Ethiopia Adopts Organic Agriculture for the Entire Country

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The Institute of Science

 in Society

Science Society Sustainability http://www.i-sis.org.uk

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk
 

ISIS Press Release 23/06/04

Greening Ethiopia for Self- Sufficiency

Famines and Ethiopia and other African countries have become irrevocably linked in the public mind since Bob Geldof's Live Aid Concert in the 1980s. In 2002, we carried the first and only report (Science in Society #16) on how Ethiopia is determined to feed herself. In this present exclusive mini-series, we update the entire story of the remarkable successes achieved in reviving the traditional farming practice of pit composting that has now convinced Ethiopia to adopt organic agriculture for the entire country.

Greening Ethiopia

Sue Edwards reports on the challenges and opportunities facing Ethiopia as steps are taken to reverse the ecological and social damages that have locked the country in poverty.

Challenges

Ethiopia is a land-locked country in the `Horn of Africa' to the northeast of Africa. Its topography is very diverse, encompassing mountains over 4000 m above sea level, high plateaus, deep gorges cut by rivers and arid lowlands including the Afar Depression 110 m below sea level.

The South Westerly is one of the country's three moisture-bearing wind systems. Originating from the South Atlantic, it brings the greatest amount of moisture during the wet season (June-August). The mean annual rainfall is highest (above 2 700 mm) in the southwestern highlands, gradually decreasing to below 200 mm in the southeastern lowlands, and to100 mm or less in the northeastern lowlands. The mean temperature ranges from a high of 45C (April- September) in the Afar Depression to 0C or lower at night in the highlands (November-February).

Ethiopia's population was 53.48 million in 1994, of which 86.3 percent was rural. It grew at the rate of 2.9 percent per annum between 1984 and 1994; by 2003, it was estimated to have exceeded 67 million and could reach 94.5 million by 2015. The population has an average age of just 21.8 years, with 44% under 15 years and the group 15 to 25 years making up more than 20%. School enrolment has increased, but the literacy rate remains about 35%. There is a high dependency ratio and although official unemployment is around 3%, it exceeds 30% in the urban youth, while under-employment is widespread in the rural population.

The country currently faces a number of environmental challenges resulting directly or indirectly from human activities, exacerbated by rapid population growth and the consequent increase in the exploitation of natural resources. The challenges range from land degradation to environmental pollution, due to the misguided application of chemicals in agriculture, for domestic purposes or for the manufacture of industrial products. Ethiopia has accumulated one of the largest stockpiles of obsolete pesticides in the continent, estimated to be around 3000 tonnes in 2003. The misuse of natural resources includes burning dung as fuel, instead of using it as a soil conditioner. Losses to crop production from burning dung and soil erosion are estimated at over 600,000 tonnes annually, or twice the average yearly requests for food aid.

Opportunities

Ethiopia is one of the least developed countries in the world, and its economy rests mainly on agriculture. It accounts for more than 75 percent of total exports, over 85 percent of employment; and about 45 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product). Coffee alone makes up more than 87 percent of the total agricultural exports. Hides and skins are the next most important export items, as raw, processed or manufactured goods.

Several seasonal and perennial crops are grown. The main ones are cereals (tef, barley, maize, wheat, sorghum, oats and finger millet), root crops (enset, Irish, sweet and indigenous potatoes, taro, yams), pulses (horse bean, fenugreek, field pea, haricot bean, chickpea, grass pea and lentil), oil crops (niger seed, linseed, safflower, rapeseed, groundnut, safflower and sesame), vegetables (cabbage, tomato, hot peppers, pumpkin, onions and garlic) and many herbs and spices. The major cash and industrial crops are coffee, tea, citrus, papaya, banana, avocado, mango, oil seeds, pulses, cotton, sisal, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, spices, sugar cane and chat (also called mira).

Agriculture is one of the key sectors in which to devote efforts in accelerating socio- economic development and reducing poverty.

Problems of chemical inputs

The Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG- 2000) programme was started by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1995 to boost food crop production through a focused campaign to get farmers to use chemical fertilizer along with high yielding varieties (HYVs) and pesticides. However, it promoted only the adoption of fertilizer through credit schemes and subsidized prices. Prior to 1995, Ethiopia had one of the lowest per capita uses of fertilizer in the world. Under SG-2000, farmers were allowed to select and use the best of their own local varieties rather than buy seed of HYVs. Very little use of pesticides has developed except for dealing with migratory pests, particularly armyworm, and local swarms such as Pachnoda beetles on sorghum and the endemic Wello Bush Cricket on cereals.

Since 1998, the subsidy on fertilizer has been withdrawn while the price of fertilizer has risen. Despite that, by 2001, around 5% of the smallholder farmers of the country, particularly those growing maize, had become accustomed to using fertilizer. But that year, the price dropped out of the bottom of the maize market and the farm gate price in some areas fell to the equivalent of US$1.50 per 100 kg of maize.

In 2002, many farmers were heavily in debt and withdrew from the fertilizer schemes. Many parts of the country were also hit by drought with the result that yields declined, or crops failed completely and the government requested food aid for more than 14 million people, nearly a quarter of the total population.

Expanding horticultural production is making increasing use of chemical inputs, often with little or no understanding of either how to handle those chemicals safely, or how to use them correctly. For example, a survey by the local Safe Environment Association and PAN- UK (Pesticides Action Network, UK) found malathion being sprayed on the leaves of the local stimulant, chat (Catha edulis), in order to make them shiny and more attractive to purchasers. Another group of farmers had been using DDT to control insect pests on chat until they associated increasing stomach problems with the use of the chemical.

The use of agrichemicals in smallholder agriculture is rapidly increasing; and this is in addition to the substantial amounts already deployed on the few large-scale farms, particularly cotton farms. The misuse of pesticides and fertilizers is damaging human health and polluting the surrounding environment.

Greening Ethiopia

In 2002, the Ethiopian government issued a new policy guideline on Rural Development and set up a supra-ministry to coordinate activities. The Rural Development policy guideline regards environmental rehabilitation as an essential factor in increasing productivity.

The Environmental Policy of Ethiopia has incorporated a basic principle similar to one adopted in organic agriculture: "Ensure that essential ecological processes and life support systems are sustained, biological diversity is preserved and renewable natural resources are used in such a way that their regenerative and productive capabilities are maintained, and, where possible, enhanced...; where this capacity is already impaired to seek through appropriate interventions a restoration of that capability."

Key elements of the policy cover soil husbandry and sustainable agriculture, and can support the development of more specific policy and regulations for organic agriculture. These include promoting the use of appropriate organic matter and nutrient management for improving soil structure, nutrient status and microbiology; maintaining traditional integration of crop and animal husbandry in the highlands, and enhancing the role of pastoralists in the lowlands; promoting water conservation; focusing agricultural research and extension on farming and land use systems as a whole, with attention to peculiarities of local conditions; promoting agroforestry/farm forestry; ensuring that potential costs of soil degradation through erosion, chemical degradation and pollution are taken into account; shifting the emphasis in crop breeding to composites and multi-lines to increase adaptability to environmental changes and to better resist pests and diseases; using biological and cultural methods, resistant or tolerant varieties or breeds, and integrated pest and disease management in preference to chemical controls; and applying the precautionary principle in making decisions.

This enabling policy context dovetails with a unique experiment in sustainable development and ecological land management conducted with farmers in Tigray (see following article).

Source

Walta Information Center, 2004. Symposium Proceedings: Population and Development in Ethiopia: Now and in the Future, Addis Ababa, 17 June 2003.


 


This article can be found on the I-SIS website at http://www.i- sis.org.uk/GreeningEthiopia.php
 
If you like this original article from the Institute of Science in Society, and would like to continue receiving articles of this calibre, please consider making a donation or purchase on our website. ISIS is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.
 
 
  • If you would prefer to receive future mailings as plain text please let us know.

 

The Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 OXR
telephone: [44 20 8643 0681]   [44 20 7383 3376]   [44 20 7272 5636]

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk - Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk - ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk

MATERIAL IN THIS EMAIL MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT PERMISSION, ON CONDITION THAT IT IS ACCREDITED ACCORDINGLY AND CONTAINS A LINK TO http://www.i-sis.org.uk/

 

 

The Institute of Science

 in Society

Science Society Sustainability http://www.i-sis.org.uk

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk

ISIS Press Release 24/06/04

The Tigray Project

Sue Edwards reports on a project that could launch Ethiopia on her way to self-sufficiency.

A complete version of this article with diagrams and table is available in the ISIS members site. Full details here

"Is there sufficient biomass in Ethiopia to make adequate quantities of compost?" This is the question most often raised whenever there is any suggestion that Ethiopia could use organic principles to increase crop yields.

In 1995, Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, on behalf of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), was asked by some government officials to design a project that could be promoted with farmers of poor and marginal areas in order to improve the productivity of their land and rehabilitate their environments. The project started in 1996 under the supervision of the Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BoANR) of Tigray. The other partners in the project are Mekele University, the local communities and their local administration.

Project activities in four communities were established in 1996/97 and 1997/98. After 2000, the project was extended to 11 other communities, with more than 634 people now participating. Much effort has been made to include households headed by women in the project because these are generally among the poorest of the poor in their villages.

Since 2002, the BoANR has been promoting the compost-making `package'- trench bunding and planting multipurpose trees, particularly Sesbania - in over 90 communities within 25 Woredas (administrative districts) in the more marginal areas of the Region.

In November 2001, ISD had some preliminary yield data showing the positive effects of using compost (first reported in SiS 16).

More data on yields were collected in 2002, and these were equally impressive. Compost generally gave the highest yields, often out-performing chemical fertilizers, in a variety of crops and over the entire range of ecosystems from the moister areas in Southern Tigray with fertile alluvial soil, to the deforested Central Zone with moderate rainfall, and the arid Eastern Zone with poor, thin sandy soil (see below).

As each community grows a different mix of crops types and varieties, only the data that could be compared are presented. It should be noted that 2002 was a drought year, and many crops failed altogether. For example, only Adi Gua'edad and Adibo Mossa had successful harvests of faba bean; field pea only in Adibo Mossa; and finger millet only in Guroro and Adi Nifas. In years with better rainfall, most communities would grow at least one pulse crop.

Comparing yields

An important feature of the Tigray Project is that it is to a large extent led by the farmers. They choose which crops to treat with compost and which with chemical fertilizer. Sampling was done with the farmers. Fields were designated/chosen with the farmers and 3 one-meter square plots were cut and threshed, and the straw and grain weighed separately with the farmers.

Each figure presented in the table is the average from several fields of the same crop variety in the same area given the same treatment. `Check' means the field received no treatment in 2002, although it may have received compost in one or more previous years. `Compost' is for fields treated with mature compost. The rates of application range from around 50 q/ha (1 quintal = 100 kg, hence 50 q can be represented as 5000 kg) in poorly endowed areas, such as the dry Eastern Zone of the Region (Zeban Sas and Gu'emse), to around 150 q/ha in the moister Southern Zone (Adibo Mossa). `Chemical fertilizer' is for fields treated with DAP (diammonium phosphate) and urea. The recommended rates are 100 kg/ha of DAP, and 50 kg/ha of urea.

The original data were collected site by site, but here they have been compiled by crop: figures 1-4 for maize, tef, wheat and barley, respectively. Table 1 gives the yields for faba bean, field pea and finger millet for 2002 with yields for 1998/99 for the Southern Zone included for comparison.

Figure 1. Maize yields in 5 sites

Figure 2. Tef yields in 8 sites.

Figure 3. Wheat yields in 6 sites.

Figure 4. Barley yields in 6 sites.

Table 1: Yields (q/ha) for faba bean, field pea and finger millet in 4 sites;
1998 compared with 2002.

The farmers' experience

As the data show, yield increases whenever compost is applied. The yields from compost are comparable, and higher than those from chemical fertilizer. Farmers who have learnt how to make and use compost effectively are not interested in continuing to use chemical fertilizer, i.e. they have willingly withdrawn the use of chemical fertilizer without any loss in production. Some farmers are even making their own observations on comparing compost with animal dung and/or chemical fertilizer.

It is interesting that the yields of the check and composted crops (maize, wheat, barley, field pea and faba bean) in Adibo Mossa in the Southern Zone show little difference. The farmers here apply about 150 q/ha of compost to their fields, the highest rate of any of the sites. It is possible that the soil is sufficiently rehabilitated (since 1998) to give good yields without compost being applied every year.

Farmers, development agents, and ISD staff have identified the following as the positive effects of using compost:

  • Yields as good and often better than those from using chemical fertilizer
  • Maintaining or increasing agro- biodiversity
  • Reduced weed loads in composted fields
  • Increased moisture retention capacity of soil
  • Plants grown with compost more resistant to pest and disease than crops treated with chemical fertilizer.
  • Compost has a residual effect on soils; farmers do not need to apply compost each year
  • Farmers have been able to get out of debt from buying chemical fertilizer
  • Foods made from composted grain have a better flavour than foods made from crops treated with chemical fertilizer

Some farmers diversified their production once the quality of their land improved. For example, one farmer in Adi Nifas now regularly plants vegetables, particularly tomato and chilli pepper in his tef field. These do not interfere with the tef, maturing after the grain is harvested and bringing the farmer additional income.

In Adi Nifas, where the main gullies and hillside were treated with check dams at the start of the project, the stream from the hillside now holds water all year round, and several farmers downstream have developed irrigated vegetable production after they harvested their grain crops. They are able to regularly get two crops a year.

Many farmers have also started to plant fruit trees, both around their homesteads and in rehabilitated gullies.

Note: The data from the Tigray project were collected by Arefaine Asmelash and Hailu Araya, and analysed and compiled by Hailu Araya, Sustainable Community Development Team Leader in ISD.


This article can be found on the I-SIS website at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TTP.php
 
If you like this original article from the Institute of Science in Society, and would like to continue receiving articles of this calibre, please consider making a donation or purchase on our website. ISIS is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.
 
 
  • If you would prefer to receive future mailings as plain text please let us know.

The Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 OXR
telephone: [44 20 8643 0681]   [44 20 7383 3376]   [44 20 7272 5636]

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk - Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk - ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk

MATERIAL IN THIS EMAIL MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT PERMISSION, ON CONDITION THAT IT IS ACCREDITED ACCORDINGLY AND CONTAINS A LINK TO http://www.i-sis.org.uk/

 

 

The Institute of Science

 in Society

Science Society Sustainability http://www.i-sis.org.uk

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk
 

ISIS Press Release 25/06/04

Organic Production for

Ethiopia

The success of the Tigray Project will now be consolidated by government policy. Sue Edwards reports.

Spurred by the successes of the Tigray Project, the Ethiopian government has stated its interest to increase the capacity of farmers to use organic methods of crop production.

The Rural Development Policy, meanwhile, emphasizes the need to improve local marketing infrastructure, and also to develop agricultural products to diversify the economic base of the country.

Last year, the government announced it will support the development of organic agriculture, and a task force was established to draw up an Ethiopian Organic Agriculture Regulation, which can become law, and a Regulation for Organic Agriculture Products to describe how organic products are defined, and what may or may not be used in their growing and processing. The documents cover crop and animal production, as well as food processing and marketing, with the second document providing a basis for a local organic certification scheme.

The international trade in organic products is an expanding niche market that Ethiopia is geographically well situated to exploit. Already, some communities in the south and southwest have started to develop and export Arabica coffee with an organic and fair trade label.

There is also expanding awareness of the importance of producing healthy fruits and vegetables for the expanding educated middle-class and expatriate market in Addis Ababa. For example, Genesis Farm started three years ago and production now covers over 40 ha. The farm combines dairy and poultry production with growing vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants. It is totally organic and sells certified products on the export market. However, there is a fast expanding local market and it is interesting to note that none of the items sold by Genesis are more expensive than other locally produced items, and several are even cheaper. When I recently visited the farm, there were local workers buying their vegetables from the farm shop.

As a further development, the administration of the Woreda (administrative district) with one of the best sites of the Tigray Project, now wants to have the whole Woreda involved in the project. This will include 2 100 farming families divided in 16 `parishes'. To start this ambitious up-scaling, 9 parishes (4 from before and 5 new ones) have been chosen to be involved in the project this year.

There will be a big workshop in July to launch this update, involving 200 farmers and all 50 of the local experts, from development agents to local specialists. The local experts will lead the workshop along with one or two farmers, who will give testimony of the successes of the Tigray Project. There will also be an experience-sharing session, of problems and how they were solved, or how these still remain as challenges. A pre- workshop day is set-aside for the local experts to have an in-depth discussion on what constitutes `sustainable rural development'.

Another exciting element is the involvement of the local justice system, the `social courts', to help uphold and enrich local by-laws, to back up improvements to land and its management.

The experience with the farmers in Tigray in producing and using compost shows that the aim for Ethiopia to have a substantial number of farmers producing organically can be realized. It also shows that the introduction of ecologically sound organic principles can have very quick positive impacts on the productivity and well-being of smallholder farmers so that they do not necessarily have to face a conversion period of reduced yields as they change from chemical to organic production. Most farmers, particularly those in marginal areas, are not able to afford external inputs, so for them an organic production management system offers a real and affordable means to break out of poverty and obtain food security.

It is important to bear in mind that although it may be external market interests that initially stimulate the development of a policy environment for organic agriculture, the benefits should be available to all members of the local society to build a healthy and food-secure future for Ethiopia.

Sue Edwards is the Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and co- editor of the seven-volume Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

ISD would like to acknowledge the unfailing support of the Third World Network for the Tigray work.


This article can be found on the I-SIS website at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/OPFE.php
 
If you like this original article from the Institute of Science in Society, and would like to continue receiving articles of this calibre, please consider making a donation or purchase on our website. ISIS is an independent, not-for- profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.
 
 
  • If you would prefer to receive future mailings as plain text please let us know.

The Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 OXR
telephone: [44 20 8643 0681]   [44 20 7383 3376]   [44 20 7272 5636]

General Enquiries sam@i-sis.org.uk - Website/Mailing List press-release@i-sis.org.uk - ISIS Director m.w.ho@i- sis.org.uk

MATERIAL IN THIS EMAIL MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT PERMISSION, ON CONDITION THAT IT IS ACCREDITED ACCORDINGLY AND CONTAINS A LINK TO http://www.i-sis.org.uk/

 

 



 


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