opinionBy Shushay Adane
The Ethiopian government has been working unreservedly to increase the production and productivity of the agricultural sector by devising and introducing various new strategies and practices.
It has been, for instance, providing farmers with various natural and chemical substances that enrich soil fertility and productivity, deploying development agents at all grass-root levels, remedying acid soils, establishing agricultural research institute, farmers training centers, advanced sewing methods and ploughing practices. Moreover, the government has been awarding model farmers. The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was the worth mentioning among top government officials who used to go down to farmers and discuss with them. As a result, considerable number of farmers who accumulated wealth have started to emerge since the past recent years. However, there are still enormous obstacles that need due attention from all stakeholders to enable farmers yield adequately and become more beneficiaries of their produce thereby ensure food self-sufficiency. Farmers of Wombera Woreda have recently discussed with various stakeholders (agricultural researchers, regional, zonal and woreda agricultural bureaus and offices heads and concerned NGOs) in a farmers' field day organized by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research in collaboration with Benshangul-Gumuz State, Pawe Agricultural Research Centre, Wombera Woreda, Metekel Zone, Banja Woreda, Awi Zone, and Amhara State. During the occurrence, the farmers and stakeholders considered a range of problems that still remain to be solved by various stakeholders at all levels.
Scarcity of input supply was one of the serious issue that most farmers and agricultural experts requested to be given consideration. Participants of the discussion particularly farmers and development agents pointed out that they have a noticeable shortage of supply of agricultural inputs. Moreover, some participants also commented on the reports presented by agricultural researchers and woreda agricultural and rural development offices.
"We heard a reports about farmers who have already become beneficiaries of this or that agricultural research outputs and so on. I really doubt if we are at the right pace. We should be because if we truly want to eradicate poverty and ensure food security, all farmers should be able to get access to agricultural inputs and research outputs at any time and place they want. Participants also observed, "as we could learn from today's field visit, the farmers are now well aware of the significance of applying new agricultural research outputs and other technologies. They were explaining it better than experts. This shows how much they have internalized it," said one of the participants- an agronomist.
As it could be known at the occasion, there are no big problems from the farmers' side to accept and properly using agricultural technologies and practices when compared to the previous times. Anyone who took part in the field visit of the can simply witness it. In this regard, another development agent said during the discussion that most farmers do not have this much critical problems in using scientific agricultural outputs they are rather urging agricultural experts to provide them more.
"However, I doubt if the concerned organs at various levels have really internalized their role of managing, coordinating and providing input because Pawe agricultural research centre never stops generating and releasing new agricultural research outputs, giving trainings and technical supports when necessary. So, if we could properly address such problems and critically evaluate and sustain the current trend of farmers, nothing can prevent us from achieving the five year national plan as it intended to be," he said.
According to the farmers, their other big concern that needs critical attention is the issue of market. It was one of the serious issues most farmers stressed during the discussion, of course.
"As anyone wants to be paid for what they have done, we farmers too. We want to earn from our produces as quickly as possible. However, we are now shifting from growing sesame, onion and other cash crops to cotton for we could not earn from these crops due to various market related problems. Therefore, all stakeholders should help us to look for urgent solutions for this critical problem most of the farmers encounter in order to sustain the new spirit to move forward and boost emerging culture of collaboration among all stakeholders," a farmer from the participants said.
The farmer also raised the problem of infrastructures mainly the road that enable them to take their produce to the market, adding they could not obtain the right price their crops deserves in a way that they could not go the right market because the roads are difficult.
Likewise, a development agent stated that farmers are not benefiting from their produces. Others are benefiting from what farmers produce through a long and complex market process, rather.
At the event, participants also demanded agricultural researchers both to involve females in their works and extend their research works to all parts of the country to ensure gender equality and fair distribution. Weak culture of working in collaboration with all stakeholders was what the participants raised as a weakness from the agricultural experts' side. Agricultural researchers, on the other hand, highlighted that they need a concerned organ to which they can submit their research outputs so that they can extend their research works to other new areas.
Some farmers even raised about the issue of media coverage. One farmer for instance, asked why media in Benshangul-Gumuz State does not cover and promote farmers' activities like other states while another farmer requested the concerned organs to organize experience sharing programmes among farmers of various states.
Pawe Agricultural Research Centre has, in this regard, identified some of its concerns that need attention. The centre asserted that the supports of most stakeholders, in the pre-scaling up of new seed varieties, for instance, are varying. The other problem the center need to be addressed is associated to coordination. According to the center, what so ever new agricultural research output it may be, it can reach majority of the farmers and change their lives only if there is a strong coordination and close collaboration among all stakeholders.
With regard to market, the centre demanded the concerned body to create conducive market system.
Director of the Centre, Adane Melak said that it is indispensable to expect increase in produce when farmers use new agricultural technologies and it is also necessary to simultaneously create a market that can treat such increments.