ETHIOPIA: Efforts to Feed Millions

December 2016 TheEthiopianHerald; By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, 35 per cent higher than today. More of such population increase will occur in developing countries. Urbanization will continue at an accelerated pace, and about 70 per cent of the world’s population will be urban compared to the 49 per cent of today.

To feed this larger, more urban and richer population, food production must increase by 70 per cent. Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes.

The required increase in food production can be achieved if the necessary investment is undertaken and conducive policies for agricultural production are put in place. But, increasing production is not just sufficient to achieve food security. It must be complemented by policies to enhance access by fighting poverty, especially in rural areas, as well as effective safety net programmes.

Recognizing the fact, the Ethiopian government has been successfully completed the first part of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I), and it is implementing the second plan at progressive level.

In GTP II, agriculture remains the main driver of the speedy and inclusive economic growth and development. This will contribute to ensuring food security, suppress inflationary pressure, and supply inputs for industries, and to narrow trade deficits and stabilize pressures on the balance of payments by stimulating exports.

In this regard, Farming and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Eyasu Abreha said that necessary supports are being given in supply and utilization of inputs and agricultural extension services. In addition, strengthening cooperatives and enhancing agricultural investments through closely monitoring progress on targets set to improve crop and livestock productivity.

Dr. Eyasu also said that agriculture is also expected to be the main source of growth for the modern productive sectors. Therefore, besides promoting the productivity and quality of stable food crops production, special attention will also be given to high value crops, livestock production, industrial inputs and export commodities. To this end, irrigation based agriculture, horticulture, fruits and vegetables, livestock and fisheries development are being promoted.

Smallholder farmers and pastoralists are the main actors in the production process; and facilitating a joint participation of educated young farmers and private investors in the sector is a strategic direction that has to be pursued during the plan period, Dr. Eyasu said. To this end, addressing constraints entrenched in the agricultural development and marketing systems will be given utmost attention.

In countries where agriculture is an important sector, agricultural transformation is vital for the transformation of the overall economy. Successful agricultural transformation requires two fundamental conditions; productivity revolution and successful linkages with markets. GTP II has clearly set targets for crop and livestock productivity and production.

According to Dr. Eyasu, the envisaged market shift in crop productivity is to be pursued through three tracks: the first track is to raise the productivity level of the majority of farmers to the productivity level attained by model farmers. The second and complementary track is to raise the level of productivity and production of model farmers to the level of productivity attained by agricultural research centres through building and enhancing the capacity of research centres. The third track is provision of all rounded support and capacity building to agricultural research centres that enable them deliver new agricultural technologies that can serve as the next drivers of agricultural growth.

Moreover, Dr. Eyasu said that as in crop production, significant increase in livestock productivity is envisioned in the GTP II period. The livestock sub-sector is expected to bring about radical change in both sedentary agriculture and pastoral areas. It is well known that the livestock sub-sector of the country is still at low state of development being still dependent on traditional production methods.

During GTP II, efforts are being made to transform the livestock sub-sector by scaling up the best practices and experiences gained so far. Implementation of these lessons and best practices call for proper identification of agro-ecological zones that are suitable for the proposed intervention, he noted.

In doing so, identification of production methods, preparing detail plans for each agro-ecological zones and effective implementation of these plans will determine the realization of the transformation agenda.

Similarly, genetic improvement will be carried out through cross-breeding in selected local breeds. Assisted by synchronization, extensive local breeding with exotic blood will be carried out for smallholder farmers in highlands/middle altitude areas where there is adequate moisture. Special emphasis will mainly be given for dairy development in this regard, Dr. Eyasu stressed.

With regard to irrigation development, Dr. Eyasu said that activities are being carried out to ensure sustainable agricultural development enhancing its productivity through improved water utilization and agro-ecology based irrigation schemes.

Over 4 million hectares of land will be developed by strengthening irrigation works that can be undertaken by smallholder farmers during the GTP II period. Besides, medium and large scale irrigation development and constructions of dams will be undertaken and strengthened by federal and regional government institutions.

Dr. Eyasu emphasized that working with partners has been recognized as the ‘modus-operandi’ to all our efforts in achieving sustainable development and economic transformation in this country. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been one of such key international partner for the Ministry.

Hence, the technological, organizational and institutional innovations that ILRI promotes have been tested in different parts of the country, especially in the four highland areas of Oromia, Tigray Amhara and SNNP states through the various action research projects. These action research projects have been working closely with regional, zonal as well as woreda level governmental, non-governmental organizations, and various value chain actors.

Our country, more than ever, needs a market-oriented extension service to promote its strategy of smallholder based and market-oriented agriculture development. The experience and expertise in ILRI in market oriented extension is a resource that we will need to utilize even more effectively.

The future of agriculture and the ability of the world food system to ensure food security for a growing world population are closely tied to improved stewardship of natural resources. Major reforms and investments are needed in all states to cope with rising scarcity and degradation of land, water and biodiversity and with the added pressures resulting from rising incomes, climate change and energy demands.

Above all, there is a need to establish the right incentives to harness environmental services to protect watersheds and biodiversity and to ensure food production through using sustainable technologies.

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