Ethiopia: Farmers in Central Ethiopian State Boosting Wheat Production Using Irrigation

The summer irrigation wheat program in Ethiopia is an important agricultural initiative aimed at increasing wheat production during the summer season. Ethiopia's predominantly rain-fed agriculture faces challenges in meeting the growing demand for wheat due to limited rainfall and unpredictable weather patterns.

Frequent droughts and erratic rainfall patterns due to climate change significantly impact agricultural productivity, leading to crop failures and food shortages. Limited access to modern farming technologies and inadequate infrastructure further exacerbates the vulnerability of small-scale farmers. Additionally, high population growth rates, limited employment opportunities, and low agricultural productivity contribute to persistent poverty and food insecurity.

To address the challenges of food insecurity, the Ethiopian government has implemented the summer irrigated wheat program, which has emerged as a transformative initiative in the agricultural sector. Introduced three years ago at the national level, this program aims to diversify and enhance crop production by promoting the cultivation of wheat during the summer season through irrigation.

Traditionally, wheat production in Ethiopia heavily relied on the rainy season, but the summer irrigated wheat program has opened up new possibilities. By utilizing underground water sources, farmers are now able to cultivate wheat during the dry season, thereby increasing productivity and reducing dependence on rainfall.

The program has been particularly beneficial to the country. Dinku Werede, a resident of the Jole-sosit kebele in Meskan Wereda, has long been dependent on the regular rainy season for its farmers to sustain their livelihoods through tomato production. However, a new initiative has recently brought about a significant change in the agriculture practices in the region.

Previously focused solely on growing tomatoes, the national government launched the summer irrigated wheat program, and Dinku heeded the recommendation of the Wereda agriculture bureau and embarked on the production of irrigated wheat using underground water for the first time.

After taking the recommendation of the Wereda Agriculture Bureau, Dinku has dedicated five hectares of his land to this new endeavor. With this shift, he anticipates a yield of 48 quintals per hectare.

In order to achieve this summer irrigation wheat, the bureau has been providing valuable support to me and other farmers in the area. This assistance includes the provision of fertilizers, various crop protection drugs, and other agriculture inputs. Moreover, agronomists have actively engaged with the community, conducting awareness sessions to disseminate knowledge and best practices related to wheat production under summer irrigation, he said.

Deputy Head of the Woreda Agriculture Bureau, Jebir Jemal, told the Ethiopian Press Agency that Dinku is not the only farmer in Meskan Wereda to have been utilizing underground water resources to engage in large-scale summer irrigated wheat production on an annual basis. Many others have also succeeded in the same practice.

This year, approximately 331 hectares of land have been dedicated to producing wheat through summer irrigation, marking a significant expansion in comparison to previous years. He stated that their goal was to cultivate 66 percent of the planned irrigation land, indicating their ambition to maximize productivity in the region. To achieve this, the bureau head and agronomists have been actively organizing farmers into clusters, promoting cooperation and efficient resource allocation among them.

This shift towards summer irrigated wheat production not only enhances food security but also contributes to the economic development of the country. This program empowers farmers to maximize their land potential and improve their livelihoods, ultimately fostering sustainable agricultural practices across the country.

Additionally, the summer irrigation wheat program provides employment opportunities for rural communities, particularly during the dry season when agricultural activities are limited. It contributes to poverty reduction and rural development by creating income-generating activities and improving livelihoods.

One of the remarkable outcomes of this summer irrigation initiative has been the creation of numerous jobs for the locality. He mentioned that about 1,031 farmers from the Meskan Wereda are actively involved in the summer irrigation wheat production. This not only contributes to the economic well-being of these individuals but also helps to address unemployment issues in the region, as Jebir mentioned.

He further emphasized that the benefits of this agricultural endeavor extend beyond the local community. In addition to ensuring food security within the locality, the surplus wheat production has opened up opportunities for exporting to foreign countries. For these achievements, the Wereda Agriculture Bureau, in collaboration with agricultural experts, is working diligently to provide the necessary agricultural inputs to support the farmers in their endeavors.

"Our objective is to ensure efficient distribution of this vital resource among the farming community" said Usman Surur, the Deputy Governor of the Central Ethiopian State, Coordinator of the Rural Development Cluster, and Head of the Regional Agriculture Office.

"We also want to support farmers in their agricultural endeavors and promote sustainable practices that contribute to the overall growth and productivity of the agricultural sector in a country" he added.

He noted that adequate soil fertilizer has been bought and distributed this year since the state administration was able to work particularly hard to address the issue of soil fertilizer availability and seasonality last year. In a significant boost to agricultural productivity, the Central Ethiopian State is controlling over approximately 55 percent of the initially allocated soil fertilizer provided by the federal government for the autumn season, he said.

To enhance accessibility and equity, Usman emphasized that soil fertilizers are exclusively distributed through unions with all concerned parties. This approach aims to empower farmers and improve their access to essential agricultural inputs. It is beneficial that no external organizations in general outside of the unions are authorized to supply soil fertilizers within the region, strengthening the cooperative system, he noted.

He further stated that, in a strong stance against illegal practices, the state government has taken decisive action against authorities, professionals, dealers, and unlicensed brokers involved in illicit activities related to the distribution of fertilizer for agricultural purposes. This proactive measure aims to safeguard the interests of farmers and promote fair and transparent practices in the agricultural sector, he said.

He noted that Ethiopia demonstrates its dedication to agricultural growth and the wellbeing of its farming community by distributing soil fertilizer fairly and cooperating with government attempts to combat illegal dealers and other operation parties. Moreover, utilizing more access to soil fertilizers and other agriculture nutrients will enable farmers in the region to boost their yields and improve the food security across the country, he remarked.

Public Relations and Communication Executive with the Ministry of Agriculture, Kebede Lakew, stated in his part that the Ministry has collected more than 58.5 million quintals of wheat from this summer season irrigation work while the harvesting is still underway.

As to him, the nation has cultivated close to 3 million hectares of land to collect 120 million quintals of wheat during the summer irrigation works.

"Summer wheat irrigation has been playing a significant role in boosting production and productivity and helping to improve the food system. At present, the nation has created an enabling environment to cover the necessary wheat demand by itself," he added.

Kebede further stated that the country is on the right track to produce adequate wheat, both for export and domestic consumption, and that the country is striving to ensure food security through major agricultural activities.

"Government leaders and experts are working hand-in-hand to realize the expected result from the summer wheat irrigation," he noted. Also, it was to be recalled that the summer irrigation wheat production is initiated by the reformist government, and it brings an appreciable outcome, especially the country's aspiration to realize food sovereignty.

Furthermore, the program promotes the adoption of modern agricultural practices and technologies, such as efficient irrigation systems and improved seed varieties. It encourages farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices, including water conservation and soil management techniques.

Overall, the summer irrigation wheat program in Ethiopia plays a crucial role in boosting wheat production, ensuring food security, and advancing rural development. By harnessing water resources effectively and promoting sustainable agricultural practices, Ethiopia aims to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production and improve the livelihoods of its farmers.

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