Small-scale irrigation ushering in surplus horticultural production

16 Jun 2017

The agriculture sector, which is literally holding up all the other sectors of Ethiopia, has been prone to climatic variability due to its heavy dependence on seasonal rain.

The climatic shocks have been posing severe impacts on the millions of mouths as well as the country. Due to that, the country has devised various mechanisms that ensure the sustainability of crop production. One important response in this regard is engaging in the horticultural sector under small-scale irrigation on peasant farms. By doing so, emerged educated youth can secure jobs; households increase their income while it helps to alleviate dependence on a single crop commodity— which all could be combined towards fostering the rural transformation aspiration.

The farmers in this scheme are provided with technical trainings and agricultural inputs which are crucial to modernize their practices.

As transforming the sector could not be achieved single-handedly, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has, thus, forged partnerships with various local and international stakeholders.

One such relation has already been maintained with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The JICA’s intervention has been contributing hugely in addressing farmers’ bottlenecks with regards to marketing their produces.

“Ethio-shape” is the name given to a joint project of the Ministry and JICA. It is to produce horticultural crops in small farming area in four zones and eight woredas of Amhara and Oromia states and would last four years beginning 2017.

Approached for comments, project consultant Famiako Saso said the project has enabled farmers to shift towards ‘production for sell’ from previous ‘produce and sell’. For him the project increases farmers’ income apart from on farm practices.

Amhara State Agricultural Office Vice Executive Aytenew Endeshaw for his part said the new cooperation programme has been building farmers’ capacity besides ensuring productivity. He indicated that farmers have now transformed their capacity to surplus production.

Ethio-Shape project has been equipping the farmers of the woredas with new experiences on marketable vegetable and fruit production aligning the task with the national agricultural extension programme.

Aytenew considers the project as an important intervention to strengthen the extension programme. Still, challenges emanating from various sources including unable to find market for produces, reduced public awareness and inadequacy of input are manifest.

With regards to addressing market problems, the regional agricultural bureau took the initiative by creating market links with universities and prison institutions, he said.

For his part, Oromia Irrigation Development Deputy Manager Samuel Husein seems to clearly locate where the market problem is originating. For him, farmers produce vegetables and or fruits with no prior assessment of demands at the market. “Most arbitrary produce vegetables and supply the market.”

The project has, therefore, helped in modifying this attitude. “Farmers have now started to carefully assess demands at the market and decide which crop to grow.”

Samuel further added that 52 per cent of farmers benefits from irrigation schemes in Oromia State. He said efforts are under way to benefit 100 per cent farmers from irrigation.

The state has a 15-year plan to expand horticultural development at every woreda with a view to transforming farmers’ lives. Cognizant of the state’s suitability to horticultural crop production, the government has attached due priority and applied mechanisms to familiarize farmers with the scheme.

Yigeze Birhanu, Small-scale Horticulture Department Director General with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, made clear that the government has been implementing various programmes to tap opportunities from small-scale irrigation horticultural crop production.

In many countries, particularly developing ones, the horticulture sector plays an important role both for local consumption and export. It also ensures community health improvement by providing nutritious food. The sector also guarantees the inflow of foreign currency.

And the intervention of development partners have unrivalled importance in mobilizing the needed expertise, finance and technology, among other. The practical supports of JICA would hopefully keeps with an increased momentum. And the ministry has also a lot ahead of it in bringing more partners to the sector.

 

BY ABEBE WOLDEGIORGIS

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