 PSNP and 619 non-PSNP) households were surveyed. This baseline survey is part of a coordinated effort between REALISE and Wageningen University to collect and generate information on socio-economic conditions, agricultural production, diet diversity, asset holding and the state of gender-based division of labour at households’ level in the project areas.

The baseline survey aimed

  • To assess the current level of agricultural livelihoods and food security of PSNP households with potential to be targeted by REALISE project,
  • To monitor programme progress in the course of implementation
  • To establish indicators that would be used to evaluate the impact of the programme

Data on household and demographic characteristics, available best practices, crop diversity, productivity, agricultural extension services, food security and gender were collected and analyzed. The report provides preliminary results on six priority topics: practice, seed, production methods, food security, extension, and gender.

This baseline report is serving as a working document along a PRA study to identify programme focus areas and also will be used to track changes that will be made due to the programme interventions. The report highlights the following areas:

  • Make best fit technologies available to PSNP households to improve their production and productivity;
  • Ensure availability and access of seed to PSNP farmers in the right quality, quantity and diversity through strengthening the seed producers’ cooperatives and seed enterprises;
  • Test, demonstrate and pre-scale agricultural practices using participatory approaches;
  • Pilot new approaches and practices to ensure social inclusion of the marginalized group of community (women, youth and the economically poor);
  • Bridge the capacity gaps of extension agents, subject matter specialist and researchers for better synergy and result oriented implementation of research and extension mandates;
  • Enable better understanding of systemic bottlenecks of agricultural sector; and
  • Deepen the institutionalization of evidences and proven approaches for wider application and policy revision.

BENEFIT-CASCAPE initiative to better understand and mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the fertilizer sector in Ethiopia

Fertilizers have played a vital role in raising agricultural productivity in Ethiopia for decades. Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Input Directorate 2020 six months report states that the estimated use of fertilizer in 2020 is 1.4 million MT. Realizing the critical role fertilizer plays in the agricultural sector, BENEFIT-CASCAPE recently initiated an activity to raise awareness on the impact of the COVID-19 on the fertilizer sector and provide advise on urgent and practical actions to mitigate risks associated with the virus. The alerts complement other efforts, for example by IFDC, that provide insights and compare countries in the functioning of the fertilizer market and supply chain.

BENEFIT-CASCAPE rapid assessment of the fertilizer sector is conducted through a survey and focus group discussions (FGDs) and covers the full range of fertilizer sector functions and supply chain operations. Its outcomes are used to create ‘Fertilizer Alerts’ to inform decision-makers in government, development practitioners, research, and farmers’ organizations, on where the impact of the crisis is felt the most, and to contribute to the immediate actions required to address the identified challenges. FGDs are planned at regional levels and the expertise and practical experience of those stakeholders in the fertilizer sector determines their participation. WCDI and WEnR, with its national partners in BENEFIT/CASCAPE, will compile a fertilizer alert using the outcomes of the survey and FGDs. In line with emerging lockdown restrictions in the countries in which our partners are based, primary parts of the rapid assessment are digital. The surveys are app-based, and the FGDs take place as much as possible virtually through videoconferencing. The team uses a variety of communication tools, including social media, blogs, video messages, and portals to share each fertilizer alert.

The COVID-19 rapid assessment introductory brief highlights that COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect the fertilizer sector in multiple ways. These include difficulty in quality inspection and certification impacting productivity; shortage of truck drivers and restriction of travel affecting access to synthetic fertilizers; decreasing market outlets discouraging farmers to use fertilizer during the next growing season; lack of access to credit and limited mobilization to distribution centers leading to less fertilizer purchase etc. Even though MoA, stated that the procurement, transportation and distribution of fertilizer is in a relatively good position to face the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown, supply of bags and the risk of COVID-19 infection for the truck drivers and workers at distribution centers, are expected to affect the timely distribution of fertilizer to some extent.

The rapid assessment has adapted a methodology that was already in use by various sectors, including the seed, sesame and horticulture sectors, and which was developed by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). The methodology and steps followed are presented here.


The Second BENEFIT ISSD-Ethiopia seed alert highlights the effect of COVID-19 mobility restrictions on the Ethiopian seed sector

The second BENEFIT ISSD-Ethiopia COVID-19 seed alert that was published this week highlighted issues related to release and registration of new varieties, timely supply of early generation seed (EGS),  quality assurance in EGS production, reduced availability of varieties in high demand and challenges related to producers access to agro-inputs, labor and finance.

The 2nd seed alert (#02 June 2020 seed alert) outlines COVID-19 related major challenges and urgent actions needed in the Ethiopian seed sector, based on virtual surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders. It outlines the major alerts, their impacts, actions required, stakeholders involved, and a responsible body to take the initiatives. The effort is designed and initiated by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) and ISSD Ethiopia Program to raise awareness on the situation and its impact of COVID on the seed sector.

Read more

We regret to inform you of the passing of Asaye Tesema, Social Inclusion Expert of BENEFIT-REALISE

It is with great sadness and much shock we inform you of the sudden death of Asaye Tesema, a Social Inclusion Expert of BENEFIT-REALISE programme. As a valued member of BENEFIT-REALISE Bahir Dar University cluster, he will be deeply missed by the BENEFIT family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they go through this difficult time.

Promoting the use of information management system in the Ethiopian sesame sector: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

From 2016-2019, one of Sesame Business Network (SBN)’s initiatives focused on promoting the use of information management system in the Ethiopia sesame sector. The effort that started with an Excel database in 2016-2017, evolved into a sector management information system, based on a tailored, more advanced software application. The pilot was implemented in 2018-2019 in four kebeles, with a vision of having a public digital information management system that is up-to-date, reliable and accessible, supporting all sector stakeholders and paid through a levy system.

Specific objectives of the pilot included: (i) support transparency with a public database; (ii) facilitate the provision of public services by government agencies to farmers; (iii) promote in-depth sector analysis through customized reports; (iv) digitize member administration of cooperatives; and (v) support information exchange between cooperatives and unions.

With increased access to computers and the internet, public agencies and farmers’ organizations in the commercial sesame sector are increasingly showing interest in using digitalized information system to gather, share and use consolidated information for professional planning, management, transparency, collaboration and trade.

The process of providing the Excel database and developing the digital information system, which included working with handheld devices and software, training and frequent discussions have raised the awareness of stakeholders on the importance of reliable digitalized field data. As partners in tailoring the software, they have gained insights about how to: i) work with software programs, ii) structure and prioritize information iii) organize data collection and quality control, iv) exchange information with other partners and v) analyse data and produce a report.

The process over the years

The first step towards information management was the establishment of woreda databases in Excel, which is a widely available and known tool. Databases were developed, based on available information on key parameters such as population, land, cultivated acreages for different crops, production, productivity and market prices. Whenever possible, attention was given to disaggregate information according to gender and age. By the end of 2017, the databases were handed over to 13 woredas, with appropriate training on how to use and maintain it.

In 2018, two digital information systems were introduced (FarmForce and eProd). Both systems were specifically developed for smallholder agricultural production and marketed in remote areas. They work with a mobile application to collect field level data, including GPS references. A desktop application allows for extensive analyses of collected data and can generate several reports.

Several stakeholders of the sesame sector, BoA, CPO, unions and cooperatives, have been involved to build a sector-wide information management system that meets their data and information needs. Based on the eProd software, which was further developed and tailored for the sesame sector, the piloting was done in two kebeles in Tigray and two kebeles in Amhara regions. By the end of 2019, field and farmer information was entered in the system for four kebeles (6,677 farmers), two kebeles in Amhara (3,038 farmers) and two in Tigray (3,639 farmers).

Lessons learnt

  1. Limited infrastructure and human capacity. Stakeholders hardly own functional hardware to install the software. Power cuts, virus infections and damaged hardware make installation and reliable functioning of the software challenging. In addition, stakeholders have limited experience to work with computers and any type of software. As a result, the training of dedicated staff members was time-consuming, compounded by high staff turnover.
  2. Start from a simple solution and have a multi step introductory approach. The Excel based woreda databases featured several benefits like low cost, easy understanding and use, and flexible formats. In the context of non-existing digital data collection practices and a non conducive environment, a more incremental approach, with a modest scope at the beginning, reduces the time and investments for getting a digital information system up and running. This reduces the risk of errors and limited use of the information system.
  3. Software customization. The software was adapted to accommodate specific needs and translated in local languages. Translation from English to Amharic and Tigrinya was a very time consuming exercise. A tailor-made system increases the likelihood of relevancy and future use by local stakeholders.
  4. User friendliness. Some software interfaces are more intuitive and easier to use than others. A combination of a simple mobile and advanced desktop application is a good solution to accommodate the different stakeholder capacities and needs.
  5. Offline functionality. In a context of unreliable access to internet, an offline system is a valuable asset.
  6. Data collection and modification. Data collection in the field, including GPS referencing, takes time. Stakeholder expectations and data correction need to be carefully managed. Moreover, if data entering or correction is not carefully managed or users can easily modify the format (Excel), data quality and aggregation are at risk. Digitized systems and consistent processes can help to reduce this risk.
  7. Data aggregation and multi-stakeholder accessibility. Software systems make it easy to aggregate data at different administrative levels (e.g. from kebeles to woreda, zone and regional level). The generic information can be easily accessed by various stakeholders, who can add and manage additional information streams according to their specific needs. This requires dedicated, competent staff.
  8. Community acceptance. The most important data input providers are farmers. Providing personal information requires trust and understanding. Careful introduction with the help of community leaders or local authorities is key. Clear benefits, such as weather forecast services and others, enhance the likelihood of acceptance.
  9. Stakeholder support and benefits. Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) and unions supported the hosting of staff and shared costs for transport (motorcycles). This contribution is important, especially for creating ownership. Benefits of the information system stimulate users to make an effort and invest.
  10. Technical assistance. Digital tools are complicated and can face many technical problems. A computer expert who knows the information system is needed to support stakeholders with any challenges they face along the way.
  11. Sustainability/affordability of scaling. The introduction of advanced information management systems comes at high implementation costs (field staff and experts, computers, phones, motorbikes). System licenses are often expensive and require yearly payments in forex, which is an issue in Ethiopia.
  12. Integration into daily processes. The organisations participating in the pilot are used to a certain way of working and procedures. Integrating a new information management system in their daily work routines is a major challenge. This requires the support and commitment of higher officials.
  13. Moving towards a digital information system is a long process. During the past years, the pilot in the mentioned four pilot kebeles is a first proof of concept. The next step is to explain the process, lessons learnt and current proof of concept to higher officials of different stakeholder organizations, who increasingly believe the need for a digital system. High level buy-in can facilitate the change of work routines and the search for sustainable funding, for which a levy system is a possible solution.

Minimizing the effect of COVID-19 on the Ethiopian poultry sector

On June 9, 2020, BENEFIT-ENTAG published a brief that outlines the major effects of  COVID-19 on the performance of the Ethiopian poultry sector and specific recommendations the government and other development partners should consider to minimize the already observed negative impact. The brief was based on a quick assessment conducted through a survey distributed to (15) medium to high Poultry farms representing commercial farms and selective telephone interviews.

Prior to COVID-19, commercial poultry farms have been expanding, increasing the production rate of commercial poultry farms to meet the increasing demand in the country. Now, the pandemic is negatively impacting the sector and poultry production and consumption rates are declining greatly. The shortage of day old chicks that sustain the production cycle and the escalating price of chicken products is a clear indication that we are approaching the days where scarcity of chicken products is unavoidable. As chicken has a huge role in producers economy and income and household nutrition and food security, it is imperative for all actors to support continuity of activities of the sector to meet the growing demand.

Major challenges highlighted included (i) reduced access to inputs; (ii) reduced access to market; (iii) impact on employment; (iv) lack of storage facilities and wastage of products; and (v) increasing feed price and unregulated market.

Recommendations focused on

  1. Organize grouped slaughtering points and support the installation of a cold chain;
  2. Support a well-functioning market linkage;
  3. Mitigate short-term COVID-19 impacts via dedicated financial facilities;
  4. Improve access to foreign currency to expedite import of essential inputs; and
  5. Promote consumption through national campaigns, ensuring emergency measures do not affect the supply chain and addressing logistics issues
No Production Production rate after COVID-19 Total Loss in ETB Remarks
1 Feed Reduced by 92% 135,281,789
2 Day old chicks Reduced by 68% 74,120,800 3,500 parent stocks have been lost due to slaughtering
3 Pullets No production 3,531,699
4 Broilers Reduced by 87% 13,551,500 3,000kg has been disposed due to spoilage and 50,000 birds have died due to prolonged stay in production
Employee status before and after COVID-19 
Employees before the pandemic  Employees laid off after the pandemic
Permanent emplyees – 1728 (Male  1072, Female 656) Permanent emplyees – 31 (Male 20, Female 11)
Temporory employees – 214  (Male  14, Female 73) Temporory employees – 19 (Male 9, Female 10)

BENEFIT-SBN published its first COVID-19 Sesame Alert

BENEFIT-SBN published its first Sesame Alert that highlights COVID-19 related challenges and urgent actions needed in the Ethiopian sesame sector. It was developed to better understanding how the virus and measures taken to cope with it are affecting the sesame sector and support the development of urgent coping strategies that enhance resilience and support continuity of activities of the sector. The brief outlines the major alters, their impacts, actions required, stakeholders involved, and a responsible body to take the initiatives.

The first quick scan started in mid-May. Based on sector transformation tool from aidenviromnet, a questionnaire (max 15 min) covering issues throughout the sesame value chain, including production, inputs, credit, market, labour, finance, extension, communication, collaboration was developed and shared on line with 75 respondents. The results of the questionnaires were then presented for Focus Group Discussion (FGDs), where local panel of 24 experts representing the government, research, the private identified coping strategies and responsible stakeholders to take action.

The sesame alter brief (#01 May 202 Sesame Alert) is being shared with relevant stakeholders of the sesame sector in three languages- English, Amharic and Tigrigna, via WCDI, BENEFIT and SBN websites and social media outlets. In addition there is a plan to share the information via regional media. In the coming weeks and months, BENEFIT-SBN will work with the stakeholders to initiate, drive and support actions to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 related challenges.

The initiative is part of WUR effort working with strategic partners in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda to generate a set of targeted alerts to combat the spread of the virus and minimize its negative impact on food security. Reiteration of the quick scan will be done at least monthly for the full duration of the crisis.

Read more on #01 Ethiopia Sesame Alert – May 2020 

  • Alert 1: Reduced area of sesame cultivation affects future export revenues
  • Alert 2: Availability of labour and welfare of labourers are of major Concern
  • Alert 3: Mobility restrictions hamper input delivery and extension services
  • Alert 3: Increased production costs result in a more acute need for credit



Smallholder poultry enterprise bringing opportunity to unemployed youth and becoming a source of improved poultry breed

A recent BENEFIT-REALISE Hawassa University Cluster (HwU) pilot is registering impressive results towards addressing youth unemployment and bridging the gap in demand and supply of chicken meat and egg. The pilot study on the potentials of small-scale poultry enterprises to create jobs to unemployed youth and serve as dissemination sources for improved poultry breeds started in the second half of 2019.

The majority of rural households in the southern part of Ethiopia mostly maintain few native chickens, in their homes. Although native chicken breeds are well adapted to the management conditions, their productivity is low, creating a gap in demand and supply of chicken meat and egg and resulted in increased price of these commodities. On the other hand, with few exceptions of some chicken farms around Debrezeit and few other places, large scale commercial poultry production is not widely practiced in Ethiopia. Taking this problem into consideration, REALISE Programme, Hawassa University cluster started to explore the feasibility and potential of small-scale poultry enterprises to create jobs to landless and unemployed youth (scale able youth employment).

The pilot study was implemented in two kebeles namely Kutuambe in Bolosso Bombe woreda, Wolaita zone and Mesena kebele in Kachabira woreda of Kambata Tembaro zone. The two woredas were selected due to (i) prevalence of very high youth unemployment rate (ii) shortage of improved poultry breeds; and (iii) interest and commitment of the woreda and kebele officials

Major activities implemented

  • Active engagement of stakeholders was taken as a key factor for the success of the initiative. Therefore intensive dialogues were made with the relevant woreda and kebele officials and experts before implementation of the activity. To these effects, the cluster approached the woreda stakeholders, reached agreement on operational modalities and roles and responsibilities of the different parties. The discussants included woreda level Administrator, agricultural office head, livestock office head, cooperative office head, job creation office head, women and youth office head and food security desk head. At kebele level discussion was made with the kebele leader and livestock and agricultural extension workers.
  • Two poultry houses, each with a capacity of 1000-1500 chickens, were established at the two sites. At Kutuambe, a new low-cost poultry house was constructed jointly by the project and the woreda. The project provided industrial products such as cement and corrugated iron sheet while the woreda provided locally available materials such as construction timber and labor. The chicken house at Mesena was an old store which was renovated jointly by REALISE HwU cluster and the kebele, on a cost-sharing arrangements. In addition, materials necessary to raise day-old chicken which included brooder boxes, feeders, drinkers, vaccines, feed for two months, etc. were provided for the poultry houses.
  • Selection of young women and men was made jointly by the Job creation office, cooperative office, the kebeles and REALISE HwU cluster, strictly based on a criteria that the youth should be sons or daughters of PSNP members, and don’t have land or other jobs. A total of 20 youth comprised of 13 female and 7 male were selected for both poultry centers, i.e. 10 for each center.
  • The youth groups were then given legal status by the woreda. A chairperson, deputy chair person, secretary and treasurer were nominated among the team members.
  • The youth groups and woreda/kebele stakeholders were given three days intensive training on technical aspects of poultry production, and management of poultry as a business (record keeping, financial management, team work, marketing, etc.)
  • Two thousand day-old chicken were purchased from Debre zeit Research Center (1000 for each site) and transported to the sites. The cost per day-old-chicken was birr 10.00birr). The koekoek breed of chicken was selected since it has dual purpose (egg and meat), and tolerant to disease and local management conditions, and is suitable to the local growing conditions. Another advantage of this breed is that their egg is fertile and can be hatched locally, while other commercial poultry breeds produce infertile eggs that can be used only for food.
  • Proper support and coaching were given to the youth groups by the REALISE team on handling of the chickens, close follow up for the first three days, followed by weekly visits.


  • In the first round of production, the chickens were sold within the respective woredas at the age of 45-60 days in the center. At Bolosso Bombe 980 chickens were sold and gross revenue of Birr 98,000.00 was collected by the youth group (association). Out of this. Birr 20,000.00 was paid to the youth members; 2000.00 each, for the two months engagement on the activity (Birr 1000.00/month, which is going to be increased as the capital grows), feed and vaccine was bought for the second round, and Birr 54,000.00 was deposited in the youth association’s bank account. At Kachabira, the youth group generated gross revenue of Birr 92,000.00 from sale of 1000 chickens. Out of these the youth group members received Birr 2000.00 each, and additional expenses (feed, vaccine, etc.) incurred for the second round of production and Birr 36,000.00 was deposited in their bank account. Wihich means, in the first round of production, a total of Birr 90,000.00 was saved by the two youth associations, indicating very good prospects of these enterprises. However, effective linkage should be established with input suppliers and market outputs to sustain profitability of the enterprises.
  • Chicken mortality was very low (about 1%), and the high survival rate was attributed to; a) maintenance of warm temperature for the first two weeks by using brooder boxes and straws; b) proper administration of vaccine at the recommended intervals; c) use of recommended feed types depending on their growth stage (starter feed until three weeks and normal feed after that); d) maintenance of sanitation of the poultry house and the equipments; and e) genetic capacity of the Koekoek breed to tolerate disease.

Lessons learnt

  • Organizing and engaging youth in small-scale poultry production is profitable and can create employment opportunity for rural unemployed youth;
  • Youth poultry enterprises can serve as sources to disseminate improved poultry breeds to rural communities;
  • Selecting poultry breeds that fit with the climatic and management environments of the rural settings is critical for the success and profitability of poultry enterprises;
  • Although day-old chicken are highly sensitive to cold temperature and commonly raised in areas where there is electricity, it is possible to raise them in areas where there is no electricity by using facilities (such as booder boxes) that can maintain suitable temperature; and
  • Engagement and active participation of relevant woreda and kebele stakeholders is very important for the success of youth-based rural poultry enterprise. 


    By Tesfaye Abebe, PhD, BENEFIT-REALISE Programme – Hawassa University cluster manager

  • REALISE HwU chicken house in Kutuambe



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.

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