14 July 2018

Ethiopia: Researchers Find Increased Yields in Wheat Farms Using 'Certified Seeds'

Researchers with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported that smallholder farmers were able to witness a 14 percent yield increase in wheat production by applying certified seeds and technologies that could help farmers increase yield.

IFPRI's press statement sent to The Reporter showed that a new study launched last week indicated that Ethiopian smallholder farmers have seen increased yield through the usage of "certified seeds, improved farming techniques and a guaranteed market for the wheat crop," it read.

Alan De Brauw, a senior research fellow and co-author of the study: "The impact of the use of new technologies on farmers' wheat yield in Ethiopia," said that "overall, the 14 percent increase in yield is relatively substantial since farmers were encouraged to simply use existing technologies."

When asked as to what validates the 14 percent wheat production increase and the sustainability of such intervention in a rain-fed agriculture of Ethiopia; Gashaw Tadesse Abate, co-author of the study and research coordinator with IFPRI wrote to The Reporter that a 14% yield increase is achieved in a rain-fed and mostly traditional production environment. "We have a proper comparison group of wheat farmers who were randomly assigned to serve as a control group before the program was implemented and those that do not implement the wheat initiative package. Thus, the 14 percent rise in the yield is the difference on the average yield between the farmers who have implemented the package on their wheat plots and those who didn't," Gashaw said.

The study was designed and conducted based on the government's Wheat Initiative launched back in 2013. The initiative, which the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) launched together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, initially has covered some 400,000 wheat farmers in 41 woredas (districts) in the country to promote the optimal use of improved technologies and proper implementation of agronomic best practices.

The study mentioned that the main goal of the initiative was set in reducing Ethiopia's reliance on imported wheat by increasing yield and productivity. Hence, the study finds that the wheat initiative was successful in terms of the distribution of improved seed and fertilizer; yet only 61 percent of the intervention group found out to be able to adopt row-planting and few farmers also have received marketing assistances.

The researchers indicated that though the yields are remarkable; it is coming at gradual pace and that expectations might not meet with the outcome. The government of Ethiopia expected yields under the program to double. "However, such high expectations may not be realistic in the case of Ethiopian wheat farming," De Baruw suggested.

According to some literature, certified seed is grown under stringent production requirements and has minimal weed-seeds or other matter. Countries like Ethiopia who depend mostly on local seed varieties often find it difficult to source certified seeds multinational companies provide. Prices and availability and dependency issues are common narratives in such cases.

Reacting on matters of seed market monopoly and farmers low-level bargaining power, De Baruw said that Ethiopia faces no problems with regard to seed monopoly markets. However, he suggested that the private sector players should be allowed to play a role in the market to create more competitive environment so that it is possible for farmers to have options to bargain.

IFPRI, once headquartered in Ethiopia and moved out to Kenya, was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. Both Gashaw Tadesse and De Brauw were joined by research fellows Nicholas Minot and Tanguy Bernard.

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