According to the International Fertilizer Development Center, agriculture accounts for forty-five percent of Ethiopia’s GDP and eighty-five percent of employment.
Furthermore, Ethiopia has roughly fourteen million hectares of arable land and is the headwater for the Blue Nile. With all of these resources one would imagine that Ethiopia would be easily food secure. Unfortunately, underdevelopment and an uneven concentration of easily accessible potable water has left Ethiopia in a jam. Having been unable to feed itself, Ethiopia has had to rely on food aid in recent years. However, the Government of Ethiopia began to take it upon itself to solve its own food security needs and seems to be on the right track with some great allies.
In order to support the Government of Ethiopia’s strategy for developing agriculture, which is outlined in its Agriculture Growth Plan, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and DuPont recently announced collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia to support farmer productivity by delivering hybrid maize seed, improving seed distribution, and building post-harvest storage. The Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP) is expected to impact over 32,000 Ethiopian farmers, helping them to increase productivity by fifty percent and reduce post-harvest losses by twenty percent.
Organizations such as USAID and DuPont are stepping up to the plate and working together to support farmers in Ethiopia. According to a USAID press release, the collaborative agreement with the Government of Ethiopia will “boost maize harvests through increased use of DuPont Pioneer maize seed, improved seed distribution, and post-harvest storage”.
As outlined in its letter of intent to support the G-8 New Alliance initiative and Grow Africa,
DuPont plans to invest over three million dollars during the next five years in Ethiopia. This partnership was built off of an existing commitment between DuPont and Ethiopia in 2012.
DuPont is using one of its subsidiaries, DuPont Pioneer, the leading US producer of hybrid seeds to implement the program along with USAID and the government of Ethiopia.
Lystra Antoine, Director of Agriculture at DuPont Pioneer talked with AAM staff and discussed DuPont’s involvement in Ethiopia’s agribusiness sector. “Within three years DuPont plans to reach 32,000 farmers through the AMSAP program, ” said Antoine. “The program will support the entire maize value chain, providing inputs, agronomic expertise, create a dealer network, build storage and marketing channels, and support the existing government infrastructure for the maize industry in 16 woredas.” Using the model farmer approach, the collaborators expect that the program will be scalable and replicable across Ethiopia.
DuPont Pioneer has been selling seed in Ethiopia for over 20 years, and its hybrids perform well as many local farmers will testify. Most of this new effort is focused on empowering local farmers to meet their country’s food needs. Pioneer’s efforts are multifaceted and work in conjunction with USAID and Ethiopia’s government.
“The fact that the Government of Ethiopia has its own Agriculture Growth Plan allowed us to design the AMSAP in support of their strategic priorities for the maize sector,” said Antoine.
This collaboration advances agricultural development and food security goals set by the Government of Ethiopia and supported by USAID through the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, which is part of the U.S. contribution to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
The AMSAP program will train in local languages and will demonstrate to farmers what they need to do to improve yields. There are community cooperatives and farmer training centers currently and Pioneer is working with them as well. By working on improving market linkages, farmers will be able to more easily get their crops to market.
Storage is very important to improve because as much as fifty percent of harvest can be lost. Currently farmers have very little capacity to store the seed for any length of time. Insects and diseases can attack the seeds themselves. The program expects to decrease post harvest losses by twenty percent.
The program plans to build individual and cooperative storage facilities where farmers can amass their produce. Using storage could also drastically increase the livelihoods of small holder farmers if they were to strategically sell their produce when prices are higher.
Some farmers are initially concerned about hybrid seeds. “Once farmers experience the increased yields from improved seeds, they usually choose to continue planting hybrids.”
Pioneer will provide sample seed to farmers and set up demonstration plots where hybrid and open pollinated varieties are planted side by side.
The AMSAP program’s training of extension services and seed distributors does not limit the seeds available to Ethiopian farmers. Antoine states that, “Under this program dealers can sell Pioneer as well as any other seeds. This way farmers maintain their ability to choose the seed that they wish to plant”.
Long Term Goals:
Pioneer hopes to be able to expand its current initiatives in conjunction with USAID and Ethiopia’s Government.
“We want to be modest in what we place as targets, but we certainly know that there are huge benefits to be had from just having the right storage facilities and allowing the farmers to understand their strengths in negotiating when to sell.” Antoine explained. Pioneer also plans to train farmers to become dealers for cooperatives to sell produce at the correct times. “Farmer Dealers” by the end of three years should become a much wider distribution network.
The Benefits of Hybrid Seeds:
Erratic draughts and floods are a problem that advanced certain seeds can help with shorter maturity times so more can be harvested faster. It can even be possible to have multiple harvests in a season with the correct conditions. They are also more resilient and can withstand more detrimental weather. Furthermore, the yields from these advanced hybrid seeds typically increase fivefold.
Pioneer is not currently using mobile phone technology for training in Ethiopia but fully support the use of technology for training, communication agronomic advice, and market information. Lystra states that this technology “could be a vehicle for technical assistance well worth pursuing” and Pioneer is definitely looking into using mobile phone technology to bring technical assistance to farmers.