A boost to crop production in Ethiopia

Thanks to USAID support, barley farmers like Gosaye Degefa have achieved significantly higher incomes

From its research hub in Ethiopia, ICARDA’s cereal and legume improvement program is overhauling the productivity of the region’s strategic crops.

Working with national partner the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR), and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the crop improvement program combines the development and/or testing of high-yielding climate-resilient crop varieties with capacity development and efforts to strengthen seed systems, ensuring that farmers have timely access to quality seed. 

In 2016, with ICARDA support, Ethiopia released three malt barley cultivars with higher grain yields and malting quality, making them an ideal raw material for Ethiopia’s growing malt beverage sector. They included the variety ‘Singitan,’ which is higher-yielding — generating up to 4.1 tons per hectare (t/ha) — and resistant to Shoot Fly, a major pest which can cause crop losses of up to 100% during shorter rainy seasons.

The benefits of improved malt barley varieties are acknowledged by farmers. Gosaye Degefa, a smallholder farmer from Ethiopia’s Oromia region, comments: “I have benefited a lot from barley production. We didn’t have money to spend before, but we are now saving more money and are able to send our children to school.”

ICARDA is also strengthening seed systems to ensure that quality seed gets into the hands of farmers – ineffective seed systems in developing countries can be a major obstacle to higher productivity. In the absence of a strong formal public or private sector, the key to enhanced adoption and diffusion of the newly improved varieties is mobilizing and engaging farmers in local seed entrepreneurship.

Approximately 893 tons of chickpea, faba bean and malt barley seed were distributed, and the program anticipates that an additional 3,489 tons of quality seed will be produced by farmers and seed producer cooperatives in 2017 – enough to cover a land area of approximately 30,651 ha, benefiting some 157,500 farmers.