Feed the Future Ethiopia Farm Service Center project is a three year initiative model developed by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) to serve the inventory and technical needs of smallholder and medium sized farmers. The Farmer Service Center (FSC) model has been tested with high levels of success and community buy-in and currently developed as a working model in several countries across Africa and Eastern Europe.
The FSC model in Ethiopia also demonstrates and adopts innovative techniques in agronomy and livestock improvements. FSC provides advisory and in house consultation services to improve smallholder farmers' productivity and income.
Recently, Feed the Future Ethiopia Commercial Farm Services Project Grant Award Ceremony was held. The Ministry of Farming and Natural Resources State Minister through his representative said that Ethiopia has made significant progress in its agriculture sector; especially over the past decade, agriculture has shown seven percent annual growth rate on average. This was possible by the collective efforts of the government, development partners, civil society organizations, the private sector and of course the farmers.
"We need to work more to increase production and productivity of our smallholder farmers by addressing different impediments. Our agriculture sector faces a wide range of external and internal constraints. To solve these constraints, we have been trying to improve agricultural inputs, agricultural extension and mechanization services and value addition opportunities. Ensuring smallholder use of these inputs efficiently and effectively through provisions of training and consultation is also equally important," he said.
He further said that the Feed Future Ethiopia Farm Services project implemented by Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) does just that through selected 20 grantees; the project establishes 20 farm service centers throughout the Amhara , Ormoia, Tigray and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples' states that would provide smallholder farmers with agricultural supplies, training and services tailored to framers' needs .
The 20 FSC would be additional to the six pilot FSCs established in the Oromia State in 2013. The FSC could also be a valuable complement to one of the initiatives introduced in GTP II that is the agricultural commercialization clusters, geographically based initiative that integrates the system solutions in the main pillars of the transformation agenda within the specific high potential geographies and strategic commodities.
The farm service centers are expected to supplement the full package scale up initiatives which is being implemented in 82 selected woredas within the agricultural commercialization clusters. Above and beyond, the project could be an exemplary effort of strengthened public-private partnership to accelerate development in this nation.
ATA CEO Khalid Bomba on his part said that the 20 grant recipients were successful applicants in a competitive process run by the Feed the Future Ethiopia Commercial Farm Services Project to identify individuals and entities with the capacity to set up new FSCs . The finalists were chosen out of 266 applicants from the four states . Each will receive a grant worth 50 thousand USD . To establish FSCs in the areas; seven are in Oromia , six in Amhara , four in SNNPS and three in Tigray. FSC are one stop shops that provide smallholder farmers.
This is an important project for many reasons. The most important fact is that Ethiopia has shown a very rapid growth in the agricultural sector over the past decade. Most of these have been due to the fact that most of nation's farmers have been becoming much more commercialized when they come to input usage . In the past, there has been very subsistence based agricultural sector; very low output oriented. But now they are becoming much high output market oriented system. "We need to expand the types of input providers as well as the types of inputs the farmers are getting."
Over the past few years, farmers have been using different kinds of inputs: they have been using exclusively DAP and UREA fertilizers. Some have been using improved seeds and the like.
All these happen because more inputs and improved value and the quality of production both crops and livestock are becoming available to the farmers. "As these inputs are becoming available, we need more distribution centers. To help the distribution process of more inputs to the farmers, the nation has strengthened the cooperatives to provide support to them. The commercial farm services center has to understand the clients, the farmers' need based on each of the geographies and access in different channels."
USAID Mission Director Leslie Reed said the farm services centers serve as model for expanding farm supply services networks in Ethiopia and other nations in Africa. "Based on our past success, it is easy to see how the model will improve smallholders' productivity, food security and income by nurturing the development of of sustainable, private sector driven agricultural supplies and services," she said.
Project team leader Gizachew Sisay said, "The grant award is one mechanism to encourage private investment into the agriculture sector. The fact that grantees are also expected to contribute at least 50 percent of the cost of establishing the farm service centers is a key element of effective public - private partnership in driving agricultural growth."