Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Using Less To Get More: Crop Intensification in Ethiopia

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The Central Rift Valley is Ethiopia’s predominant vegetable production belt. In this region, there are over 20,000 smallholder farmers engaged in producing over 200,000 tons of vegetables per year on about 10,000 hectares of irrigated land. Despite access to irrigation, agricultural practices have remained traditional, irregular, and unsustainable in terms of their economic, social, environmental, and ecological impacts. The agronomic practice and input application patterns are not only haphazard but also cause significant damage to the soil, water, ecology, and human health.

During our fiscal years 2015 and 2016, BGR partnered with Oxfam America in a two-year project to increase the productivity of vegetable crops (tomato and onion) by teaching farmers the System of Crop Intensification (SCI). This is a report about two Ethiopian farmers who learned this system and became qualified to teach it to other farmers in their region. The report was provided to us by our partner, Oxfam America.

Ethiopia 3-CroppedEsmile Johar is a farmer who lives on the outskirts of a fast-growing town called Ziway, 165km south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A major contributor to the recent agricultural growth is the increasing number of farmers engaged in small-scale irrigation using nearby Lake Ziway. In the last few years, farmers like Esmile Johar, a 42-yearold father of four, have seen how adopting efficient, climate-smart water-use technologies and good agronomic practices can improve agricultural production, food security, and resilience to climate shocks.

About ten years ago, Esmile and most of the surrounding farmers worked as laborers on their own land. Remembering the hard times, Esmile explained: “We had to rent our land to rich investors who had money to buy irrigation pumps, and inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. We didn’t have the necessary tools or know how. So our only choice was to rent our land and work for them as daily laborers.”

Things started changing when development agencies and the government introduced measures to enable smallholder farmers to use their land to overcome poverty and improve their livelihoods. Among them was Oxfam and a local organization, SEDA (Sustainable Environment and Development Action). Oxfam and SEDA began their partnership in 2000 with a focus on small-scale irrigation for vegetable production in the Central Rift Valley. More recently, Oxfam and SEDA have collaborated on introducing an innovative agricultural methodology called the System of Crop Intensification (SCI), which promotes efficient, climate-smart techniques to increase productivity and reduce costs for two major vegetables—onions and tomatoes.

SCI focuses on the careful application of inputs and adopting good agronomic practices. Said Esmile: “Even though we have a general knowledge about the necessary inputs, we didn’t know exactly what combination of things will give us the optimum yield. So considering the increasing cost of inputs, learning how to use things efficiently and avoid wastage was very important to us.”

Peer learning and agricultural experiments

To reach more farmers and encourage peer-to-peer learning, a “five to one ratio” structure was established whereby one demonstrator would attempt to reach five followers. In this intiative, 50 demonstrators and 250 followers were selected by the Water Users Association members to learn and practice SCI. “I was selected to be a demonstrator,” said Esmile with pride. “Everyone knows how hard I work and I have many years of experience growing vegetables.” Looking at his 1/8 hectare backyard covered with onion seedlings, tomato, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, turnip green, collard green, papaya, avocado, coffee, and banana, it is not hard to imagine why Esmile was selected to be a demonstrator.

Ethiopia 2Rukia was another person selected by the Association to be a demonstrator. Rukia served as a cashier for Abine Germama WUA, and her dedication and strength had earned her the respect of her community. Surrounded by onion seedling in her backyard, she said with a smile: “I was confident I could do it, and proud to be selected. For a long time I learned new ways of doing things by following others. So I was very happy to teach others. It is a proof how far I have come.”

One other exceptional element of the project was the high level of attention given to its participatory approach, where various experiments were used to demonstrate and increase SCI adoption rates. The project looked at farmer-designed farmer-managed efforts versus researcher-designed farmer-managed efforts on 10ft x 10ft plots in a comparative context. Esmile participated in both experiments—one in his own backyard and another on a small parcel he owned across the street from his home. He said: “I was glad to try both the traditional and the new methods and to see the difference for myself.”

Following the selection process, the 50 demonstrators were trained on the principles and practices of SCI. They were also provided with the necessary inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and pesticide. Most of the farmers opted to try the experiment on onions rather than tomatoes. “Tomatoes are more profitable but need more care than onions. The risk is high so for now I chose to work on onion,” said Esmile.

“Experts came to my house and showed me in my own backyard,” said Rukia. “They taught me how to prepare the land, how much seed, fertilizers, and pesticides to use, and how many times I should water for best results. I was so excited that even when my pump broke in the middle of the experiment, I didn’t mind pulling water out of a 12 meter deep well to water the vegetables and finish the trial successfully.”

Throughout the trial period the five followers worked closely with the demonstrators. The setup encourages mutual learning where they continually share knowledge, ideas, and experiences. At the end of three months, the farmers were very happy and quite surprised with the outcome of the experiments. “I knew the research will improve my productivity but didn’t expect this much,” Esmile said with a smile. “Even though I used almost half of the seed and fertilizer and only watered the onions two days instead of five, my yield doubled compared to the traditional method.” Rukia was also very happy with the result. From her backyard plot she got almost three quintals of onion.

Visible signs of improved livelihoods

“Now I produce up to four times a year and I can easily meet the needs and wants of my family,” said Esmile, who is more than happy to show all the wonderful things he managed to buy and do. Among them were, healthy children who are eating a balanced diet, a better and bigger house, a comfortable bed to sleep on, a bicycle for his son to go to school, and so on.

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Rukia is investing in her children’s education and on inputs to adopt what she learned on her half hectare land nearby. Her backyard is already covered with second round onion seedlings following the new SCI method she learned.

Projects for the Next Fiscal Year—Part 3 (of 6)

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

8. Ethiopia: System of Crop Intensification (SCI)

Sofia 1-2Last year, BGR entered into a partnership with Oxfam America on a project to improve food production in the Meki-Ziway area of the Central Rift Valley in Ethiopia, a region affected by increased costs of farming, excessive use of pesticides and water, and decreasing water levels.

The project aims to meet these challenges by applying the System of Crop Intensification (SCI) to such crops as tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, and potatoes. SCI draws on the methods that have already proved successful in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), extending them to other crops. SCI emphasizes growing bigger, healthier root systems, and enhancing soil fertility. The method should increase vegetable production while reducing water use and reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Producing more while reducing costs will increase income and enhance household nutritional security among the Ethiopian farmers of the Meki-Ziway area. This second year of the two-year project will focus on building the capacity of local partners to continue SCI training. It will also organize workshops to share knowledge with other regions and develop manuals and videos to make the methods more widely available to Ethiopian farmers. Year two of a two-year project.

9. Haiti: System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

20131203_160353Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with nearly 90% of Haitians in the countryside living in poverty and two-thirds in extreme poverty. Haiti was once self-sufficient in rice, a staple in the national diet, but rice production has sagged and it now imports over 80% of its rice. To increase the output and income of rice farmers in Haiti, Oxfam America is promoting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a method of cultivation which lowers inputs but results in rice plants that are more resistant to climate extremes, pests, and diseases. Yields can increase by 50%-150% within one or two cropping seasons.

Last year BGR teamed up with Oxfam America on a two-year project to enhance the use of SRI in Haiti. The first-year of the BGR grant enabled the training in SRI to be extended to thirty additional farmers, both women and men, for a total of 300. In the second year, the grant will extend the training to still more farmers. It will also establish financial support for farmers, improve a local processing mill, and train youth to use cultivation and harvesting machinery. Year two of a two-year project.
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Improving Vegetable Cultivation in Ethiopia

by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

In the spring of 2013, BGR entered into a partnership with Oxfam America to pilot a system of crop intensification (SCI) in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia. The aim  is to increase income from vegetables and enhance the household nutritional security of the participating families. 

Ethiopia-OxfamAmericaLast spring BGR entered into a partnership with Oxfam America to pilot a system of crop intensification (SCI) in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia.  SCI applies to other crops the principles and methods already being employed in other countries by the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Like SRI, SCI raises the productivity of land, labor, water and nutrients. It results in growing bigger, healthier root systems, and enhances soil fertility by promotion of soil biota (the life in the soil). The method is described as an “economically feasible, environmentally friendly, and climate smart irrigated vegetable production system.”
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A New Slate of Projects–Part 2

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is the second of a five-part series on BGR projects approved for fiscal year 2013–14. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, and Jessie Benjamin, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ for preparing the material.

 7. Ethiopia: Increasing Yields of Veggies           NEW

Ethiopia-OxfamAmericaSince 1970 the international relief and development organization Oxfam America has worked with local partners to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. BGR will be partnering with Oxfam America on a project to improve food production in the Meki-Ziway area of the Central Rift Valley in Ethiopia. The project aims to apply the System of Crop Intensification (SCI) to such crops as tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, and potatoes. SCI draws on the methods that have already proved successful in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), extending them to other crops. SCI emphasizes growing bigger, healthier root systems, and enhancing soil fertility with the life in the soil. The method should increase vegetable production while reducing water use and reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Producing more while reducing costs will increase income and enhance household nutritional security among the Ethiopian farmers of the Meki-Ziway area.

8. Haiti: A New Lease on Rice          NEW

Haiti-OxfamHaiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, with nearly 90% of Haitians in the countryside living in poverty and two-thirds in extreme poverty. Haiti was once self-sufficient in rice, a staple in the national diet, but rice production has sagged and it now imports over 80% of its rice. To increase the output and income of rice farmers in Haiti, Oxfam America is promoting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a method of cultivation which lowers inputs but results in rice plants that are more resistant to climate extremes, pests, and diseases. Yields can increase by 50%-150% within one or two cropping seasons. With the collaboration of local partners, Oxfam has been providing SRI training and support to roughly 150 farmers. The grant from BGR will enable them to extend the training to thirty additional farmers, both women and men. The grant will also be used to purchase labor-saving agricultural equipment vital for SRI and facilitate the rehabilitation of 5 kilometers of local irrigation canals, which are critical both to rice production and flood control.

9. Haiti: Meals for Hungry Kids

Haiti-boy-with-bagEvery weekday in the impoverished Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince in Haiti, over a thousand children (and a few adults) line up at the Lamanjay free meals program to receive a plate of hot, nutritious food. The U.S.-based What If? Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lot of poor children in Haiti, has worked in close partnership with members of the Ti Plas Kazo community to sustain the food program since it started in 2000. The urgency of the program increased sharply following the terrible earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January 2010. The community served by Lamanjay includes mostly children who still live in nearby tents with unemployed parents or guardians who cannot provide the children with sufficient, nutritious food.  Other children walk miles to attend. For most of these children, the food they receive at the food program is their only meal of the day. The grant from BGR will cover the meals provided by the food program for 36 days between June 2013 and June 2014. The goal is to ensure that, as they struggle to rebuild their lives, thousands of hungry children and some adults in Port-au-Prince have access to hot, nutritious meals.

10. Haiti: Helping Kids Go To School         NEW

Haiti-WIF-studentsOne specific challenge facing Haitians today is the high cost and inaccessibility of education for the poor.  Attending school in Haiti has long been a privilege rather than a right, and half of school-aged children were not enrolled in school before the January 2010 earthquake struck. The earthquake destroyed thousands of schools, driving school costs up still higher. As a result, thousands of school-aged children in Port-au-Prince still lack formal education. It is only through education that these kids will have a chance to escape the crippling cycle of poverty. The What If? Foundation is currently providing scholarships to 194 youngsters for the 2012–13 school year, covering tuition, transportation, books, uniforms, and other fees. A grant from BGR will provide $115 per student toward the scholarship costs of 87 elementary school students. School costs range between $250 and $350 per year.