Ethiopia plans to change its status from wheat importer to self-sufficient producer and exporter

Source:  AgroXXI
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Scientists from India and Ethiopia have teamed up to develop a dry-climate wheat system, and in May, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and the Ethiopian government initiated an ambitious $94 million Climate Resilient Wheat Value Chain Development (CREW) project.

Ethiopian researchers traveled to India to expand knowledge on improving wheat yields in arid climates as part of the three-year ADAPT-Wheat project, which is designed to integrate the latest agro-technologies and farm equipment into wheat production. Indian specialists have already accumulated solid experience in reclamation of saline lands, including through cover crops, and breeding of drought- and salt-tolerant wheat.

The irrigated Afar and Oromia lowlands of Ethiopia are vital areas for wheat cultivation, and improving their productivity is critical to achieving food security in the context of prolonged drought and other climatic shocks.

Adaptation, Demonstration and Adoption of Wheat Technologies for the Irrigated Lowlands of Ethiopia (ADAPT-Wheat ) is a three-year project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to identify and replicate agro-technologies in Afar and Oromia.

As part of the ADAPT-Wheat mission, four Ethiopian wheat researchers from different disciplines visited the Indian Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), the Indian Wheat and Wheat Research Institute (IIWBR) and other industry organizations involved in the project in March this year.

At CSSRI, they learned how to reclaim saline soils with salt-tolerant crops, improved water use management and methods of planting cover crops on saline soils to reduce soil temperature and evaporation. They also toured a sodic and saline micro-seeding facility used for screening genotypes under desirable salinity and salinity stress. Workshops were held on agrochemical, biological and hydraulic technologies for reclamation of saline soils and introduction of reclamation technologies for salinity management.

Ethiopian researchers were provided with information on methods of breeding wheat varieties with higher protein, iron and zinc content, and at Dasmesh Mechanical Works they were familiarized with the operation and maintenance of agricultural machinery procured for the project, including machines for ploughing, sowing, threshing and others.

At the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), the Ethiopian delegation learned about conservation agriculture practices such as fertilizer efficiency and crop residue management, which will ultimately help increase wheat yields in Ethiopia. They were presented with the results of an ongoing experiment on maize-wheat rotations based on precision and conservation agriculture.

Finally, the delegation visited the CIMMYT-India office and met with Mahesh Kumar Gatala, an agronomist and leading scientist. He, in turn, emphasized the importance of cooperation and sharing of experiences in developing high-yielding wheat cropping systems in arid and hot climates.

To add, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and the Government of Ethiopia in collaboration with the Netherlands, fertilizer company OCP-Africa and the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA) have initiated an ambitious project aimed at transforming Ethiopia from a wheat importer to a self-sufficient producer and exporter.

The Climate Resilient Wheat Value Chain Development (CREW) project has a total budget of US$94 million.

The African Development Fund, part of the African Development Bank Group, is providing a grant of US$54 million. The Netherlands will contribute US$20 million, while OCP-Africa and the Government of Ethiopia will each provide US$10 million. In addition, GCA will provide US$300,000 under the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP).

This program integrates climate risk assessment and digital adaptation solutions into the wheat value chain, supports capacity building through Digital Climate Advisory Services (DCAS), and co-develops digital adaptation solutions for the wheat farmer registration system.

The financing will help 500,000 smallholder farmer households in Ethiopia’s Afar, Amhara, Oromia, and Somali regions to increase wheat yields from three to four tons per hectare, resulting in an additional 1.62 million tons of wheat. The project will also expand irrigation in the lowlands of the Afar and Somali regions. The project is expected to benefit 2.3 million people, half of whom are women, create jobs and improve food security.

The CREW project has two main components. The first aims to improve wheat cultivation using environmentally sound practices, including developing better seeds, improving soil health, rehabilitating and constructing irrigation systems and access roads, and strengthening sustainable private sector-led agricultural mechanization.

The second component involves expanding post-harvest and market infrastructure and providing access to agrofinance through innovative mechanisms.

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