On-Farm Learning Centers Established for Smallholders in Ethiopia
To support efforts aimed at enhancing teff and wheat productivity in the Amhara region, the 4R Solution Project has established multiple 4R learning sites aimed at improving the agricultural knowledge and skills of women and men smallholder farmers, and extension agents particularly in applying 4Rs for key crops in Minjar-Shenkora District of the Amhara region.
Teff and wheat are the two major cereal crops cultivated by farmers in the Amhara region of northeastern Ethiopia. Production of these two crops is mainly conducted in smallholder farming systems characterized by small farms that are often less than 1 hectare. Given the small farm sizes in these systems, yield intensification on existing farmlands has been identified as the major pathway for enhancing teff and wheat productivity. Current government initiatives to intensify teff and wheat yields through improved access to fertilizers, and improved crop varieties are often constrained by limited farmer knowledge on best crop and nutrient management practices required for good teff and wheat yields.
In the Amhara region of Ethiopia, teff and wheat smallholder farmers mainly rely on extension agents as a source of knowledge on best agricultural practices. However, the high ratio of extension agents to farmers often means that the few extension agents available are not able to deliver up to date advisory services to farmers at the right time. In addition, extension agents also often lack platforms that provide them with new information on best crop and nutrient management practices based on recent research outcomes. As a result, average teff and wheat yields on majority of smallholder farms in the Amhara region are often up to 50% lower than yields possible with good crop and nutrient management.
To support efforts aimed at enhancing teff and wheat productivity in the Amhara region, the 4R Solution Project has established multiple 4R learning sites aimed at improving the agricultural knowledge and skills of women and men smallholder farmers, and extension agents particularly in applying 4Rs for key crops in Minjar-Shenkora District of the Amhara region. Located at an altitude range of 1800 to 2300, Minjar-Shenkora district provides ideal teff and wheat-growing conditions, with teff grown in lower altitude areas, and wheat grown in higher altitude areas of the district.
In the current season, a total of 16 4R learning sites have been established for both teff and wheat respectively. Established in collaboration with researchers from the Debre-Berhan Agricultural Research Centre (DBARC), and other key stakeholders, these learning sites are demonstrating the best ways for farmers to implement and adapt 4Rs concepts of “using the Right Source of nutrients, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Place, and in the Right Time”. In addition, the 4R learning sites are providing locally relevant information on best crop management practices for teff and wheat.
For maximum impact, teff 4R learning sites have been established on centrally located farms within key teff growing villages of Bolosilasie, Kombolcha, Chole, and Adama, while wheat 4R learning sites have been established on centrally located farms within key wheat growing villages of Kristos Semra, Iran Buti, Zewelde, and Sama. In each learning site, the project team is partnering with local extension staff to actively involve and train farmers during key crop production stages such as planting, fertilizer application, and pest and disease control. The 4R learning sites are also serving as effective platforms for researchers from DBARC and APNI to equip extension agents with up to date information on best crop and nutrient management practices based on recent research findings. Further, these sites are also serving as ideal locations for holding farmers’ field days, where more detailed and practical training on best crop and nutrient management practices based on the 4Rs is regularly conducted.
The 4R Solution Project’s implementing partners are Fertilizers Canada, Cooperative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF-Canada), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), IPNI Canada, and African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI). The project’s local cooperators in Ethiopia are Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resource Association (EWNRA), Debre Birhan Agricultural Research Center (DBARC), and the Amhara Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI).
APNI Contributor: Dr. Samuel Njoroge, Project Manager – Nutrient Stewardship
4R Solution Project https://4rsolution.org/