Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

Lessons learned from a decade of ISSD in Ethiopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned 

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

Contractual agreement boosts early generation seed supply in Amhara region: Lessons Learned from BENEFIT-ISSD Amhara Unit

One of the biggest challenges in raising the performance of the seed sector in Ethiopia is the current short supply of quality Early Generation Seed (EGS) of preferred varieties. EGS includes three different classes of seed, namely breeder, pre-basic and basic, that are used as the starting material from which certified seed is produced. Hence, by a different nomenclature, EGS is referred to as foundation seed.

Up until very recently, research centres were responsible to produce all four classes of seed, including certified seed in selected cases, with minimal interest from commercial enterprises. Both public and private certified seed producers, with the exception of Corteva Agriscience (which recently acquired Pioneer Hi-Bred), have historically limited their focus to certified seed only. Confounding the problem was the fact that researchers were expected to develop and release new varieties; maintain already released varieties; and research, develop and popularize other technologies that lead to crop improvement.

Due to this division of labour, weak integration, lack of coordination, unclear responsibility, minimal information on EGS quantity and variety demand, and coordinated planning, supply of EGS has been inadequate. Often, a mismatch between the supply of EGS by researchers and the demands of farmers was observed, and either too much or too little EGS of a given variety was supplied at great cost or missed opportunity. At times, request for basic seed would take up to two years to get sufficient quantities and seed producers struggle in responding to the needs of farmers.

Since 2017, BENEFIT ISSD Amhara Unit has been facilitating dialogues among different parties, to improve the linkage and coordination between researchers, early generation seed producers and farmers for sufficient and efficient supply of quality EGS. The effort resulted in an agreement to extend the responsibilities of certified seed producers to incorporate basic seed production, and focus the orientation of researchers on breeder and pre-basic seed multiplication exclusively.

The signing of a contractual agreement between certified seed producers and buyers (regulatory authority, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), public seed enterprises, private seed producers, research institutions, unions); singed in the presence of Amhara Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) resulted in

  1. A seed unit with dedicated team of researchers, established within the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) responsible for forecasting EGS demand and translating it into production plans for centres under its management.
  2. Forecasts started to be conducted by expert groups uniting researchers, early generation seed producers including Amhara Seed Enterprise (ASE) and selected private seed producers and seed unions.
  3. Specific agreements were reached on who produces what for whom, by in large shifting the orientation of researchers towards breeder and pre-basic seed exclusively and certified seed producers towards basic seed production. Bilaterally, contracts were signed between both parties defining the specific terms of EGS procurement, including quantity, date of delivery and payment.

Lessons learned

  1. ISSD Ethiopia Amhara Unit effort in facilitating the discussions on contractual agreements led to (re) organized forecasting, joint planning and procurement, and inclusion of relevant actors to improve reliability of forecasts and generate consensus and trust.
  2. Contractual agreements monitored and mediated by BoA gave clarity, created a legal ground that can be enforced by both parties. In all cases, the BoA serves as a witness to and mediator of contractual agreements between seed producers and buyer. Overall, the system reduced the burden of BoA in managing EGS supply in the region.
  3. The seed unit within ARARI created capacity for managing the process, while the involvement of both the regional seed core group and Bureau of Agriculture (BoA) enhance accountability.
  4. To ensure success, it is relevant to give special attention to enforcing contracts, as deviations from and defaults on agreements were common. And it should be noted that actors are usually reluctant to commit to contractual agreements without external facilitation and pressure.
  5. There is still the issue of land shortage that is limiting EGS production and need attention.

 

 

BENEFIT-REALISE Lessons learned: ‘One Timad (0.25ha) package for PSNP households’, a way for food self-sufficiency and resilience building

BENEFIT-REALISE baseline study in the PSNP woredas indicated that productivity of wheat is about 1.6 tons/ha which is a fourth of the potential yield of improved wheat technologies released by the research system. And one of the challenges faced by PSNP households is the costly and unaffordable standardized extension package for wheat designed for 0.5 ha of land. In response the programme developed a wheat extension package for one timad (0.25 hectare) at a cost of 1000 birr (30 USD).

The one timad package was designed with three objectives in mind: (i) to downscale the package size of seed and fertilizer that match the need and capacity of PSNP households; (ii) to provide PSNP farmers access to improved practices through an interest free credit arrangement; and (iii) to minimize risk for farmers in taking up new technologies by introducing proven technologies at the right (small) scale, with adequate hands-on training and follow-up. The pilot also aims the show the need to customize extension packages that meets the need of PSNP farmers with small landholdings.

A total of 60 PSNP client households were selected from Tach Gayint and Enebise Sarmidir woredas to use improved wheat varieties, namely Tay and Qaqaba, with the recommended seed and fertilizer rate and improved agronomic practices on their 0.25ha of land. Small packages (13.5-15 kg) of NPSB fertilizer NPSB and small (12.5) packages of UREA were prepared according to the recommendations, and distributed on credit with cash repayment arrangements.

Yield gain and return on investment

Compared to the baseline and the kebele average productivity of 1.65 t/ha, the pilot in Tach Gayint woreda resulted in a yield of 3.5 t/ha, which is 118.75% increase in productivity of wheat when using compost together with the 1000-birr wheat technology package. It resulted in a yield of 2.53 t/ha, a 58.31% increase, using the 1000-birr package only (without compost). In Enebise Sarmidir woreda, the 1000-birr wheat technology package has resulted in 2.89 t/ha yield, 81.25% yield increase. The small 1000-birr package applied together with compost had the highest return on investment.

Return on investment

In Tach Gayint woreda farmers invested ETB 1662.78 and ETB 1750.66 in Enebise Sarmidir woreda for seed and fertilizer respectively to cover 0.25ha of land. For fertilizer application and planting in a row they used additional labour of two man-day and those who applied compost used an additional two man-day for transporting. The highest Net Return (NR) was obtained with a small package applied with compost followed by the package applied without compost.

Lessons learned

  1.  The small 1000 birr package of improved wheat technology proved to benefit PSNP farmers and similar interventions may result in higher return. The pilot was successful in encouraging farmers to use the recommended seed and fertilizer since it is less costly and the in-kind credit arrangement and suitable repayment period made it possible. The combined push of technology with the necessary hands-on training and follow up enhanced the confidence of the PSNP farmers. In addition, the yield increase on their 0.25ha assured calorie self-sufficiency.
  2. Initially the one timad package was designed for 1000 Birr investment considering that the inorganic fertilizer in the package would be supplemented by application of farm compost. But because of the late approval of the pilot, only 5 farmers in Tach Gayient prepared the farm compost. Hence, the farmers mostly applied inorganic fertilizers.
  3. Initially, there was low interest of stakeholders and participants which delayed process of obtaining legal approval for the down-scaled packaging of fertilizer and seed required.

 

 

 

Weather forecast for improved sesame farm management and yield loss reduction: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

Farmers in sesame production zone in Northwest Ethiopia have to deal with (increasingly) unpredictable weather conditions. And lack of weather forecast has been one of the major reasons for severe yield and post-harvest losses. Now, thanks to a pilot project, jointly run by National Metrological Agency (NMA), CommonSense and BENEFIT-SBN, they are able to reduce their risk of crop failure from heavy rainfalls or recurring dry spells by using accurate weather information via Short Message Service (SMS).

During the 2017 and 2018 cropping seasons, location-specific weather forecasting service was provided through weekly SMS messages informed more than 3,000 farmers and agriculture professionals about expected weather conditions. The farmers living area and production zones GPS coordinates were taken and the SMS was sent to registered farmers and professionals from 8338 number. It contained the next three days expectations in rainfall, temperature and wind, and was sent in local languages. ‘Training of trainers’ (ToT) training was organized to woreda and kebele agricultural experts and teachers (to incorporate in their daily lesson plan) on the meaning and interpretation of the forecast.

With the help of this weather information, sesame farmers and agricultural professionals were able to better plan their farm activities, to mitigate risks and increase resilience. They are making better decision regarding land preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting and related labour needs, and decide on post-harvest management activities to reduce yield losses. At the same time, weather forecasts were improved and fine-tuned, based on accuracy checking of forecasts and feedback from farmers.

Assessment conducted on delivery, understandability, accuracy and usefulness of the weather forecast SMS service pilot showed that such services can help develop sustainable and economically viable sesame value chain, improve sesame and rotation crops production and quality and reduce losses and risks. Field survey results confirmed that the weather forecast SMS service has significant effect on the performance of farmers’ farm activities, especially to avert risks related to weather conditions.

In addition to supporting farmers decision-making using weather information and agro-meteorology forecasts, the pilot institutional objectives were to evaluate the accuracy of the ECMWF model, to cross-fertilize the NMA and ECMWF models and to improve NMA services, both in terms of forecast reliability and reach to farmers. The weather forecasting service provided is based on the European Centre for Medium range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) model.

Key lessons learned and practical / institutional recommendations

1. It is important to deliver practical training and provide close follow-up to cascading training to agricultural professionals and farmers to ensure that the weather information in the SMS message is clearly understood. Even though the number has improved over the years, the assessment showed 13% of the sample farmers did not fully understand the text message properly.

2. Weather forecasts have to be in the local language. The date and period of the forecast, as well as the location for which it applies have to be clearly indicated.

3. To reach illiterate farmers (40% in the sesame zone), involvement of family members enrolled in education is important. Collaboration with schools and teachers providing and explaining weather information during lessons could improve the reach and understanding of weather forecast services.

4. Weather forecasting should start at the end of the dry season and continue until all crops are harvested and bagged, so that farmers benefit from weather information for all farming operations.

5. If possible, inclusion of seasonal forecasts can contribute to a better long term agricultural plan.

6. The provision of weather information has to be accompanied by the training on how to use it for farm management decisions. Weather forecast messages could be followed by messages indicating options for adapted farm management. This would require collaboration of the meteorological agency with agricultural research and extension. A call service that farmers could use for extra explanations would make the activity even more relevant. For example, using weather forecasts to protect cereals from rainfall damage by using plastic sheets for sesame stacking and drying. And for cereals, putting wood on top of sorghum and millet piles to protect them from the wind.

7. The only way for achieving sustainable results is through collaboration with institutions mandated for weather forecasting services, and ensuring continuous financing of weather forecast systems. Much attention has to be given to the testing of models with continuous feedback from the end users, and to modalities to reach out to (different categories) of farmers. Although a pilot may be largely based on project funding, modalities for sustainable funding are of fundamental importance. In the sesame zone, farmers, who have experienced the service, are ready to pay for the weather information. In the case of commercial commodities, like sesame, a levy system could also be an option. In addition, although the NMA was involved in the pilot and institutional objectives were clearly formulated, NMA recently decided that weather forecasts in Ethiopia should be based on the NMA model, even though the ECMWF model proved to be able to deliver precise, location-specific forecasts. This created an impasse, causing the interruption of services to farmers in the current season (2019).

Testimony

SBN weather forecast picMr. Gurshaw Yilma, a 33 year old sesame farmer who lives in Tegede woreda, North Gondar zone, Amhara region, has been using weather forecast text messages to plan his farm activities. Rainfall forecasts are most important to him. He said “The SMS message I received alerted me to do harvesting and threshing earlier as rain was expected. I usually have two permanent laborers who normally perform the threshing activity. This year, after I received the SMS that indicated a high chance of rain earlier than usual, I decided to hire six additional labours to finish the harvesting, stalked and threshing before the rain. I was able to reduce the risk of post-harvest losses (seed falling from the capsule) that could have happened because of unexpected heavy rain.”

In addition to this, following SMS message indicating very high chance of rain, Mr. Gurshaw covered his pile his harvested millet with a plastic sheets to prevent damage and his harvested forage that was left in the field to dry, to protect his animals from fungal disease.

Mechanization, a key input to transform the sesame sub-sector: Lessons learned from BENEFIT-SBN

Sesame production in North West Ethiopia mostly depends on human labour. Recently, due to shortage and high costs of labour, you observed a high level of farmers’ interest in mechanization. Mechanisation is proven to increase overall productivity and reduce cost of production representing a value of millions of dollars. It contributes to improved timeliness and quality of field activities that can improve soil, water, pest and weed management.

Even though the sesame zone is very suitable for mechanization, adoption of tested mechanization options is limited due to several reasons:

  1. limited knowledge on how mechanization contributes to productivity improvement;
  2. skill limitations in operating and maintaining machineries;
  3. lack of loan facilities for different farmer groups and absence of lease financing mechanism;
  4. under-developed machinery supply chain, with limitations of after sales services and spare parts; and
  5. under-used potential of machinery rental services.

Lessons learned 

  1. Even though tailored mechanisation recommendations for different farm categories are available, getting access to appropriate tractors is a key challenge. Several machines for small, medium and commercial farms were tested for efficient sesame seed sowing, weeding and harvesting. However, adaptations and further testing are required. In line with this, it is relevant to support innovation centers for continuous technology development, testing, selection and promotion of machineries and implements like ploughs, planters, cultivators, harvesters and ripper binders that are durable, efficient, easy to operate and maintain.
  2. While there has been a lot of effort and interest in machinery testing (the hardware), less attention was given to the financing of mechanization and business model development (the software). Recently, the Government of Ethiopia started to allow tax-free purchase of machineries for farmers, cooperatives and unions, which removes an important financial barrier for mechanizing the sector. In addition we need to encourage and implement lease financing for sesame farmers and cooperatives, with active role and dedicated sesame sector mechanization lease financing budgets from Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) and other financing companies (Walya and Kaza). In the short-term we need to support advanced cooperatives eligible for lease financing to exploit the tax exemption privilege and acquire a mechanisation package (tractor, row planter and trailer).
  3. Furthermore, mechanization efforts do not give sufficient attention to the preparation of skilled labour to professionally operate and maintain tractors and equipment. The same holds true for repair and replacement facilities, especially in the remote rural areas. Due to poor performance of locally made animal drawn planters, mechanized row planting for smallholders remains a challenge (and an opportunity for manufacturers). Mechanisation can also contribute to professional job creation (labourers, machinery operators, workshops providing maintenance service, rental service providers, …).
  4. It is relevant to create conducive working environments for qualified and equipped private enterprises, cooperatives and organized youth groups to engage in providing agricultural machinery rental service to farmers. This can be done through developing viable business models and provision of training on efficient service provision, business and client management.
  5. Periodically revise economic policies, looking at loan products and interest rates, as well as legal and regulatory frameworks.

Click here to look at examples of sesame mechanization options tested

 

 

 

Lessons learned in institutionalization of CASCAPE’s validated best fit practices in the national extension system

BENEFIT-CASCAPE has been engaged in participatory action research activities that involve testing, validation, scaling and capacity development to generate innovations and agricultural best practices for uptake among smallholder farmers. During 2016-2019 implementation period, the project generated 26 best-fit practices that have been scaled out to 65 woredas reaching 863,495 farmers, covering 215,874 ha of land. The 26 best-fit practice manuals for production of major crops were submitted to the Extension Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) of which seven are already included in the national best practices extension package.

Using best fit practices composed of improved varieties (high yielding, disease resistant, early maturing) and management practices (soil-crop specific fertilizer recommendation, row planting, disease and pest management), the programme succeeded in doubling the yields of cereals (wheat, maize, teff, barley and sorghum) and vegetables (potato, onion) and pulses (faba bean, soybean). The yield advantage of CASCAPE Pre Extension Demonstration over local practices and national averages ranges from 40.80 to 97.39% and 31.98 to 120%, respectively.

This indicates that overall, all CASCAPE-validated best-fit practices significant yield advantage contribute towards national and regional food self-sufficiency in Ethiopia. For example, wheat is grown by 4.64 million smallholder farmers on a total area of 1.7 million ha in Ethiopia with a national average yield of 2.7 t/ha (CSA, 2018). With average yield of 4.9 t/ha in CASCAPE PED fields, annual production would be 8.33 million tons (4.9 x 1.7 million = 8.33) if all wheat farmers adopt CASCAPE best practices. This volume is approximately equal to the current national consumption level, substituting subsidized wheat grain import costing the country over 56 million USD annually. We therefore argue that implementation of ASCAPE validated wheat-best practices holds the promise of bridging the production gap to achieve national wheat self-sufficiency.

Testing/validation activities were implemented in 10 so called “high intensity woredas” and scaled out to 55 other woredas in agro-ecologically similar settings. In order to facilitate the scaling process, best fit manuals that includes information about agronomy practices (variety, land preparation, planting time, fertilizer rate, etc.), crop protection, harvesting and post-harvest handling were prepared following each pilot.

In addition to its validated BFPs in the National Extension System, CASCAPE has been working to institutionalize its programme’s approach that is based on bottom up planning, is demand driven, encourage a high degree of participation of farmers and other stakeholders, and promote local innovation, capacity development and a value chain approach. More importantly, the best-fit practices validated and disseminated by the BENEFIT-CASCAPE programme have helped to achieve significant higher crops yields across different locations and agro-ecological zones.

Lessons learned

  1. Even though the national and regional research institutes have developed a wide range of agricultural technologies (e.g. improved varieties and management practices), they have not reached the farmers where the technologies are most needed to boost agricultural production. Often, lack of farmer participation and contextualization of the research priorities with the needs, priorities and interests of farmers is presented as the major cause of failure for technology transfer to farmers. In response, BENEFIT-CASCAPE adopted a participatory action research approach involving researchers, extension workers and farmers in diagnosis, planning and searching for solutions to address production problems. This is conceptualized in the project as the “innovation path ways”, involving testing-validation-pilot scaling-pre-extension demonstration and scaling support.
  2. CASCAPE’s strategy of technology development and scaling (development pathways) combined with its participatory approach has played a crucial role in generating different best fit practices. The standard protocol developed by CASCAPE project to evaluate the applicability and scalability of the best fit practices worked well.
  3. The involvement of different stakeholders (e.g. extension and research) in the preparation and review of best fit practice manuals was crucial contributing factor to the uptake of the BFPs.
  4. It is also advisable to undertake joint planning and implementation with relevant stakeholders across the value chain in order to identify demand driven best fit practices.
  5. Institutionalization is a slow and long process that requires time and commitment of all relevant stakeholders at different levels. Timely hand over of best fit practice manuals requires creating a strong linkage with the extension system from the beginning. Thus far only seven best fit practices are incorporated into the national best practice extension package. Delay in delivering the best fit practices manuals to the MoA should be considered.

 

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