A field trip organized for the participants of the CGIAR Science Forum 2016 provided them an overview of how the legume commodity value chain operates in Ethiopia and how partners of Grain Legumes work together to link smallholder farmers with marketing channels so that even the small and marginalized participants benefit.
The visitors got an opportunity to see for themselves the positive transformation in the lives of the beneficiaries of the Tropical Legumes projects and the work that is being done in partnership with the private and public sector. The trip included visits to the farm of a successful farmer whose livelihood has drastically changed with the adoption of improved technologies; a leading pulse exporter who created a share for Ethiopian smallholder farmers in the global pulse market through value enhancement; a farmer’s union that has demonstrated how collective farming can make agriculture more profitable with better access to required inputs and collective marketing to achieve economies of scale in legume systems; a small seed company that stepped in to fill the supply gap of legume seed; and a research organization that in collaboration with the CGIAR centers and other institutions produces varieties and management practices that are relevant to local conditions.
The visit started with the farm of Mr Haile Wako, a successful legume farmer from East Showa Zone, Oromiya Regional State, Ethiopia, who turned around his small farm into a viable commercial enterprise. He started by engaging in participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials and varietal demonstrations and gained further skills through various trainings on quality seed production trainings. Using improved varieties and agronomic practices, his seed production increased and he constructed a 500 ton capacity warehouse. Currently Mr Wako owns a pickup vehicle, a truck and a tractor which he uses for his farm operations. He sells more than 200 tons of quality seed each year. The progress he made has been to a large extent due to technical backstopping and other support through various projects including Tropical Legumes (I, II, III) projects and Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA).
Next on the itinerary was a visit to a private sector partner, Agricultural Commodity Supplies (ACOS), which has a sophisticated grain-processing factory for cleaning, grading and packing legume seeds for export. The factory, operating at full capacity since 2006, is equipped with an X-ray machine to detect all kinds of foreign material, a high-tech optical selector for color selection, conveyor belts for handpicking and six steel silos of 1,000 tons capacity for long-term storage. The company processes a wide range of dry pulses including navy pea beans (white pea beans), small red beans, dark red kidney beans, creamy beans, chickpeas and sesame grains.
The next stop was the Lume Adama Farmers’ Cooperative Union, which was formed to improve the bargaining power of members, to procure inputs and services at a lower cost and to enable members’ produce get better market access by value addition (cleaning, grading, packing, etc). The Union has a membership of 32 cooperatives and 22,896 farmers and a working capital of more than ETB 24 million (US$1,113,949). Besides other activities, the union cleans and packs legume seeds and grains using both machine and human labor to add value to members’ products. Most members have improved the productivity of their farmlands and improved their livelihoods. Increased employment on farm labor, increased demand for farmland and credit, point to positive multipliers in the local economy from agricultural commercialization.
Participants also visited Amwari Seed Company started by Mr Ameha Abraham, a farmer from Adaa woreda in central Ethiopia. Mr Abraham started by selling seeds individually to seed producers’ associations before joining hands with other farmers to form a seed growers’ association in 2009 with the support of TL II project, then moving on to set up a private seed company. The initial funding of ETB 100,000 (US$5000) was in the form of share capital of ETB 10,000 (US$500) each from 10 founding members. The company has since diversified from chickpea and in 2014 it produced teff seed on 57 ha, wheat on 50 ha and chickpea on 31 ha. The average chickpea productivity of the company is 3.5 to 4.5 t/ha, much higher than the national average of 1.9 t/ha. The company sells seeds to the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (which is the national seed procurement agency), research centers and buyers from other areas.
The last stop was at Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), the center mandated with the improvement of chickpea and lentils among other crops. The center took national leadership in the release of 24 improved varieties (17 national and 7 regional) with traits such as large seed (64 g/100 seed weight), disease resistance (Ascochyta blight/Fusarium wilt), drought tolerance, early maturing, and high yield.
The average yield gain due to these varieties is 2-3 fold over landrace varieties. Projects such as TL II and III have aggressively supported variety development, release, and dissemination through integrated seed systems. Integration of the formal and informal seed production and distribution system has enhanced availability. With the uptake of these varieties and associated production packages, the national productivity has been on steady increase.
The science forum was organized by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) of the CGIAR from 12-15 April in Addis Ababa Ethiopia with the theme – “Agricultural research for rural prosperity: rethinking the pathways” to focus on the contribution of agriculture to reducing poverty.
Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings