13 November 2012

Ethiopia: Bio-Fertilizers - New Inputs to Boost Production, Productivity

Needless to say, Ethiopia is a country where more than 80 per cent of its population lead their lives via agriculture. The country also has favourable climate suitable for the production of various cereal and cash crops. It is also a home for various wild lives, huge biodiversity, indigenous plants including, Zigba, Kerero and so forth.

Paradoxically, the country endowed with such natural resources has a history highly intertwined with severe poverty, frequent drought and famine for years. Even these days, according to the government statement, over 3.5 million people are in need of food aid. The government, realizing the role of the agriculture in the effort to overcome poverty , has been giving due attention for the short and long term development plans set for the sector. This plans aim at boosting agricultural productivity, sustaining nations' food security, substituting imports, maximizing exports, and in turn take the nation out of the vicious circle of poverty.

Equally, to effectively realize these plans, it has given due emphasis to the utilization of modern technologies, equipments, fertilizers, agricultural mechanization, improved seeds, strong agricultural administrations and the like. In this regard, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute has been working on varieties of agricultural technologies, among which bio-fertilizer technology is one. According to Wikipedia a biofertilizer (also bio-fertilizer) is a substance which contains living microorganisms which, when applied to seed, plant surfaces, or soil, colonizes the rhizosphere or the interior of the plant and promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the host plant.

The first bio-fertilizer was introduced and experimented by the Holota Research Centre. After checking its effectiveness, it has been distributed to other research centres. Recently, the 'soya bean bio-fertilizer' has been introduced to the Jimma Zone farmers.

Ferew Abazemen is a farmer who lives in Kitinbile Kebele of Jimma Zone. As he said, for the past few years though he has grown soya beans, he is not familiar with the new technology- the soya bean bio-fertilizer . "As I have been growing soya bean for many years, when I first heard about the benefit of using this technology from development agents, I was too excited. I have tested it, it is effective. It reduces our expense for skyrocketing fertilizers such as DAP and UREA which we have been buying for years. Furthermore, it adds fertility to the soil and enriches it for more productivity. If this technology is distributed to farmers all over the country, it would have significant advantages," he said.

Teka Teshome, Kitinbile Kebele Development Agent (DA) on his part said the cost of the bio-fertilizer, compared to the cost of UREA and DAP, is low. In this respect, currently, farmers are showing great interest to substitute these imported fertilizers by domestic bio-fertilizers, he noted.

Teka said as the technology is new, promoting it to more farmers is necessary. Hence, the Kebele's Development Agents along with Experts from Jimma Agricultural Research Centre had organized awareness creation field days several times. As a result, farmers have become well aware of the technology and these days its popularity has grown up from year to year and the demand for it has been increasing despite the shortage we are facing," he added.

Tigist Dawit, the other Development Agent working with the kebele, on her part said farmers in the kebele were ploughing their plots in traditional ways for years. Moreover, They were accustomed to sow the same kind of crops each year. For instance, they used to sow maize frequently. To curb this practice, Kebele's Development Agents have been conducting awareness creation programmes on the benefit of crop rotation. In the same way, in relation to the soya bean bio-fertilizer , the Office is providing the necessary technical assistance to farmers on the ways to use the technology effectively, she said.

There are about 685 households in the kebele, out of which, currently 216 of them are using soya bean bio-fertilizer . The farming with the old fashion earns only 16 quintals per hectare while using the new technology raises productivity to more than 20 quintals per hectare. Realizing this benefit, a great number of farmers have shown interest to use the new technology. Therefore, the Agricultural Research Centre, I hope by further intensifying its research on cereal crops and broadening its distribution rate, would benefit more users, Tigist said.

Jimma Agricultural Research Centre Director, Dr. Taye Qufa, also said the technology has immeasurable roles in increasing production and productivity. "In a country like Ethiopia where the majority of its people are agrarian, to bring real change in the agriculture sector and pull itself out of poverty, exploiting new and modern technologies is mandatory. Likewise, developing strong and combined cooperation with all stakeholders is equally important."

Jimma Agricultural Research Centre has been conducting problem solving researchs on varieties of crops for the last 45 years. It has introduced 48 crop technologies among which 37 are solely coffee technologies. The Soya bean bio fertilizer, which was introduced by Holota Research Centre, has now attracted the attention of this Research Institute who is working in distributing it to more farmers. It is also striving hard to further strengthen its research activities in a way that would be more helpful and beneficial for the advancement of the technology and satisfy the modern input needs of farmers.

Woreda Deputy Administrator and Agricultural Deputy Head, Sisay Assefa, also said this technology has a great contribution in the effort made by the government to realize the Growth and Transformation Plan(GTP). "We are strongly committed to create awareness among farmers of the woreda, to accept and apply the technology, and increase their productivity," he said.

Dr. Tolosa Debela, Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute Soil,Water Research Directorate Director also said as the main aim of GTP is doubling agricultural productivity, to realize the Plan effectively, it is vital to use both new and improved technologies.

Introducing new technologies and creating millions of farmers who could exploit them is the main objective of the Centre, he noted. The Soya bean bio-fertilizer, apart from replacing imported fertilizers, allows the soil to maintain 50 kg nitrogen for the coming crop season. "If all our farmers use this technology, it will be possible to double productivity, maintain soil fertility, reduce cost of imported fertilizers by 25 per cent. However, to be successful in every effort, the continuous collaboration and help from all key stakeholders is vital," he said.

Dr. Solomon Assefa ,the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute Director General, said that using the new soya bean bio-fertilizer technology will improve productivity and reduce unnecessary costs on fertilizers. "The institute has strong commitment to expand the technology throughout the country in collaboration with stakeholders. This kind of problem solving research activity is very crucial in the efforts the government is making to double agricultural productivity," he added.

Modern day forms of intensive crop based agriculture involve the use of mechanical ploughing, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators and/or pesticides. It is associated with the increasing use of agricultural mechanization, which have enabled a substantial increase in production.

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