Combines harvest wheat in a field near the village of Kruglolesskoye in Stavropol region

JOHANNESBURG -  Usage of certified seeds, improved farming techniques and a guaranteed market for the country's wheat crop saw smallholder Ethiopian farmers’ wheat yields increase by an average 14 percent, according to a new study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). 

“Overall, the 14 percent increase in yields is relatively substantial, since farmers were encouraged to simply use existing technologies. This research shows a package intervention, such as the Wheat Initiative, that combines improved inputs, techniques and a guaranteed market for smallholder farmers’ crop can help simultaneously overcome the multiple adoption constraints small farmers often face, and enhance crop yields,” said Alan de Brauw, researcher and co-author of the study.

These findings are part of the study to evaluate the impact of the Wheat Initiative, a programme rolled out by the Ethiopian Agricultural ministry and the Agricultural Transformation Agency in 2013 to help smallhold farmers increase their wheat productivity.

If such a package realised a 14 percent increase in wheat yields across Ethiopia’s entire wheat growing sector, it would translate into an additional half a million tonnes of wheat produced. 

The Wheat Initiative provided a package of three broad interventions to 2,000 small farmers across 41 woredas (districts) in the four-major wheat producing regions.

Interventions included improved inputs such as certified wheat seed, fertilizers and, gypsum to improve soil structure; improved techniques such as lower seeding rates, row planting, and balanced fertilizer use; and thirdly, a government commitment to buy farmers’ wheat at the market rate or above to reduce marketing risk for farmers.

Ethiopia has consistently lagged in average wheat yields in Africa and beyond.

In 2012, Ethiopia’s wheat yields were on average 29 percent below neighboring Kenya, 13 percent below the African average, and 32 percent below the world average.

The study highlights some ways in which wheat yields can be improved to close these gaps, even if not to the level the government desires.

- African News Agency (ANA)