January 18, 2018 (Ezega.com) - Agriculture is the backbone of Ethiopia’s economy. It accounts for about 42% of the country’s GDP and employs an estimated 80% of the population. With a 10% economic growth rate per annum, Ethiopia is emerging as a force to reckon with in terms of development in the continent.
And with an ambitious prime minister like Abiy Ahmed in office, there are no signs that Ethiopia’s determinations for further growth will fade any time soon .It is clear from the government’s development blueprint, Ethiopia intends to achieve middle-income status by 2025.
2011-2015 Agricultural Goals:
Ethiopia’s government came up with the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to achieve certain milestones between 2011 and 2015. Key among them was the market growth that should reach 8.1% per annum during this period.
From 2016 to 2025, which is the later stages of the GTP phase, the country intends to shift focus on high-value crops, market orientation, and livestock. This will be achieved because it has exhibited a solid commitment to achieving these goals while ensuring environmental sustainability that is in line with green economy goals.
This involves; boosting smallholder farmer’s throughput, improving marketing structures, upscaling the private sector participation, growing the number of irrigated lands and limiting the number of households with insufficient food.
Additionally, the country hopes to double its key crops -coffee, oilseed, pulses, and flowers- from 18.1 to 39.5 metric tons. These strategies should help the country attain middle-income status by 2025.
At the same time, Ethiopia intends to increase its per capita income by US$1,006 the same year. According to the World Bank, this means the country will realize a rapid increase in its per capita income, which is at US$783 currently.
Ethiopia’s irrigation is viewed as a way of alleviating poverty, achieving food security and economic growth, bearing in mind the sector employs a huge percentage of the population. It is the most sustainable way of developing the country.
Ethiopia agricultural advancement has been propelled by two factors; the fast-paced adoption of new farming expertise to boost the industry and prioritizing agriculture as a key contributor to its economic development.
Ethiopia’s agricultural sector contributes to a third of its GDP, and approximately 12 million homes depend on small-scale farming for their livelihoods.
One of the key drivers of growth witnessed in the sector is attributed to irrigation. Ethiopia has witnessed the fastest growth compared to the rest of Africa. From 2002 and 2014, the area under irrigation has significantly increased by about 52%.
As a result, productivity has been significantly boosted, which resulted in increased income for farmers by assisting them to extend their planting seasons and, therefore, being consistent in their crop production.
At the moment, only 6% of Africa’s arable land is under irrigation, meaning the continent has a huge potential to unlock its economic growth by expanding irrigation.
Different factors have been highlighted in a report compiled by the Malabo Montpellier Panel- comprising of different experts in ecology, food security, agriculture, and nutrition. They help guide policy choices on the continent by advising national governments on a regular basis. Their goal is to assist the continent make progress in agronomics, improved nutrition and food security.
The latest report released by the team of experts analyses progress made in six countries- Mali, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco and Niger, and highlights the best practices that other countries should follow.
Why Ethiopia Has Succeeded in its Irrigation Investment:
As suggested earlier, small scale households are the main motivators of irrigation development in the country. All the development partners work with the government to ensure these households have a better life.
At the same time, Ethiopia’s success also lies in its institutional innovations and crucial policy adoptions. Ethiopia’s success is because agriculture and irrigation have been part of its policy agenda since 1991. Furthermore, the country established special agencies with clear objectives; to make the most of the irrigation and water control systems.
The state has invested in the sector and will continue to do so. According to Ethiopia’s Agriculture Sector Policy and Investment Framework (2010-2020) External Mid-term review, the government intends to give US$15 billion to irrigation development by 2020.
This investment is projected to deliver the following:
- Effective use if fertilizers,
- A reduction in fluctuations of agricultural produce and
- Increased yields as a result of irrigation.
Another area of importance is data collection, which is a valuable asset that can help the country monitor and manage its water resources, especially during the dry seasons.
In 2013, the Agricultural Transformation Agency commenced an exercise to map more than 32,400 square kilometers to identify water resources, especially shallow groundwater. The goal was to determine the potential for irrigation in different areas.
The results surprised many. In more than 89 districts studied, it was determined there were more than 3 billion cubic meters at depths of less than 30 meters. This offers a huge potential of irrigating more than 100,000 hectares which can help improve the lives of approximately 376,000 households.
At the same time, the country harnessed the potential of full range irrigation technologies, ranging from small to large scale infrastructure.
A joint venture between Ethiopia’s Bureau of Agriculture, an Ngo called Farm Africa and local agricultural extension officers assisted small scale farmers to adopt irrigation at a small-scale level. The project ended up benefiting more than 6,400 women and landless individuals. 700 families have also benefited from the irrigation project.
The challenges and opportunities for irrigation in Ethiopia:
The major challenges are as follows;
- Inadequate awareness on how to manage irrigation water as in the scheduling techniques used in the process, water saving mechanisms, operation, and maintenance of the irrigation systems in use.
- Lack of expertise in diversified and improved irrigation agronomic methods
- Lack of adequate knowledge on irrigation pumps, and irrigation methods.
- Inadequate information on the development of water resources
Opportunities for Ethiopia:
- Irrigation must be given priority in the country’s growth and transformation agenda set forth by Abiy Ahmed.
- Households should be taught about water harvesting techniques and micro-irrigation.
- The government should show the private sector and the public they are committed to develop irrigation.
- Ethiopia should consider expanding the land under irrigation because a majority of arable land lies idle.
- The country can also invest in its huge population that provides inexpensive labor needed in the sector.
What can we learn from Ethiopia?
For African countries to achieve food security coupled with other development goals, it’s crucial they engage all levels of the government in the planning and implementation of policy and strategies. The private sector and the local communities must be involved to expand any development goal like irrigation.
Ethiopia’s success can help other countries develop personalized strategies to effectively adopt irrigation at a large scale level. The benefits of doing so are transformational, especially to countries that embrace farming as the backbone of their economic growth.
By Solomon O. for Ezega News