Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned: Enhancing the Ethiopian spices export, BENEFIT-ENTAG

The Ethiopian spices sub-sector has been characterized by use of poor yielding varieties, traditional production technologies and agronomic practices, with a lengthy value chain, adulteration, improper post-harvest handling, and high market volatility. Subsequently the export of Ethiopian spices never passed USD$2.6 million in value.

To enhance the Ethiopian export trade and private sector development the BENEFIT-ENTAG programme has been working on addressing market constraints of the spice sectors through creating better market linkages, technical and financial support to innovations, capacity building activities, and platform meetings.

In 2019, BENEFIT-ENTAG helped 14 private companies and two unions, introducing modern spices production technologies and out-grower scheme business models. The programme’s effort in strengthening market linkages focused on working with buyers based in United Arab Emirates and India resulting in more than one million USD export of Ethiopian spices. ENTAG facilitated a contract volume of 1617MT of Turmeric, Rosemary and Ajwain seed worth $1.075 million among three Ethiopian exporters and three foreign buyers based in India and United Arab Emirates. A business network has been established among 14 Ethiopian private companies, two unions, international spice and herbs buyers and technology suppliers.

Lessons Learned

  1. Inclusive trade support with technical capacity building training on production and marketing, trade missions, both forward and backward integration, and active involvement of private and government actors across the whole value chain were key success factors.
  2. The increasing credibility of BENEFIT-ENTAG and its effort to work in parallel with key stakeholders at regional and federal levels, such as Ethiopian Coffee, Tea and Spices Agency, Ethiopian exporters, commercial investors, traders, development agents, model farmers, cooperative and union leaders, was fundamental to create familiarity and build trust resulting in efficient and effective communication and follow-ups.
  3. Major challenges encountered included limited technical support in export contract facilitation and backward integration, need for export procedure and technical manuals to minimize contract defaults, and the need to work on disease outbreak and adulteration practice (ginger disease) that corrupts the quality of products caused reduction of export volume.

 

Provision of low interest and collateral-free credit strengthening Seed Producer Cooperatives’ financial system: Lessons learned from ISSD Ethiopia

Despite its rising number of members and increasing seed production, Koticha Kuyu Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) faced significant challenges that were affecting its sustainable development – especially in raising the necessary working capital needed to expand their business and benefit its members. Most members were not capable or willing to increase their contribution in the business and financial institutions are not prepared to offer affordable financial credit.

In response to this challenge, ISSD Ethiopia and the Regional Cooperative Promotion Agency (RCPA) of Oromia analyzed the situation of Koticha Kuyu SPC and facilitated the establishment of a Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo). The aim was to mitigate members’ personal financial constraints through the provision of low interest and collateral-free loans to secure the timely procurement of seed through the provision of input vouchers. The effort resulted in the establishment of Gamachu RuSACCo in 2015.

Koticha Kuyu SPC is located in Lokloka Abe kebele in West Shewa zone, approximately 70km west of Addis Ababa. The SPC was founded in 2013 with 41 members including four women and initial capital of ETB 19,000. Today, the total number of members has reached 59, 12 of whom are women, and their capital has more than doubled. The area under seed production in 2018 was 92.5 ha, which yielded an estimated 1,843 quintal of quality seed.

Since 2015, Gamachu RuSACCo provided ETB 166,700 (~ € 4,765) loan to 93 individual with an interest rate of 5% or less. In 2018, the scheme took off, where 46 SPC members borrowed ETB 131,900 for very low interest rate of 1%. The SPC current savings has reached ETB 230,000. Gamachu RuSACCo has enacted two forms of saving in its cooperative bylaw. The first is a mandatory saving of each member, which was increased from ETB 50 to ETB 100 per month, and the second allows for voluntary monthly savings of whatever is affordable for members. Today, over a fifth of the cooperative’s members contribute ETB 200, more than the mandatory amount of ETB 100 per month.

Lessons Learned

  1. Efficient Rural Saving and Credit Cooperative (RuSACCo) significantly reduce SPC’s financial constraints contributing to their sustainable development. The Koticha Kuyu SPC currently has more than 200,000ETB to run its business efficiently.
  2. Time and continuous support is needed to build trust and show evidence on the benefit of RUSACCos to members. In the case of Koticha Kuyu SPC, it took three years to generate the proof of concept needed to convince members to save. While enacting bylaw that stipulates mandatory savings of members was important, voluntary savings from the members’ belief in the value of the scheme are even more powerful. For example, Ato Mulugeta Bekele, member of Gamachu RuSACCo, not only met the mandatory required savings for 2018/19 but made a voluntary contribution of ETB 5340 to his personal savings account. In addition, over time, due to the increasing drop in interest rate (as low as 1%), there is a significant increase in loan frequency and size.
  3. A well-coordinated effort (Koticha Kuyu SPC, Oromia RCPA and ISSD Ethiopia) is relevant to build capacity and provide necessary support through regular monitoring to create an efficient and effective delivery of saving and credit services.

Lessons learned: BENEFIT-SBN promotion of rotation crops in the sesame dominated production and market systems

Background

In the lowlands of north-west Ethiopia, farmers mainly depend on sesame and sorghum, respectively for cash and food. Together these two crops account for more than 90% of the cultivated land. Among others, this situation bears different risks:

  • (i) mono-cropping leading to soil depletion and increased pest and disease infestation;
  • (ii) farmers’ dependency on single cash crop that has a volatile market; and
  • (iii) a monotonous diet (low diet diversity score) of resident population and seasonal labourers.

In response to this, BENEFIT-SBN (Sesame Business Network) programme started promotion of rotation crops in the lowlands of Northwest Ethiopia, with three main objectives: sustainable agricultural production, farmer income improvement and diversification, food and nutrition security and diversity. Emphasis was put on the improvement of sorghum production and marketing, and introduction of soya and mung bean, as these can importantly contribute to soil fertility management and reduced incidence of pests and diseases.

Lessons Learned

  1. Selecting of the right rotational crops: It is important to give focus on rotation crops that are most important for sustainable farming practices, contribute to diet diversification and have market potential, with due attention given to seed supply, food habits, storage and farmer company relations and, if appropriate for livestock feeding. SBN was successful in introducing crops that are important in the context of climate change, such as short-cycle mung bean that is becoming more important as nutritious food to farmers and daily labourers. In addition, the adoption and expansion of soya bean is very encouraging in Amhara and has the potential for selling to food and oil processing companies. Nevertheless, more attention could have been given to existing alternative cash crops like cotton and sunflower, as a new emerging rotation crop important for production of edible oils. 
  1. Testing and validation: Exploring, testing and demonstrating a broad range of crops and varieties in collaboration with farmers and mandated research institutes and extension services is critical for successful uptake and scaling. Between 2014 and 2018, rotation crops were demonstrated at farmer training centres (FTC’s) and in farmer fields. Farmers have been supported to grow and market sorghum, soya and mung bean. Tens of thousands of farmers observed these plots and were triggered to consider growing them. Feedback of farmers was used to set priorities for scaling out rotation crops. A malt sorghum variety (Deber) was tested on field performance, as well as on its suitability for brewing.
  1. Quantity and quality of seed: One of the challenges faced by SBN related to getting the right quantity and quality seed at the right time. Currently, seed supply depends on research centres and seed producer cooperatives and private investors are not in place for seed multiplication for rotation crops.
  1. Capacity building (training, manuals and other relevant support documents): To ensure sustainability, it is critical to build the capacity of experts and farmers using different mechanisms. In addition to continuous training, the programme produced and distributed three practical field guides explaining recommended agricultural practices to farmers (for sorghum in 2017, for mung and soya bean in 2019). Soya bean and mung bean preparation recipes were developed and shared, mainly with women, during practical training sessions.
  1. Market linkage: The successes achieved in market linkage were achieved through the facilitation role the programme played to connecting companies to sourcing areas, including building a good understanding of delivery contracts. Unions were supported to enter in contract agreement with Diageo for the delivery of malt sorghum to malting factories. Visits were organized for companies to see the production zone and discuss with farmers. Because of the growing interest in mung bean sand soya bean, the legumes were included in the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) marketing system, to facilitate sales. For sorghum, an effort to link producers with buyers started good but was discontinued since farmers defaulted because of price volatility.
  1. Collaboration: The recommended practices for sorghum, mung bean and soya bean were developed and consolidated, in collaboration with GARC, HuARC and BoA and the promotion of rotation crops was part of the collaboration agreements with BoA and ARCs. It is relevant to plan the rotation crop promotion programme in collaboration with several stakeholders, both at the production and market side. This institutional collaboration helped to make the promotion of rotation crops a success.

Read more here.

Transforming lives with improved seed varieties: lessons learned from ISSD Mekelle University

This briefing note summarizes the success and lessons learned in introducing new sorghum varieties through crowdsourcing/participatory varietal selection (CS/PVS) interventions and seed multiplication activities in Tigray. It is based on three-year experience of Integrated Seed Sector Development Programme in Ethiopia (ISSD Ethiopia) Mekelle University (MU).

Introduction

Sorghum is a dominant food crop in Asgede Tsimbla Woreda. Prior to 2017, most farmers depended on local varieties that were handed down from farmer-to-farmer, mainly Merewey and Wedi subush. For years, due to the lack of attention given to strengthening the sorghum seed system and minimal effort into introducing new improved varieties, the farmers used low producing and late maturing varieties. The crop was also ignored by the formal research system especially in the north western lowlands of Asgede Tsimbla wereda.

Interventions implemented

In 2017, to better understand the social seed exchange networks embedded in the social system and resolve the pressing challenge in the sorghum production system, ISSD Mekelle University conducted a baseline study on farmers’ access to seed and role of local traders in seed market. The findings showed, a very intertwined seed exchange networks where farmers solely depended on each other to get information and access to quality seed and lack of access to better performing improved varieties.

Based on the recommendations of the study, ISSD MU used crowdsourcing and PVS approaches to facilitate variety deployment and enable farmers identify, use and access varieties that suit their micro climate or locality. CS/PVS approach is in essence a seed research and extension method that strengthens, promotes, and creates demand for new and improved varieties and ultimately increase adoption rate of quality seed. Gender mainstreaming was central in all planning and implementation stages resulting in 48% women farmers participating in crop and variety selection and deployment.

The activities started with awareness creation and building partnership with relevant key stakeholders to facilitate piloting and scaling up of CS/PVS approaches by Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) and Agricultural Research Centers (ARCs) in the region.

New, improved and popular local varieties of sorghum were deployed to 200 farmers in 2017, 400 farmers in 2018, and 350 farmers in 2019. Farmers evaluated the varieties on their farm plots and used both men and women traits preferences to make their selections. Field days were organized to facilitate varietal evaluations by farmers on PVS sites. The farmers ranked Melkam and Meko varieties the best for their early maturity partially addressing the drought issue in the area; good panicle size with high yield and productivity potential; strong short stalks that are wind resistant; shorter plant height easing labor during harvesting especially for women; quality sweet stock suitable for livestock feed; and good grain color and cooking quality (injera).

Following the increasing demand of the selected sorghum varieties, and convinced by the promising performance of Melkam, the Woreda office of agriculture (WoA) agreed to work in farmer clusters for wider area seed multiplication. ISSD in collaboration with the WoA facilitated access for improved Melkam variety and 125 quintals of seed was distributed to 1,224 (155 female) individual farmers for seed multiplication on a 1042 hectare of land.

Results

Since 2017 as many as 25 sorghum varieties were deployed through CS/PVS interventions in Asgede Tsimbla wereda. They have adopted early maturing Melkam variety that brings high yield, easy to harvest, responsive to women needs, better in color and cooking quality. Farmers now own different varieties that respond to the climatic and agronomic demands of the area.

In addition, you see a significant shift from the traditional methods of accessing and using seeds. Farmers testimonies reveled that growing improved varieties is a new tradition and they have learned improved varieties mean better yield that can improve their livelihoods. They also acknowledged the value of engaging women in variety selection and the need to engage them in the seed system.

Challenges

Some of the challenges encountered during the implementation period included limited number of varieties, lack of awareness on the CS/PVS implementation approaches, use of improper plot design and size, poor data collection and management, limited capacity by enumerators and focal persons.

Conclusion

The programme showcased the impact and reach of using CS/PVS as an extension model to increase adoption of improved varieties. With over 25 local varieties, Asgede Tsimbla is becoming a center of diversity for sorghum. Beyond sorghum, farmers now know the value of using improved crop variety seeds, creating new levels of demand for all crops.

Lessons learned and recommendations

  1. CS/PVS is a cost effective approach that is instrumental to promote and reach large number of farmers with many new and improved varieties in short period of time. The approach should be incorporated and institutionalized by the extension system with close collaboration with ARCs;
  2. With the right blend of extension approach and accessibility to new improved seed varieties, farmers are very willing to take up and adopt new varieties;
  3. CS/PVS varietal deployments enables farmers to experiment, evaluate, and identify the best fit varietal for their micro climate;
  4. Creation of seed demand through CS/PVS approach should be followed by coordinated seed multiplication efforts to encourage wider adoption and create sustainable seed source;
  5. To ensure success, interventions should include activities related to capacity building of farmers, experts and enumerators; ensure women are included at all levels of implementation; deploy as many varieties as possible and create linkage and create linkage with ARCs to alleviate the current seed supply shortage.