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Maize Production Boost

Advanced seeds boost Ethiopia maize production despite drought

Headlines of 18 million people suffering in Ethiopia’s worst drought for 50 years do not reveal the full story. Although drought has killed 90% of crops and at least 1m cattle in some parts, farm productivity and food production continues to soar in other parts of the diverse country.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture is extending to 2018 a successful African public-private partnership programme developed with USAID and seed company Du Pont Pioneer to reach 100,000 farmers with better maize seeds. The Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP) was first launched in 2013 and increases the productivity of smallholder farmers by giving them new, high-quality options for maize seeds as well as improving seed distribution and post-harvest storage.

Farmer productivity is very important, more than 80% of the Ethiopians earn their living from farming and depend on it for food, and there are more than 8m smallholder maize farmers. Demand for maize from the fast-growing 102 million population, growing at an estimated 2.5% a year, outpaces supply. Farmers are held back by low yields and also by post-harvest losses including mould, theft, vermin and not enough storage.

Du Pont Pioneer, based in Iowa, USA, develops hybrid plant seeds for farmers around the world to fit local conditions. According to this article , Du Point director Lystra Antoine, said: “Farmers in Ethiopia are very similar to farmers in other countries. We view them as change agents and consider that their role is very significant in ensuring food security in Ethiopia… Through AMSAP, we are giving these farmers a risk-free way to experience a new technology. Once they experience the technology, they are then willing to invest in it.”

The article cites Khalid Bomba, CEO of Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency: “The AMSAP partnership is actually a fantastic example of a very well-functioning public-private partnership in Ethiopia… AMSAP brings together one of the world’s leading agriculture companies, DuPont Pioneer, along with one of Ethiopia’s most important development partners, USAID, to bring to fore a market-based solution for smallholder farmers.”

Agicultural extension workers, farming cooperatives and other training centres were trained by USAID’s Agribusiness Market Development project, funded by the U.S. Government global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. It is operated by ACDI/VOCA in Ethiopia and also helps with farm management and other training. They use demonstration plots to show lead farmers how hardy the new hybrid seeds are and to teach best practices for planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting to generate the highest yields. These lead farmers serve as guides to other farmers in the surrounding communities who want to purchase new seeds. Farmers are getting more choice in terms of tools and inputs and agronomic and veterinary advice through new community farmer service centres, which give more choice than farmer cooperatives.

It is a project in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition partnership, launched by the G-8 in 2012. The overview of the 5-year Feed the Future AGP Agribusiness Market Development project, which included maize, said it has reached over 1.2m people, created 6,000 jobs and created farm gate sales of $181m in the key sectors: coffee, sesame, maize, chickpeak, wheat and honey.

AMSAP started with 320 lead farmers in 2013 and their average yields nearly doubled. For video of farmers, see here.

Ethiopia is Africa’s third largest producer of maize, according to the Ministry of Agriculture Agricultural Growth Programme (AGP): “The hybrid maize technology transformation is activated through the AMSAP partnership and BH-661 popularization program.”

It says that the public-private partnership (PPP) project helped local producers in three regions where rainfall is normally good to sell 12,300 MT of maize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), amounting over $4m in sales, benefiting approximately 11, 000 smallholder member farmers and attracting much needed forex trade. WFP plans to double the amount of maize purchased in the coming year – it is the main supplier of emergency food aid to parts where there is famine.