Project 5: Improving agricultural productivity in the South Ethiopian Rift Valley

Agriculture is the back bone of the Ethiopian economy accounting for more than 45% of the annual GDP (CSA, 2014; MoFED, 2014; MoA, 2014). The country is endowed with diverse agro-ecological zones which are often mentioned as a major resource basis for agricultural development. Hence, opportunities are plenty to allow the country to develop a highly productive and environmentally friendly agriculture. However, current farming practices across the country are characterized by their small scale, subsistence level resulting in low livelihood levels. To modernize this sector and increase the market value of agricultural products the Ethiopian government has developed its second growth and transformation plan (GTP II), aiming to produce high value crops and animals capitalizing on the specificities of the different agro-ecologies of each region.

Small land holdings, poor soil fertility, low biomass production, poor reproductive and productive performance of livestock, lack of suitable genotypes, poor post-harvest management, limited use of agricultural technologies, lack of efficient market orientation and value chain management, lack of adequate finance and skilled manpower are major bottlenecks in transforming the sector. Poor soil fertility in the South Ethiopian rift ralley has multiple and extremely contrasting features ranging from high acidity in the highlands to alkalinity and salinity in the lowlands, and general imbalances of nutrients. Low biomass yields of field and horticultural crops derive directly from this poor soil fertility but also from poor agronomic practices, minimal or no use of agro-inputs and from high disease pressure. Reduced livestock productivity follows logically from the ensuing poor supply of fodder and feeds, leading to a general poor nutrition, low productivity of local genotypes and vulnerability to diseases. Finally, the virtual absence of appropriate post-harvest management of agricultural products is also affecting the market value of the produce. All the above mentioned constraints are prevalent and extreme in the South Ethiopian rrift valley.

The College of Agricultural Sciences of Arba Minch University is committed to support the efforts of the government by identifying suitable genotypes, adapting integrated agricultural production systems, and developing/transferring innovative post-harvest agricultural technologies. In line with this ambition, the college is initiating linkages with other local and international institutions to acquire advanced knowledge and skill and to facilitate technology transfer which will impact the self-sufficiency and improved livelihood in the South Ethiopian rift ralley. As a main actor in this exercise, improving the technical capacity of the staff of the unit and strengthening the institution as a whole is needed. These goals will not be reached without additional inputs.

Agricultural production and productivity enhancement have been given due attention by the Ethiopian government. In line with this, Ethiopia is now determined to use all necessary efforts to increase agricultural outputs (animal and plant products) to enhance food security of the nation. Arba Minch University has a national mandate to train qualified professionals in various fields of study in general and agricultural sciences in particular. Hence, capacity building and dissemination of research-based innovative outputs to the local community has a crucial role to play in the economic development of the region in particular and the country in general. Therefore, working with collaborating Flemish universities through VLIR-UOS  institutional interuniversity programme in the area of agricultural production and productivity improvement programs would have a significant impact on the achievement of the anticipated country’s GTP-II.

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