A majority of Ethiopians—over 75 percent— participate in agriculture. Many of these farmers fall into the smallholder category, meaning their average farm size is one acre of land.
Farmers carry the weight of the agriculture sector on their back, and despite this heavy burden often lack access to vital resources that can improve crop quality and quantity. Further, only 17 percent of Ethiopia’s land is used for agriculture. Due to varying geographical limitations and lack of property rights, this percentage will not substantially increase. As such, alternative options must be pursued to increase farmers' productivity.
One way to achieve increased productivity is to provide farmers with modern inputs—such as improved seed varieties and fertilizer—that have a track record of improving crop yields. Based on the 2008 IFPRI-EDRI household survey, researchers found that a 10 percent increase in fertilizer use resulted in a 3 percent and a 2.2 percent increase in wheat and maize yields, respectively. Use of improved seed varieties can lead to crop yield increases of 7 million tons per year. But farmers, especially smallholders, are often unable to purchase modern inputs at affordable prices.
Research for Ethiopia's Agriculture Policy's (REAP's) goal in the input market sector is to help smallholder farmers increase their crop yields and earning potential to transition from subsistence to commercial farming. Researchers will identify areas in need of improvement so that farmers can buy seeds and fertilizers at affordable prices. Lowering cost and increasing availability requires coordination between the federal ministers, regional governments, cooperatives, and ultimately the farmers.
Researchers will work with the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) to set up an efficient procurement and marketing system for essential agricultural inputs—all driven by farmer demand. This also includes shifting the provision of fertilizer and improved seeds from the government to nonstate actors, such as private producers and cooperatives. The project will also facilitate collaboration between a range of stakeholders including relevant federal ministries, regional governments, cooperatives, local and international private sector, and other partners to achieve the project’s common vision.
To learn more about the value added when farmers use modern inputs, read the reports below.