Underscoring ways for promoting agricultural productivity

Ethiopia, which is a landlocked country in East Africa and located in the Horn of Africa with a population of over 120 million people, has possessed a rich agricultural heritage that dates back thousands of years.

True, the agriculture sector plays a vital role in the country’s economy, providing livelihoods for a substantial portion of the population and significantly contributing to its GDP. Needless to state, agricultural productivity in Ethiopia remains low due to limited private investment, fragmented markets, environmental degradation, and due to shocks occur either sporadically or recurrently. These challenges are exacerbated by conflict and the worst drought in recorded history.

Withstanding such immense hurdles, the agriculture sector has to be pushed steps forward. Taking this pivotal concern into account, The Ethiopian Herald approached Mohammed Jawar, an agro economist graduated from Addis Ababa University, to solicit a piece of information about how can the agricultural productivity increase, in what way post harvest system can be flawless and help the farming community harvest crops without damage and bankruptcy as well as other related concerns.

He said, “It is obvious that agriculture has remained a critical part of Ethiopia’s economy, accounting for 45 % of the gross domestic product (GDP), 80 % of exports, and an estimated 75 % of the country’s workforce since long back. Despite significant increases in agricultural output, Ethiopia’s agriculture and food system is not well equipped to support access to healthy diets for its rapidly growing and urbanizing population or to stimulate broad-based economic transformation.”

Cognizant of the fact that the sector of the main stay of the country’s economy, the government has been well embarking on the sector via expanding a range of activities that help boost production, fostering private enterprise development in the food and agriculture system in order to increase employment, income, and access to healthy diets, he added.

He further elucidated that despite the challenges faced by this sector, Ethiopia has made remarkable progress in recent years, implementing various strategies to address issues related to productivity, sustainability, and food security.

Here, the government and other bodies working on the area are expected to move in unison so as to increase access for small and medium-sized agri-food enterprises and smallholder farmers to business development services including finance, improved technologies, mechanization, marketing, and the digital economy.

True, he said it is this time the country can build capacity to well develop the sector and enhance key agriculture value chains to increase incomes and food access among the vulnerable, modeling how private sector investment and increase smallholder productivity, marketing, and innovation.

According to Mohammed, the government along with development partners, the private sector, regional, continental and international allies has to focus on various ways to overcome barriers to last-mile food supply and agricultural services.

The government had better strengthen disaster risk reduction and response efforts by improving early action, analytic capacity, local planning and preparedness, and local resource mobilization and coordination with a view to protecting food security gains and making options hat help boost agricultural productivity, he opined.

Mohammed further elaborated that the effort of the ministry of agriculture, regional agriculture bureaus and even zonal agricultural departments have to effectively discharge what is expected of them to collectively help the nation ensure food security across the nation, and this combined effort needs to complement agriculture investments with nutrition promotion, improved health services, and increased access to sustainable water and sanitation services.

As to him, it is high time for Ethiopia to make food and agriculture systems more competitive, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient to increase access to healthy diets, particularly for women and children. In so doing, the county will increase the availability, affordability (primarily by increasing incomes), convenience, and desirability of safe, diverse, nutritious foods, across the national geographic zone of influence.

He said, “We all have to work hard to improve governance and policy to enhance land tenure rights for farmers and pastoralists, empowering them to contribute more fully to their families’ and their communities’ economic growth prospects. To this end, it is better to work with institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector to enhance leadership and management capacities, strengthen communication, coordination, and cooperation among institutions, and increase the power of local actors and communities.”

As to Mohammed, arable land in Ethiopia accounts for about 34 % of the country’s total land area. Oromia, Amhara, the Southern and central Ethiopia Regions are predominantly key regions for agriculture. Since Ethiopia has a diverse climate, with hot, dry conditions in the lowlands and cooler, wetter conditions in the highlands and it is suitable for producing a number of crops, citizens peculiarly the farming community are expected to expand the sector through making it mechanized as much as possible.

Mohammed also said the very point that needs to be cited in relation to production improvement is the way how the country follows regarding post harvest system.

He said even though the nation has been facing challenges like high level of poverty intensity, inequality between the rich and the poor, drought and conflict, and other related unpredictable factors, the Ethiopian economy has the potential to grow rapidly in the coming years. The government’s reforms are starting to bear fruit, and the country has a young and growing population. If the government can address the challenges facing the economy, Ethiopia has the potential to become a middle-income country within the shortest time possible.

Obviously, he said Ethiopia is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the African Union (AU). It signed many free trade agreements with other African countries, and is seeking to join the World Trade Organization as member apart from having an observer status.

Mohammed also stated that agriculture has been the backbone of Ethiopian society for centuries, with smallholder farming being the predominant form of production. Traditional crops like teff, wheat, barley, and pulses have been staples in the Ethiopian diet for generations. Livestock farming also plays a significant role, in providing the society with meat, milk, and other products.

In spite of its rich agricultural history, Ethiopia faces various challenges in the sector today. The majority of farmers are smallholders with limited access to resources, modern technology, and market linkages. Land fragmentation, inadequate infrastructure, and climate change have also further hindered agricultural productivity. Furthermore, reliance on rain-fed agriculture makes the sector vulnerable to erratic weather patterns, leading to fluctuations in yields.

These serious challenges need to be well averted by the combined effort of all and the country should garner the benefit it deserves out the sector thereby emancipating itself from the grip of poverty and deficiency it finds itself in.

The government should also focus on promoting agricultural innovation, increasing productivity, and enhancing market access for smallholder farmers to help the nation declare economic sovereignty, indeed. The country needs to be committed to developing a climate-resilient and green economy, too, he added. Besides, agricultural extension services have to be expanded to reach more farmers with knowledge of modern farming techniques, improved seeds, and climate-smart practices.

Here, the role the private sector investment in agriculture, fostering collaborations that bring modern technologies and market linkages to smallholder farmers would never be overlooked, but has to be well intensified instead.

Last but not least, irrigation and water management in due course of producing summer wheat and other products should be well eyed on as expanding irrigation infrastructure and promoting efficient water management can reduce dependence on rain-fed agriculture and increase productivity. The post harvest system has also been well handled to make the agriculture sector much more productive and well feed all citizens across the nation.



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