How Ethiopia boosted chickpea production
Researchers described how Ethiopia increased chickpea production by making sure that farmers had access to improved seeds and training on improved farming practices.
Chickpea is a bean-like food crop that is commonly farmed in Ethiopia. Much of the country’s produce is even exported to other countries. Years ago, many people recognised that farmers could produce even more chickpeas if they used improved seeds that would withstand pests and diseases.
A recent book documents how Ethiopian chickpea production has increased since that realisation.
The authors said in 2013, Ethiopia formed a ‘National Chickpea Stakeholders Innovation Platform’ that discussed problems in chickpea production and came up with solutions. A platform is like an organisation. The platform included researchers, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, farmers’ cooperatives and unions, food processors, seed producers, and export partners.
The authors said the platform saw seed shortages as the biggest challenge, and then formed associations to supply seeds throughout the country. This change doubled chickpea production to 2 tonnes per hectare.
Another problem they had identified was a low quality of produce. They trained farmers on better production methods, such as using fertilisers to improve soil quality.
They had also noted that farmers struggled to control weeds.. They therefore gave farmers chickpea seeds that could grow well even when sprayed with herbicides, which are chemicals that farmers use to control weeds or unwanted plants.
The authors said the platform made sure that farmers were trained to increase their knowledge on chickpea production. Farmers also attended events where they could share information and their experiences.
The authors said the platform also linked farmers with buyers, and seed producers with those responsible for buying and distributing seeds to farmers.
The platform also formed and trained women and youth associations on chickpea production. They further encouraged women and youth to be involved in seed production.
The authors said that despite the achievements made, there was still a shortage of chickpea seeds. They also said the platform could achieve more if they had resources to meet more regularly.
They recommended that Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and researchers should support the platform with money so that it does not collapse. They also suggested improving chickpea quality and how chickpea production risks, such as diseases, are managed.
Finally, the authors called for further improved seeds that would be easy to harvest using machines, and which were not affected by herbicides.
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is the third important food legume both in area and production after common beans and faba beans in Ethiopia. However, the productivity of the crop was very low compared to the potential as a result of non-use of improved varieties and technologies generated by the research system. To enhance the use of the improved and associated research technologies a National Chickpea Stakeholders Innovation Platform was established in 2013 with the objective of bringing together various stakeholders acting on the value chain in order to identify major challenges and find solutions that would be implemented through synergetic efforts. The platform identified seed shortage as a major bottleneck in the sector. This issue has been addressed through establishing farmers’ seed producer associations with the help of R&D partners and currently they are the major suppliers nationwide. Side by side, the platform strengthened the extension effort and triggered dissemination of improved technologies to a large number of farmers. As a result, productivity of the crop by model farmers increased by fourfold and the national productivity has been doubled to 2 ton ha−1 in the last decade. The platform also worked on improving access to market and recently chickpea joined the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange market. Cognizant of the huge development potential of the crop, the platform is striving to further strengthen the intervention and reap opportunities.
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