By: Dawit Astatike
Extreme climate events cause 70% of deaths and economic losses
Addis Ababa (Ethiopia Today), July 12, 2023: Ethiopia’s agricultural sector is under threat from the devastating effects of climate change, with drought and floods expected to cause 80 percent of life loss and 70 percent of economic losses in the coming decades, warns the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The situation is dire, with crop yields in rice, wheat, and maize predicted to decline by 14 percent, 22 percent, and five percent, respectively, leaving only a fraction of Ethiopia’s agricultural production available for domestic consumption and export The reporter learned.
Only a fraction of Ethiopia’s agricultural production is available for domestic consumption and export, with the figure falling from 29 percent in 2016 to just 10–12 percent today. This decline threatens the livelihoods of millions of farmers and pastoralists across the country.
Tilahun Amede (PhD), resilience, climate, and soil fertility director at AGRA, says that “extreme climate events like drought and flood are costing us severely. As the heat level continues to rise, crops will become sterile and unable to capture water. This will result in a drop in production and hunger.”
The situation is already dire, with over two million cattle dying in Ethiopia in 2021-22 due to the recurrent drought of the past five years, which has left farmers and pastoralists facing food insecurity and loss of critical assets. AGRA estimates that crop yield losses have ranged from 20 to 100 percent, depending on the farming systems employed.
AGRA launched a new five-year strategy to support Ethiopia’s agricultural sector, pledging to commit at least USD 20 million to the cause. Launched on July 6, 2023, the strategy is aligned with Ethiopia’s 10-year agricultural perspective plan and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Under the new strategy, AGRA plans to reach 2.4 million smallholder farmers in Ethiopia through interventions in seed systems, sustainable farming, policy and state capability, and inclusion in the inclusive market and trade. The organization aims to indirectly impact an additional six million farmers through its interventions across target regions and create a minimum of 5,000 jobs for women and youth in the upstream and mid-stream parts of the value chains.
AGRA, headquartered in Nairobi, is present in 16 African countries, and has already facilitated 42 policy reforms and mobilized USD 1.4 billion in investment into the sector. The organization has directly reached 11 million smallholder farmers with extension and seeds, and in Ethiopia alone, it has provided 360,000 tons of improved seeds worth USD 292.2 million.
Hailemariam Desalegn, former Ethiopian Prime Minister and current chairperson of the Alliance, has called for swift action to prevent the devastating impact of food insecurity and climate change on Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. He noted that the foundation of agriculture, especially in cereals, is seed.
“In terms of improved seed provision, we have seen tremendous achievements. For instance, we have introduced close to 600 improved seed varieties in Africa. We contributed for the provision of several improved seeds in Ethiopia, including the drought and disease resisting wheat. In west Africa, we introduced improved rice seeds, among others,” Hailemariam told The Reporter.
However, the challenge now is to ensure that these improved seeds reach farmers on the ground.
“Science is not sufficient alone, unless it touches the ground. So policies and programs are included, in order to diffuse the science achievements to farmers’ levels. Starting from Ministry of agriculture to extension workers, they need capacity development,” Hailemariam said.
The Alliance has developed three major national flagship program documents for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture on wheat, rice, and oilseed crops, according to Hailemariam. He says the new mechanization approaches have also been introduced in the country by AGRA experts.
The heat-resistant wheat variety that Ethiopia is succeeding in has been well-tested in the Middle East and North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia, Tilahun says.
AGRA is also set to open a country coordination office dedicated to three of Ethiopia’s 10 mega crop projects in wheat, rice, and maize. Its involvement in Ethiopia include investments in small-scale farmers and youth, averting fertilizer price escalation, minimizing soil acidity, and adapting Ethiopia’s agriculture to the changing rain patterns.