Capitalizing on agricultural production and productivity in such a critical time Ethiopia is passing through invigorates the nation’s aspiration to ensure food self-sufficiency. To this end, diversifying agricultural extension is among the best solutions. Low land wheat production through irrigation is a good experience in this regard.
Similarly, cluster maize production has shown promising result. Report indicates that, the Agricultural Commercialization Cluster (ACC) introduced in November 2019 cluster maize production by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). It has led to increase maize productivity by 50 percent.
The ACC, a project that aspires to gather farmers with pieces of land to farm together employing every means available to enhance their productivity, aims at transforming these clusters into commercial farms owned by the farmers themselves.
According to the ATA sources, through the agricultural commercialization cluster farmers organized in the Farmer Production Cluster Project where 30-200 farmers group together on adjacent land to farm as one. Here farmers are required to adopt the latest full-package farm recommendation, including use of improved seeds, fertilizer application and other farming best practices. Through time, it is expected that farmers will gradually become commercial companies.
The clustering practice and commer cialization were integral parts of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda based on the two five-year growth and transformation plans the country implemented up to 2020.
Techane Adugna is the Director of Agricultural commercial cluster in the Agricultural Transformation Agency. As to him, the ACC was launched to coordinate efforts of diversified actors in the nation-wide agriculture practice to commercialize and benefit small scale producers through the market based value chain and agro-ecological based system.
Side by side with promoting the cause of agriculture productivity, priority was rendered to how farmers could enhance their productivity in the small plots of land, how mechanized farming scaled- up, create access to finance to them and how producers and purchasers benefit from the market.
As to Techane, his institution endeavors to improve not only agricultural productivity but also farmer’s lively hood through commercializing cluster.
The agriculture commercialization cluster drew lesson and experience from other countries which applied the program and boost their productivity through modern market system by utilizing the resource in efficient manner and achieved transformation.
In the five years plan stretched between 2019/2020 and 2023/24, the ACC will be implemented in 300 woredas which are grouped in to 31 crop clusters in four major regions such as Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray focusing on ten vital five grains; wheat, maize, malt-barely sesame and teff in addition of five crops in horticulture such as avocado, banana, mango, onion and tomato.
Techane said that 76,000 clusters of all commodities have been established at national level and about 30,000 of them are maize production clusters in the Amhara, Oromia and SNNPR regions. Out of these, 24,000 are in the Oromia region, 3,300 in Amhara region and 2,500 in the SNNPR.
Through utilizing clustering, maize productivity had been enhanced from 40 quintals a hectare to 60 quintals a hectare. Farmers with in the cluster were provided trainings on maize production package while agriculture bureaus and the agency monitored and supported them.
As to the agency, the Amhara Regional State has targeted to harvest 15.8 million quintals of maize in early December of 2021. The maize farming covers 253,380 hectares of land in 57 woredas, 541 kebeles and 3,332 clusters organized by 57,099 farmers. Not only have these, clusters embraced 71,725 female farmers under the ACC packages.
These farmers are also engaged in contract farming to be able to get the finance for the conduct of farming before they supply their products to the market. Therefore, their products are sold before they are harvested. These contracts are made both before and during the harvesting of the product.
Earlier, before the implementation of clustering ATA had been testing the approach and how it can be implemented on farmlands in the country. Currently 1.3 million farmers were said to have been organized in 3,000 clusters across Ethiopia.
During the opening ceremony of the implementation of ACC, it was explained that each cluster plants improved seeds at the same time, using the same agro-ecology specific fertilizers, benefiting from the same technical support and harvesting their crops with the same machinery. The Agricultural Commercializing Cluster is in large part funded by European Union and its member states with major role played by Denmark with 47 million Euros, the Netherlands with 42.5 million Euros and the European Union with 10 million Euros. The ACC implemented in four regions, targeting doubling the income of nearly 5 million small holder farmers in five years.
According to the government sources, in Ethiopia maize is grown in 8 million hectares of land and 11 million people livelihood depends on maize cultivation. But for long, farmers used to plow their farm in the small plots of land through utilizing traditional farming techniques, small amount of inputs such as herb and pesticides. As a result, their output remains very small which left farmers to live in hand to mouse.
Farmers engaged in maize production similar to other farmers are facing other challenges induced by climate change and global warming.
In time of drought, their yield is critically affected and to some extent they might lose their total production. Similarly in time of heavy rain fall, their products might be taken away by flood and left them to survive by foreign handouts. Hence, utilizing technology such as clustering can be taken as a way out to raise productivity. When farmers plow, saw, maintain their seedling and harvest their crops in a cooperative way, they can invest their energy, time, knowledge, skill, experience and money, and can obtain tremendous out come so that, they could enhance their income and alleviate poverty.
It is understood that, Ethiopia has diversified agro-ecological areas suitable to grow various crops. In addition, it has vast arable land, surface and ground water but due to the absence of modern technology and finance, the virgin resource of the nation is under tapped. The nation is still categorized as food insecure country and being the second populous country in Africa such situation is embarrassing. Hence, reversing the situation to the better must be the home work of the present generation.
Currently, though Ethiopia faces war posed by the terrorist TPLF and its backer western nations, it has good opportunity to win the war and achieve progress in the economic front.
Ethiopia has got a young energetic leader which had ever experienced in its recent past. The current government is more legitimate as compared to the previous regimes which won a landslide victory in the recent election. The public also showed its support by standing together to fight the existential war and many youths are recruited and went to the war front.
As to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ethiopians side by side with fighting the war, they need to boost the economy to win the war and to achieve progress. One of the sectors that must be strengthened is agriculture. Currently, farmers are engaged in harvesting their crops and according to the Ministry of Agriculture this year’s crop yield is expected to surpass the previous year. But it should be noticed that cultivating crops in the dry season through irrigation also will continue.
BY ABEBE WOLDEGIORGIS
THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD NOVEMBER 24/2021