Achieving sustainable development in developing countries like Ethiopia calls for the adoption of a set of diversified Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) practices.
Since the Ethiopian economy is mainly dependent on the productivity of smallholder farmers, this makes SAI, which is an increase in agricultural production per unit of inputs, the order of the day.
According to, Dr. Tagel Gebrehiwot of the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), tripling food demand from 2010-2050 is going to become a major challenge in Africa. Ethiopia's domestic demand for cereals in 2050 will be 2.62 times higher than was in 2010.
Referring to the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy of Ethiopia, Tagel says agricultural land will need to expand by 3.9 percent per year in order to achieve the growth targets set for the agricultural sector from 2010-2030.
Under the Business as Usual (BAU) scenario, total cropland is projected to increase by 14.4 million hectares by 2030 and 55 percent of this agricultural land will be converted from forests, he notes.
Others experts argue that expanding agricultural land by converting forests would not be a sustainable solution for SAI. Rather what really matters is increasing productivity.
Using complementary inputs such as improved seed varieties or crop diversification, conservation tillage, fertilizers and chemical applications as well as small mechanizations with minimum negative impacts to the ecology and environment are major concerns in dealing with SAI.
Rabe Yahaya, Mechanization Expert Smallholder's Meccanization Strategy for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (CIMMYT) project in Ethiopia for his part says increasing productivity of smallholder farmers at farm and behind their farm levels, with a strategy based on SAI, needs promoting and implementing small mechanization which supports raw planting and direct seeding.
This could be done in line with the rules of agricultural conservation or the three principles, which are minimum disturbance of the soil, crop residue on the top of the soil and crop rotation.
According to him, most farmers concentrate on the idea of having only the best seed and the best crop protection and fertilizers to increase yield at farm level.
Yet he argues that it is a wrong approach. In order to increase yield, farmers need three components. "These are having better quality of seeds, crop protection, fertilizers, insect and pesticides all together and the top component will be machineries. These three components will contribute equally."
However, providing the machineries require a huge investment and the farmers do not have the money to buy the technology. Thus, coming up with a two-wheel tractor and multipurpose simple machineries and providing the farmers with small mechanization services has become the solution.
One can take power from the two-wheel tractor and make use of a trailer, planter, water pump, sheller and thrasher.
"We train entrepreneur oriented young people, who want to make money and love agriculture, to have the skill of operating the technology. So, they can sell the planting, harvesting, transporting and irrigation service for the smallholder farmers. With this scheme, we believe that African agriculture will take off quickly."
According, to him the experiments made in Melkasa Agricultural Research Center have been successful. "We have got empirical evidence in terms of drudgery reduction and yield increase. We have reduced drudgery by ten times compared to the conventional or traditional farming. Productivity also increased by two and half tone per hectare.
The policy brief in Ethiopia No. 3 2014 indicates that simultaneous adoptions of (SAI) practices results in best outcomes in terms of income generation.
On the other hand, sustainable land use is the other factor while considering SAI. Kewoldnesh Tsgaye, Social Development Expert in the Sustainable Land Use project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says there is no other body than the farmers who can understand the nature of their own land.
Thus, proactive approaches are mandatory in order to minimize land degradation and maximize productivity as part of SAI.
Million Getnet, (PhD), a Consultant at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILIRI) tells The Ethiopian Herald that SAI is becoming a global agenda but it is a complex subject because of diversified interests from practitioners.
He notes that maintaining an approach which would bring multiple actors with multiples interests in to a platform where they can discuss, deliberate and set a collective action could make the agricultural sector more sustainable.
As a result, ILIRI has established a National Learning Alliance (NLA), as part of the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research Learning Alliance (SAIRLA) project in Ethiopia, says Million.