Ethiopian crop yields to get boost from UNDP, Gates Foundation

21 Jul 2011

imageFood security is key for long term resilience in Ethiopia. (Photo: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

As the United Nations steps up efforts to respond to a drought and food crisis across parts of the Horn of Africa, an initiative to double Ethiopia’s crop yields during the next five years will receive support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ethiopia’s new agriculture agency aims to double crop yields in the country by adopting more ecologically sensitive farming methods, reducing pre- and post-harvest losses and increasing the use of new pesticides and fertilizer technology.

“We launched the agency with the aim of accelerating agricultural growth and supporting smallholder farmers who are key to national food security,” said Tefera Derbew, Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture.

Established in December 2010, the Agricultural Transformation Agency was modeled on similar government agencies in Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan that achieved successes in agricultural growth.

The Ethiopian agency aims to promote innovative farming models among smallholder farmers, focusing on new approaches to producing and accessing seeds, developing markets and cooperatives, and adopting new technology, soil management and agri-business services.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a US$11.8 million grant to the new agency. UNDP will provide technical advice on strategies and interventions and will help mobilize further resources from other potential donors.

“Agriculture is a key driver of Ethiopia’s economy and when small farmers are able to increase their productivity, it has tremendous potential to reduce poverty and hunger,” said Roy Steiner, deputy director for Agricultural Development at the Gates Foundation.

Agriculture employs over 80 percent of Ethiopia’s labour force and accounts for over 40 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with smallholder farms accounting for 90 percent of the country’s produce.

Average growth rates of eight percent annually in Ethiopia’s agriculture sector during the last 10 years lay the ground work for longer term food security in the country, along with improved early warning systems that, last year, successfully alerted the humanitarian community to the region’s current drought.

 “While boosting food security, the agency’s work will contribute to creating livelihoods and empowering people so they can determine their own future,” said Eugene Owusu, UNDP Resident Representative in Ethiopia.