Ethiopia: Cultivating agriculture, cutting poverty

UNDP Ethiopia
Newly introduced water harvesting techniques have helped reduce vulnerability to climate change and erratic rainfall. Photo: UNDP Ethiopia

Ethiopia aims to become a middle-income country in the next 15 years. But despite high economic growth rates, it struggles with poverty and food insecurity. For development to be successful, benefits must be widely shared.

That’s why UNDP has focused a significant portion of its support to Ethiopia on agriculture. It accounts for nearly half the economy and over 80 percent of employment.

One intervention has been to help reduce vulnerability to climate change and erratic rainfall. Mohammed Hassen was one of many farmers who did not know how to adapt. People in his rural district had farmed the same way for as far back as anyone could remember.

Changes came through a partnership between the ministry of Agriculture, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It equipped Hassen and
 his neighbours with drought-resistant seeds. Based on experiences in Zimbabwe, UNDP introduced simple plastic rain gauges so farmers in one locality could track weather patterns and plan for droughts. Farmers were encouraged to re-adopt inexpensive and environmentally friendly traditional pesticides.

Highlights

  • UNDP introduced simple plastic rain gauges so farmers could track weather patterns and plan for droughts
  • Farmers were encouraged to re-adopt inexpensive and environmentally friendly farming practices and over 100,000 farmers now practice the new methods
  • UNDP helped the Government devise a national Growth and Transformation Plan to double agricultural output and strengthen links to markets; an Agricultural Transformation Agency was established to guide implementation
  • The Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, the first of its type in Sub-Saharan Africa, was established and in 2012, trading volumes on the exchange rose by 23 percent over the previous year, and earnings grew by 31 percent.

Today, Hassen marvels at how his income has doubled, and his family enjoys three meals a day instead of two. And he can buy supplies for his children to go to school.

The ministry of Agriculture has supplied the rain gauges nationwide; local extension offices collect data complemented by satellite feeds for national forecasts. Crop losses from pests have declined, and farmers have saved substantial sums on costly imported pesticides. Initially, the three-year project sought to assist 41,000 people. But word of its success spread rapidly, and over 100,000 farmers now practice the new methods.

UNDP has also helped the Government of Ethiopia devise a national Growth and Transformation Plan with goals that include doubling agricultural output and strengthening links to markets. An Agricultural Transformation Agency was established to guide implementation, and UNDP mobilized international donors behind a $300 million investment programme.

One major step forward has been creating the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, the first of its type in Sub-Saharan Africa. It connects buyers, sellers, distributors and exporters, who trade agricultural products collected by 16 warehouses across the country. The exchange ensures that deliveries and payments happen on time, particularly important for smaller producers. Both buyers and sellers can access up-to-the-minute information on pricing through electronic notice boards in market centres.

In 2012, trading volumes on the exchange rose by 23 percent over the previous year, and earnings grew by 31 percent.

 

Since the exchange facilitates links with global markets, it has fostered new ways 
of managing the quality and marketing of commodities, particularly coffee. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and the industry today employs more than 20 percent of economically active Ethiopians.

 

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