The two-year civil war that wracked Ethiopia until last fall claimed tens of thousands of lives and destroyed vast swathes of the natural environment. It also wreaked havoc on food security and agriculture, which accounts for about 80% of employment. A new AFD and EU-backed project aims to help undo the damage. We speak to Dagnachew Lule at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Transformation to find out more.
To restore Ethiopia’s agriculture and put the country back on track to building towards food security, AFD is providing grants of €18 million, and the European Union is delegating to AFD an additional €14 million for the next five years. It’s all part of the FARM project: “Food security and Agriculture Rehabilitation measures in Conflict-Affected Regions of Ethiopia.”
Dr. Dagnachew Lule, Senior Director of the Agricultural Commercialization Cluster Program at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Transformation (ATI), discusses plans to facilitate the recovery of conflict-affected smallholder farmers.
What is the food security situation in conflict-affected areas?
Dr. Dagnachew: Ethiopia has made significant development progress over the past two decades, reducing poverty and increasing investment. However, food insecurity and malnutrition remain a major concern in the country; it is estimated that nearly 20 million people are currently in need of food assistance. This figure includes internally displaced persons (IDPs), who have had to leave their homes due to conflict in the northern and western regions of the country and severe drought in the south and southeast. Some 12 million people have been affected by the conflict in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions.
For the past two years, agricultural production has come to a halt in much of the northern regions. Most crops have not been harvested, agricultural infrastructure has been destroyed, agricultural inputs (including improved seeds and fertilizers) have not been distributed, livestock have been stolen or killed, once perennial fruit plantations have been partially damaged, and agricultural service centers, laboratories, farmer training centers and agricultural research centers have been dismantled. In addition, the psychological impact of the conflict has been devastating for the people residing in these areas.
There is an urgent need to provide farmers with the necessary resources to restart their production, but also to rehabilitate infrastructure to avoid an unprecedented food and migration crisis.
How will this project address the most pressing needs?
This project has two phases: the first is to address the most urgent needs by reviving agricultural production in these areas. To do this, we will provide improved seeds (cereals, legumes and vegetables), an improved breed of poultry, selected small ruminants, horticultural seeds and irrigation pumps to families identified by the selection committee at the Kebele level – the smallest administrative division. The amount of improved seed and fertilizer distributed will allow for the use of 0.25 ha of land per household. In total, approximately 533,000 households (over 3 million people), 40% of whom are women, will directly benefit from the project.
To go further and multiply this impact, we have also set up a rotation mechanism, in which farmers will share seeds with other vulnerable farmers. Improved seeds are also available from seed companies and cooperative unions.
ATI is ready to launch this project in collaboration with the various stakeholders to support farmers from the first planting period in May/June, with harvests coming three to four months later.
What actions will be taken to strengthen the agricultural sector in the long term?
Beyond immediate actions in conflict-affected areas, we are working to strengthen food self-sufficiency in Ethiopia. The country is dependent on imported inputs, including fertilizers and agrochemicals, making it vulnerable to market fluctuations and external shocks.
The agricultural marketing cluster is one of the best approaches to improve productivity and marketing that aims to transform subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.
To this end, the project plans to provide integrated support to the seed sector. The objective is to strengthen agricultural research and development to provide improved agricultural technologies adapted to the different agro-ecological zones and climatic conditions, to which very few farmers have access today. We will engage all stakeholders and development partners in the chain, including research centers, offices of agriculture, seed companies, NGOs, and other public and private sectors. This will include some rehabilitation of conflict-affected institutions as well as seed research, production, multiplication, and soil analysis.
In parallel, we also plan to train farmers in agro-ecological practices, enabling them to take advantage of agricultural technologies, natural resource management practices, promoting the adoption of organic fertilizers and sustainable improvement of agricultural production and productivity.
Ultimately, this component will help strengthen the country’s food security and self-sufficiency, and will improve farmers’ resilience over the long term. This intervention could contribute significantly to import substitution and export earnings, which are the priorities of the Ethiopian government!