Apr 112013
 

Kemeria Hussien at Ethiopian milk market

Kemeria Hussien, a young woman at a milk market in Meisso District, West Hararghe Zone, Ethiopia, 2011 (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

On 28 March 2013, a team from the project ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers (or IPMS project) gave a ‘livestock live talk’ seminar at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This seminar, given for 70 people physically present and a few more connected virtually via WebEx, happened in the middle of the research planning workshop for a project that is a ‘sequel’ to IPMS, called ‘LIVES’: Livestock and Irrigated Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders.

ILRI staff members Dirk Hoekstra, Berhanu Gebremedhin and Azage Tegegne have been managing IPMS, and learning from it, since its inception in 2004. The legacy as well as the learning from the IPMS project will be applied in the LIVES project, as well as other initiatives led by ILRI and other parties involved in IPMS.

What choices?
This project to ‘improve the productivity and market success of Ethiopian farmers’ was nothing if not ambitious, and, for a research organization, opted for some relatively daring choices:

  • IPMS relied on developmental (uncontrolled) as well as experimental (controlled) research activities, which ranged along the spectrum of diagnostic, action-research and ‘impact research’ activities (so-called for the expected development impact they would have).
  • Some activities were outsourced to development partners rather than undertaken by the research team.
  • The project worked along entire value chains, from crop and livestock farmers and other food producers to rural and urban consumers, with the team restricting itself to introducing and facilitating the implementation of interventions validated by local stakeholders.
  • Rather than focus on value chain interventions exclusively, the IPMS researchers investigated farming production systems as a whole and focused on the role of agricultural extension in the uptake of research results and their integration in interventions.
  • The IPMS workers used ‘action learning’ methods, which appears to have enabled an on-going evolution in the development of their targeted value chains. This kind of learning approach also sped the adoption of new technologies and the implementation of interventions and encouraged the team to use failures as fuel to modify the project’s trajectory.

. . . Led to what insights?
Insights from the project team were at the core of this ‘live talk’, with the lessons IPMS learned simple and straightforward; some examples follow.

Technology generation by itself is not enough to achieve developmental outcomes and impacts – Several interventions in the value chain development approach need to be implemented together to achieve impact.

Research for development can be implemented well in a research environment, i.e., it is possible to combine rigorous research with development processes without sacrificing the quality of scientific research or the generation of robust evidence.

Knowledge management and capacity development—using, among other methods, innovative information and communication technologies and approaches such as farming radio programs, local information portals connected to local knowledge centres and e-extension—are key to development of responsive extension systems as well as women and men farmers working to transform subsistence agriculture into sustainable economic enterprises.

Gathering those lessons was itself far from straightforward. The IPMS team experienced difficulties in negotiating value chain developments and the specific interventions that were felt as necessary, and in making choices among all actors involved in the value chain (e.g., a failed experiment to market sunflowers) because of market failures and insufficient returns on investments. The team also realized that working in an adaptive manner across a broad value chain and extension framework implies letting go of control and of tight deadlines, but can improve relations among value chain actors and their joint interventions.

As ILRI’s new LIVES project is now in full swing, and as a new long-term ILRI strategy demands that ILRI take a more coherent approach to making development impacts, these insights from  IPMS can help guide those undertaking new initiatives of ILRI and of its partners.

Watch and listen to this seminar here: http://www.ilri.org/livestream.

View the slide presentation here: Agriculture research for crop and livestock value chains development: the IPMS experience, presentation by Dirk Hoekstra, Berhanu Gebremedhin and Azage Tegegne on 28 Mar 2013.

You can contact the IPMS/LIVES team at lives-ethiopia [at] cgiar.org.


Note:Livestock live talks’ is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who would want to come, please contact Angeline Nekesa at a.nekesa[at]cgiar.org (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000) to let her know. If you would like to give one of these seminars, or have someone you would like to recommend, please contact Silvia Silvestri at s.silvestri[at]cgiar.org (or via ILRI switchboard 020 422 3000).

Oct 012012
 

This very brief photofilm (1:41 minutes) shares the story of Misku Abafaris, a woman farmer in Ethiopia, who was interviewed in 2010 about the changes in her life as a result of interventions by an ILRI-led Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project. Since 2006, ILRI has been working closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

When asked what life was like a decade ago, Misku Abafaris immediately says: ‘In those days I was never exposed to any new ideas, any new approaches.’ Then, after more consideration, the 40-year old mother of six turns to practical matters. ‘I used to spend most of my time caring for my children and preparing food. And I’d look after our cow and help my husband when the crops needed weeding.’

In short, her daily routine in Gudeta, a small village some 30 minutes’ walk from a tarmac road, was little different from that of earlier generations of women in Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region. There were good years, when the coffee harvest was plentiful, and bad years, when the coffee failed or drought shrivelled their food crops.

Five of Misku’s children still live at home, chickens still wander in and out of their mud-walled, tin-roofed dwelling, and it’s still a long walk to the nearest well to get drinking water. But new ideas and new approaches, so lacking in the past, have recently helped to transform their lives. Their most obvious manifestation can be seen in the fields below the village, where half a dozen handsome sheep are being fattened for the market.

‘With the profits I’ve made from my sheep, I’ve been able to buy a Boran heifer, which will yield much more milk than our local breed of cow’, says Misku, ‘and last year, when we didn’t get a coffee harvest, we still made enough money from the sheep to pay all our household expenses.’ She’s particularly proud of the fact that her sheep-fattening business has paid for her eldest daughter, now 21 years old, to live and study in the nearby town of Agora.

Misku’s forgotten to tell you about the chairs we’re sitting on’, says Abafaris Abamaliky, her husband. ‘It was the money from the sheep that paid for the timber and the carpentry. And it paid for the wooden box where I now keep my clothes and my private things.’ The pride he takes in his wife’s achievement is plain to see.

The power of knowledge
Misku and her husband are among tens of thousands of farmers to benefit from a project which has helped them to improve the productivity of their livestock and crops and—crucially—market their produce more effectively. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project was launched in 2006.

Goma, where Misku and her family live, is one of 10 districts where the project operates. The early stages involved the identification of crops and livestock which could benefit from activities to improve production and marketing. This followed lengthy consultations with farmers and local government staff. In Goma the focus has been on improving ‘value chains’—linking production, the supply of farm inputs and the markets—for coffee, poultry, honey, fruit and sheep.

‘Many farmers were keen to develop sheep fattening, but they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to improve production’, explains Yisehak Baredo, the project’s research and development officer in Goma. ‘Their sheep were in poor health, and it took them up to a year to fatten them.’ Misku’s experience was typical: she used to keep just one sheep, whose only food supplement was kitchen scraps, and she made hardly any money fattening its lambs.

In 2008, the project provided training on sheep fattening for Misku and 119 other farmers. They learned, among other things, about the importance of providing their animals with protein-rich food supplements and how to keep them in good health. Such was the success of the first training program that the project repeated the exercise for 92 farmers a year later.

None of this would have been possible without access to credit, which was provided through a local microfinance institution. Talk to any of the farmers who benefited and they’ll tell you in great detail precisely how they spent their first loans.

Misku borrowed 1500 birr (USD115). With this she bought five young sheep, a supply of cotton-seed meal, life insurance for herself and insurance for her five sheep, and de-wormers and other veterinary medicines. Three months later, she sold the fattened sheep and paid back the loan, leaving her a net profit of 1200 birr (USD90)—a considerable sum of money in one of the poorest countries in the world. Subsequent fattening cycles have provided her with similar profit margins.

So is her story unusual? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she is a strong and respected leader, and the group of 30 smallholders which she chairs was immediately able to repay its loans in full—something several other groups failed to achieve. As a result, the microfinance institution has been happy to provide further loans. And no, in the sense that many other farmers have made a success of fattening their sheep and increasing their income. Over four out of five who received training shortened the fattening period to just three months.

‘With the profits I’ve made from the sheep, we’ve built an extension to our house and bought a high-yielding Boran cow’, says Suchare Abamaliky, one of Misku’s neighbours. Musa Kadir, who belongs to the same peasant association, has used the profits from his sheep to pay school fees for his children. ‘I’m now earning as much money in three months as I used to make in a year from the sale of coffee beans’, he says. He has ambitious plans to expand the number of sheep he fattens, and he’s also begun to raise avocado and mango seedlings, having observed the activities of one of his neighbours. Shito Nasir had received training on how to graft superior varieties of fruit tree. ‘I could see she was making such a good business that I decided to do the same’, explains Musa Kadir. This is the way new ideas are beginning to spread, across hedges and fields from farmer to farmer.

A rural revolution?
Abafaris Abamaliky is some 20 years older than his wife, Misku, and he has lived, as he puts it, through three governments. Life is now better than it ever was in the past, he says. ‘We now have electric light in the village and better health care.’ Just as importantly, he and his neighbours now feel they can talk openly to government officials. Indeed, the success of the IPMS project owes much to the close relationship between villagers and the staff at the district offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Besides introducing new technologies to Ethiopian farmers, the project has begun to change the way government staff approach agricultural development. ‘Before the project began, we used to focus on increasing the production of particular commodities, but we knew nothing about value chains’, explains Tanashe Eyasu at the local Office of Agriculture and Rural Development. ‘Now, we’re changing the way we work, and we’re linking producers with suppliers of inputs like fertilizers and feed, and sometimes even linking them with buyers as far away as Addis Ababa.’

Although the IPMS project will come to an end at the end of this year (2012), its impact is assured. ‘You can already see the knowledge being transmitted from farmer to farmer’, says Tsegaye Umeta, Goma’s district administrator, ‘and local government staff will continue to promote the knowledge and practices introduced by IPMS to new areas.’ It shouldn’t be a hard sell: when farmers are making good money, others will follow where they lead. And already, new businesses have sprung up to provide feed, fertilisers, medicines, beehives and other equipment.

If you ask Misku about her hopes for the future, she lists her priorities without hesitation. ‘My first desire is to support my children, so they can go to college’, she says. ‘Then, if God is willing, I would like a better house, with a cement floor, not a mud floor like this one, and with brick walls painted a nice colour. I’d also like a well.’ A while ago, she went on a farmers’ study trip to the capital, where she saw a small pump for drawing well water. ‘I’d like that too’, she says.

But is this a dream too far for a family which has just three hectares of land, a pair of oxen, two cows, ten chickens and a small flock of sheep? ‘No’, she replies. ‘If we continue to work hard, I’m sure this will happen.’ Her husband nods in agreement.

As we leave the village, we are accompanied by a chattering crowd of children, including Misku’s eight-year-old boy. When Ariso is not at school, he helps to look after the family’s sheep, but he also has a lamb of his own, which he recently bought with money he earned picking coffee.

‘Once I have fattened it up’, he says, ‘I will make a good profit.’ He probably hasn’t heard of ‘value chains’, but he is very much his mother’s son: he understands the importance of the market.

Story and photofilm by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

Read and view other stories/photofilms by Charlie Pye-Smith:

Gebremichael’s story: Changing the fortunes of farmers in Ethiopia through better livestock feed, 28 May 2012 (story and photofilm).

Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand, 7 Jun 2012 (story).

The connection between animal disease and human health, 13 Jan 2012 (photofilm).

 

 

May 282012
 

This very brief photofilm (1:23 minutes) shares the memorable and powerful story of Gebremichael Desta, an Ethiopian farmer whose life has changed by the use of improved livestock feed. 

If you climb up the rickety ladder on to the roof of the stone dwelling where Gebremichael Desta lives with his family and livestock—he keeps his hay on the roof—you can gaze across a world which looks much as it must have done many centuries ago. Ploughmen shout encouragement to their oxen, women urge pack animals over the stony ground and buzzards wheel above the terraced fields. There is not a machine in sight; nothing to indicate that this is the 21st century.

But appearances can deceive. ‘The difference between the past and present?’ muses Desta. ‘It’s like the distance between the sky and the earth.’ Today, the families living in these remote highlands—much of Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, is over 2000 metres above sea level—learn about the importance of family planning and good nutrition. Older generations never did. ‘When I was young, we were entirely dependent on traditional medicines if we fell sick, but now we have access to modern health care,’ says Desta.

Recent years have also witnessed dramatic changes in the way he and his neighbours manage their land and livestock. A few years ago, at this time of day, his animals—two oxen, a dairy cow and calf, a donkey, 10 sheep—would have been grazing in the valley below, watched over by one of his five children. Now they remain at the homestead, and the fodder is brought to them, rather than the other way around.

These changes have been inspired by a five-year project, Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers or IPMS, in short, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  In 10 districts across Ethiopia, the project has helped to improve the value chains—the links between producers, the suppliers of farm inputs and markets—for a range of crops and livestock products.

The project began with a lengthy series of consultations with farmers and local government staff. Together, they identified which farm commodities had the potential to improve local incomes and livelihoods. ‘The main candidates were milk and butter, sheep for fattening and beekeeping,’ recalls Gebremedhin Woldewahid, the project’s research and development officer in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘But the more we talked, the more we realised there was a major limiting factor for all these commodities—a lack of nutritious fodder.’ Much of the district suffered from overgrazing and heavily degraded soils. Tackling this was to be a priority.

A fairer, greener world

‘In 2006, before the project really got under way, this valley would have been parched and dusty and full of livestock at this time of year,’ explains Kidan Kindeya, a young woman who works as a development agent for Habes Peasant Association, of which Desta is vice-chairman. Today, there is not a grazing animal in sight and the vegetation is green and lush. Here and there, the grass has been harvested with a scythe; elsewhere it is almost knee-high, despite the fact that there has been little rain recently.

It is now three years since the peasant association agreed to ban grazing in the valley bottom, an area of some 280 hectares, and allow the land to regenerate naturally. ‘Before we enclosed the area, the ground was very compacted, especially by horses, and the grass was sparse and unpalatable for our sheep and cows,’ recalls Desta. ‘Now we can harvest our plots three times a year, and the quality of the fodder is excellent.’

There are numerous benefits to the ‘cut and carry’ system now operating in many valleys in Atsbi-Wenberta District. ‘My milk yields have risen and my animals are much healthier,’ says Desta. He also believes that by keeping animals at the homesteads, there is less risk of infectious diseases passing from one to another. The restoration of grazing lands has also led to an increase in flowers, providing a rich supply of pollen for honey bees. As a result, farmers practicing apiculture have benefited greatly from the new methods of pasture management.

In the past, children used to watch over the grazing livestock, which meant they did not go to school. Now they are attending classes. Farmers also used to spend a lot of time travelling long distances to buy fresh grass and hay. Now many have a surplus. This has proved especially important for the poorer households without livestock, which are often headed by widows. ‘They received no benefit in the past from areas like this, before the enclosures,’ explains Kidan Kindeya. ‘They had no livestock to graze, and there was nothing for them to harvest.’ Now, every family is allocated the same amount of land in the valley and those without livestock can harvest their grass and sell it. Two harvests a year yield fodder worth around 10,000 Ethiopian birr (USD740) per hectare.

Besides helping farmers to improve the supply of natural fodder, the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the peasant associations have encouraged farmers to grow their own supplies. Training centres, many with colourful murals depicting the new ways of farming, have provided the know-how and materials to establish Napier grass, tree lucerne and other fodder crops. Now you see them growing around almost every homestead, besides plots of fruit and vegetables.

Spreading the word

‘When I was young,’ says an old priest outside the Orthodox church in Cherkos Haremere, ‘there was thick forest all over this hillside.’ All that remains is a fine stand of African olive trees around the church, the site’s sanctity protecting them from axe and fire. Over the years, a rapidly rising population and the ever-increasing demand for fuelwood, cropland and pasture transformed the rest of the landscape, much of which suffers from erosion and overgrazing.  It is a scene repeated across the district, but gradually, thanks to the efforts of the peasant associations and the introduction of new management techniques, degraded land is being brought back to life.

Four years ago, farmers in Baati-ero agreed to establish enclosures on the sloping land between the valley bottom and the village itself. They kept their animals out, planted fast-growing grasses and leguminous trees, and dug long ditches to harvest and retain rainwater. ‘We hardly used to get any fodder here at all,’ says a local farmer, Tadele Teklay, ‘but this year I’ve been able to get about five donkey loads.’

The farmers are so impressed by what they have achieved that they recently decided to establish enclosures in the valley bottom – something they originally resisted. Many, like Teklay, have also decided to reduce the number of livestock they keep.  ‘Now, we don’t talk about how many animals we have, but how much money we can make from each of them,’ he says.  ‘It’s the quality that matters, not the quantity, and the better the feed, as well as the breed, the more money we’ll make.’

Much of the technical advice that has enabled farmers to improve their productivity and gain access to better markets has been provided by Gebremedhin Woldewahid and the IPMS project, but most of the training has been carried out by the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development and by development agents like Kidan Kindeya. ‘That means that when the project comes to an end, hardly anybody will notice we’ve left,’ says Woldewahid with satisfaction.

One of the reasons why many of the activities encouraged by IPMS are spreading swiftly is because they make good financial, as well as environmental, sense. ‘You can see that with the fodder enclosures,’ says Berhe Fiseha, who chairs the project’s regional advisory and learning committee in Tigray. ‘They began establishing them in one peasant association, then they spread to four others, and now you’ll see enclosures being used to restore grassland all over the district.’

When asked what he has gained in recent years, Gebremichael Desta responds with one word: knowledge. He still regrets that he left school at the age of 17. He was a bright child, but his parents, traditional peasant farmers, had little appreciation of the value of education. Desta is justly proud that his eldest son has a diploma in agriculture and now works as a development agent, and his eldest daughter is studying at university.

‘If you want to survive, and you want to improve your life, then you must take advantage of the opportunities that come your way,’ he says. ‘There are many things which we now do differently, and we have many technologies that our parents never had or knew about. For me, knowledge is the key to everything.’

Story by Charlie Pye-Smith.

Download publications from the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers project: http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/262

 

Jun 022011
 

Today, the ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers Project’ holds an experience-sharing workshop on market-oriented smallholder development.

This project – www.ipms-ethiopia.org – is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a contribution to the Ethiopian Government’s ‘Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty’.

At its establishment in 2005, The project was designed to follow a participatory market-oriented commodity value chain development approach. This is based on the premise that technology uptake is significantly influenced by the profitability of production, and that production is driven by market demands for specific commodities. The approach is participatory in that it involves farmers and other value chain actors as well as associated service providers in diagnosis, planning and implementation of the interventions through formal and informal linkages.

The workshop is designed to facilitate experience-sharing – the 150+ participants are drawn from national, regional and district governments, the private sector, civil society, research institutions and universities, and development agencies. It focuses on specific commodity value chain interventions – livestock and crops – as well as essential enabling methods, approaches, and processes the project has applied. Exhibition-type displays showcase interventions on specific commodity value chains. Cross-cutting issues such as knowledge management, capacity development, and gender, are also explored.

After five years intense applied work, the workshop also provides an opportunity for project lessonsa nd outputs to be shared with the Government’s new Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) that re-emphasizes the role of smallholders in the commercialization of Ethiopian agriculture.

Watch a video with project manager Dirk Hoekstra

Follow the event and its outputs online:

Wiki about the event
Photos from the event
Presentations and posters
Video interviews

Mar 112011
 

The gender-specific disadvantages and inequities faced by rural women in poor countries create challenges for the research and development specialists working to help them empower themselves. Political, social and cultural environments all need to change before most women will be able to take a larger role in generating incomes. Men and women both need to be involved for that to happen. And when that does happen, men and women both will benefit from women’s empowerment.

The views of four women experts in the area, shown in this short (3 minute: 40 second) film, were recorded at a February 28–2 March workshop held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where a group of experts assessed the current state of gender-related agricultural research in Africa, particularly the experiences of a 5-year joint ILRI-Ethiopian government project called ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers (IPMS).

The following is a transcript

Ranjitha Puskur, Indian, agricultural economist at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
One of the major constraints that we saw that came in the way of helping women to take part in market-oriented agricultural activities is their lack of technical skills and knowledge.

Seblewongel Deneke, Ethiopian, sociologist at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)–Ethiopia Canada Cooperation Office
The project that we are looking at now from IPMS with ILRI has done a lot of experimenting on how to target women, how to target the household, how to get them engaged and how in some ways make people see the other side of things.

Ranjitha Puskur
One of the things that we tried to do was to make sure the women have more access to knowledge and skill development through a number of trainings—and also bringing actually both the husband and wife together for the training so that they have a shared knowledge. We have demonstrated that this is a good way of approaching knowledge and skill sharing with women and men.

Jemimah Njuki, Kenyan, sociologist
What we have recently done in ILRI in terms of women and livestock is tried to put together what is it that we know at the moment on women and livestock and how to use livestock as a pathway out of poverty for women.

Seblewongel Deneke
That I think is one of the gaps in this country—there isn’t much research happening. And on gender specifically, I think we look to ILRI for some of the research it’s done. And I think the approach that they are using, working with their development partners in getting those research works done, is excellent and it should be strengthened.

Anne Waters-Bayer, Canadian/Dutch, Ecology, Technology and Culture Foundation
I’m a bit surprised, I must say, to come to a workshop now in 2011 and to hear actually many of the same things being said that were said back in the early 1980s. We published this 30 years ago but publishing wasn’t enough. We obviously didn’t manage to get into people’s heads, into their hearts and into the materials that they are dealing with day to day our messages about the important role of women in agricultural development.

Jemimah Njuki
We are hoping that this then becomes a starting point from which development partners can then start saying this has worked before, this has not worked and research organizations can then say, these are the further questions that we need to address in terms of generating evidence.

Seblewongel Deneke
Education is important. The more educated the women are, the more they will have control over the number of family members they can have. Reproductive health, the population pressure, all those things—there are many factors out there: it’s not just agriculture in isolation. For the research side of things that interlink—inter-linkages between sectors may be looked at, and then, maybe the answers would come from different angles.

Ranjitha Puskur
There have been a number of projects, often localized—projects working on specific issues in specific areas and at specific times. So there’s all these pieces of the puzzle scattered everywhere, and this workshop is an attempt to bring all this together.

Seblewongel Deneke
Yes, IPMS has done quite a bit of work on making research linked with the development aspect, and we have other projects that are doing similar approaches, where research and the development partners have come together to actually do the work together. And I think that is the best way to go forward.

Jemimah Njuki
We have made a lot of progress in terms of at least understanding what the gender issues in agriculture are, of even identifying some of the strategies that could be used to address these gender inequalities. I think what remains to be done is to see how those strategies, how those interventions, can be done at a scale that’s large enough to reach millions of women—which we need to do!

Mar 102011
 

ILRI Film Page on the web

Selection of filmed interviews of women on gender research for agricultural development, available on the ILRI Film page n the web (blip.tv screen capture).

To celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2011, ILRI produced and web-posted on 8 March the following eight very short filmed interviews of four women on where we are in gender-related research for agricultural development in poor countries.

The interviews were made at a recent conference, ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (31 January–2 February 2011), held at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and organized by ILRI and a project conducted by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian government: Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS).

Can complex gender issues be translated into enabling policies for women?
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that if we do not manage to find ways to place our understanding of gender issues in the context of environment, economy, agriculture, education and health, our well-meaning research might end up doing more harm than good. While gender is now on the agenda of every government and every big development project in the world, we don’t yet know what policies manage to empower women or how to implement them.

Evidence is needed to improve women’s development
Seblewongel Deneke (Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA]) says there are still misconceptions about rural women in developing countries, such as the idea that most farmers are men. The evidence that ILRI is providing will help to address these misconceptions.

Gender mainstreaming is just beginning
Seblewongel Deneke (CIDA) says that although many people are now talking about mainstreaming gender by including gender issues in research and policymaking, new laws around gender in Ethiopia are rarely enforced and research projects find it hard to expand capacity within extension workers and trainers and so meet the complex needs of women.

Rural women miss opportunities due to heavy household duties
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation (ETC) Netherlands) argues that gender research still struggles to help women manage their household and childraising work. Without targeting training in these areas, women will continue to miss out.

Women farmers held back by traditions
Jemimah Njuki (ILRI) explains that two facts have hindered women’s development in agriculture: lack of ability to inherit land and other rules stemming from traditional cultures and the fact that most policymakers are men; changes are now occurring in both areas.

Training men and women farmers together could help both make more money
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that when businesses become profitable, they tend to be taken over by men. This is one reason why women find it hard to make money from agriculture. Training male and female household members together may allow both to see that it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce gender inequities so that households can improve their income and nutrition.

30 Years of gender research—Are the conversations still the same?
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation [ETC] Netherlands) says the gender challenges faced by agricultural scientists in the 1980s are, unfortunately, similar to those we face today. Many women are still living in material want, struggling to send their children to school, to get good health care and to generate and control an income from their agricultural work.

For more information, visit ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture blog or IPMS blog.

AgriGender 2011 logo

Feb 032011
 

Discussion at Tigest Weycha's compound

Participants in this week’s ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture’, organized by ILRI in Ethiopia, visited two women farmers in Debre Zeit (Picture credit: ILRI/Habtamu)

AgriGender 2011 logo

On the third and last day of the ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (AgriGender2011), organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) this week (31 January–2 February 2011) in Ethiopia, two women farmers shared how they transformed themselves from farm labourers to agricultural businesswomen as they increased both their food production and marketing.

In a field visit to Debre Zeit, a town 50 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, the workshop participants visited Tigist Weycha, a mother of three and dairy producer. Weycha is a member of the local Ada’a Dairy Cooperative that processes about 5,000 litres of milk a day obtained from farmers in the area. She owns 12 cattle, including 7 improved-breed dairy cows. She has been in the milk business for six years, though her livestock husbandry experience goes back 11 years.

‘Each day I deliver between 50 and 60 litres of milk to the cooperative and I make about 5,000 Ethiopian birr (US$294) a month in profits. Dairying is very profitable here and income from this work is maintaining my household and educating our children,’ says Weycha. Her husband, after losing his job when a project that employed him in the town closed down, joined her in the farm work and they are now together enjoying the benefits of keeping dairy cows.

Weycha is a beneficiary of the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project, which began in 2005 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency. IPMS is implemented by ILRI and other partners on behalf of the Ethiopian Government.

A goal of the IPMS project was to help improve livelihoods of the poor in Ethiopia by linking rural smallholder producers to markets. The project connected Weycha with the Ada’a Cooperative, which became a reliable buyer of her milk. Project staff also gave her training in managing her dairy farm business and animals and the benefits she has accrued are clear to see six years on.

‘The cooperative pays us after every two weeks. And this money is deposited into a personal bank account which I manage for the benefit of my family,’ Weycha says.

Weycha is one of the successful dairy farmers in Debre Zeit. With support from her family and her husband—who is trained in animal health management and uses this expertise on the farm—she has excelled as a model dairy farmer. And this despite the fact that dairy farmers in this area have to pay dearly for veterinary services and drugs, when these are available, and for animal feeds, the price of which fluctuates. Weycha feeds her cows mostly on maize and teff residues and alfalfa. She supplements this with oil cake and molasses that she buys every two weeks from traders in Debre Zeit town.

Participants also visited another beneficiary of the IPMS project, Elfnesh Bermeji, a beekeeper who makes 50 birr for every kilogramme of honey she sells from her 20 modern and traditional hives. She harvests the honey two times in a year and the income she has earned from selling the honey has enabled Bermeji to build a home and to educate her children, who are now supporting themselves after graduating from university.

These two Ethiopian women are examples of the many benefits of targeting women for capacity building. Their successes are bettering not only their own lives, but also those of members of their families and communities. These two women have, with the help of their spouses and families, transformed themselves into entrepreneurs in an area where few other women have managed to break with rural traditions. The success stories of Weycha and Bermeji should now give other women, and men, confidence to do the same.

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Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.

Read more on Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project

Feb 012011
 

Yisehak Baredo at the AgriGender 2011 workshop, day 2

Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo gives evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia (picture credit: ILRI/Habtamu).

AgriGender 2011 logo
A success story was presented during the second day of a ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ being organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on its Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus.

Participants heard from Ethiopian researcher Yiseshak Baredo evidence of a successful intervention by a project of the Ethiopian government implemented by ILRI in western Ethiopia. The project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS), involved 117 farmers in Goma woreda (district).

Goma is a small coffee-growing district in Jimma Zone, about 400 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Farmers mostly depend on their annual sales of coffee, but they also need other sources of income, including sales of honey, animal products and crops. Even though most households keep livestock, they engage in husbandry practices that are centuries old, including free grazing and feeding animals household leftovers—both of which generate low yields.

Yiseshak Baredo explained how households in a small village in Goma have begun doubling their income from fattening sheep. The IPMS project loaned each farmer about US$100 (1,000 Ethiopian birr), which was enough for them to buy five sheep, veterinary drugs and services, and cottonseed meal from a nearby oil factory in Agaro. As a safety net, farmers also contributed US$0.75 (ETB7.50) per sheep for a community-based insurance scheme that protected them from loss or accidental death of the animals.

The project began in March 2008, when farmers were first offered the financial loans to buy the sheep. The improved feed supplements they used accelerated the fattening period, enabling the farmers to bring their sheep to market in an average of three months, instead of the usual eight to ten months.

Officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, greatly encouraged by the results, said that they now hope to extend the project to neighbouring villages, other parts of the region and eventually to other regions.

Aberra Deressa, former State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said last year, ‘We are a rural nation that depends on our farmers, and this kind of program will ensure two things: They will earn a good living from their livestock and the rest of the nation will have a steady stream of food from sheep and other livestock.’

The lives of the farmers participating in the project were greatly impacted. The added income from the quick fattening of sheep has improved nutrition, as women have more money to spend on household needs. The added income also allows farmers to make other lifestyle improvements.

Mesku Abafaris, one of the women involved, said, ‘I can now plan to build a tin-roofed house. I used to think that this was a far-away dream, but now I see that I can make extra money to achieve my dreams.  I have already rented a small land with the money I’m making from the sale of sheep, to plant corn on this small plot and make more money.  Most importantly, I no longer have to ask my husband for household expenses, because I am the one who controls the income from the sale of sheep and can decide on how to spend it.’

Yiseshak Baredo went on to tell of another impact of the project–—the greater acceptance of women’s involvement in farming.

In early 2008, several men resisted the inclusion of women in the project and some women dropped out. Still, women made up 38 of the 117 farmers in the program. IPMS and Ministry of Agriculture staff of the district worked with community leaders and elders to break the gender barrier, holding repeated discussions with men to persuade them to allow women to participate. In the end, most of the men grew to accept the women—and the women’s performance was among the best. In fact, women ranked first and second place for a ‘best-practice’ award organized by the district and IPMS, proving that given the chance, women can excel in innovative agricultural ventures. Observers particularly commended several women farmers for closely following best practices in the fattening process.

IPMS leads pilot projects in 10 woredas located in four regional states of Ethiopia. Funding for the IPMS project comes from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

For more information about the IPMS Goma sheep fattening project, contact Loza Mesfin (l.mesfin@cgiar.org) or Dirk Hoekstra (d.hoekstra@cgiar.org), or visit www.ilri.org or www.ipms-ethiopia.org

You may follow discussions at this workshop on the main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011′ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.

Jan 312011
 

Jemimah Njuki

Agricultural intensification in many parts of Africa has meant that traditional food crops such as bananas and beans have entered sophisticated market chains which, though they provide benefits, also carry certain risks for smallholder producers, most of whom are women.

Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that ‘despite women’s involvement in agricultural development in rural parts of Africa, how they benefit from this involvement is often unclear, because as commodity market chains become increasingly commercialized, they often end up marginalizing the women they sought to help in the first place.’

In a keynote speech at the opening of a workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Njuki noted that ‘with the emergence of regional and export markets, as soon as women’s crops become profitable, they are no longer women’s crops. And we can end up doing as much harm as good.’

Cautionary tale
Njuki told a story to illustrate this. It’s about a farmer named Mercy that she knew and worked with in Malawi. Mercy is a smallholder bean farmer from Chinseu Village who often intercropped her beans with maize on her small plot of land. Using little fertilizer or other farm inputs, Mercy produced between 50 and 100 kilogrammes of beans in a good year. Her family consumed half her bean crop at home and she sold the remainder on the roadside near her village. She used the money she earned from the sale of the beans to buy food and clothes for her family.

When a new farming project was started in Chinseu, Mercy got access to improved bean varieties and markets. Because the new bean variety could not be intercropped, she had to grow the beans on a different plot of land from her maize. The investment paid off, however, and in the first year she produced nearly one ton of beans. To sell the increased produce, she needed to find new markets, and these were far from her village. Her husband thus started to transport the surplus beans to the city for bulking and sale there. He began spending less and less time at home, and sometimes he spent the income from the beans before he reached home. Meanwhile, Mercy remained at home, often with less bean income than she had before she began to adopt the ‘improvements’.

Doing right by women does right by everyone
Njuki believes that market-oriented agriculture will succeed in helping women only if it moves beyond ‘doing right for women.’ ‘We should not include gender development in agriculture to help women only; we ought to focus on women because if we do not, there will be adverse repercussions for the incomes, nutrition and empowerment not only of women but also of households, communities and countries.’

To get market-oriented agriculture to work for women, Njuki suggests the following ways of raising the often under-recognized role of women in agricultural production.

Increase women’s decision-making in agricultural projects to enable them play a role in identifying markets and commodities in specific value chains. ‘We should not push any one commodity at women to bring about change; we must first understand from them what they need.’

Work with both men and women because women live in households and communities that include their husbands, brothers and other men. ‘If we do not put money in pockets of men, we will not manage to put money in the pockets of women.’

Raise women’s assertiveness and leadership skills by linking them directly with (especially urban) consumers who buy their products so that the women producers understand at first hand how markets work and what kinds of products their clients prefer.

Encourage women to come together in groups, which give them better bargaining power to access banking and other financial services.

Increase women’s access to technologies and inputs and services to ensure that they can on-goingly adopt production practices needed to meet new and changing market needs and demands.

Njuki recommends that projects widen their indicators of success beyond just increases in women’s income. ‘We need to expand our indicators to look at the distribution of this income. We need to know which households and individuals are benefiting. We need to pay attention to labour issues.’

Finally, Njuki warns that success in work aiming to redress gender imbalances depends on a multitude of actors working together. ‘No one (woman) can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it,’ she concluded, quoting Halford Luccock. ‘These initiatives need to be driven and replicated by many individuals and organizations working together to scale up community successes regionally.’

AgriGender 2011 logo

Working with women and men in agricultural market development: The missing link

View more presentations from ILRI CGIAR.
Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.
Jan 312011
 

AgriGender 2011 logo The Hon. Wondirad Mandefro, Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture, today delivered a strong opening address at an international workshop being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, this week.

The workshop, ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’, is being organized and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which for several years has been implementing a project of the Ethiopian Government on ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’.

The state minister made the following points.

  • Despite having made rapid progress over the last decade, Ethiopia was ranked 157th out of 168 countries in the Human Development Index prepared in 2010 by the United Nations Development Program.
  • Among Ethiopia’s urgent needs is the need to enhance the quality of life of its women, particularly the 85% of Ethiopian women who live in rural areas.
  • In the countryside, peasant farming is the main livelihood and it requires heavy labour that exacts a heavy physical toll on both women and children.
  • Only 34% of Ethiopian women have attended primary school; only 28% have any post-secondary education.
  • Only 8% of the seats in the Ethiopian Parliament are held by women.
  • Ethiopian women earn incomes (average of US$516) that are just half that of Ethiopian men (US$1008).
  • Ethiopia’s national targets for gender equality in agriculture, first set in 1993 in a National Policy on Women, are not yet met, due largely to women’s low education levels, low involvement in household and community decision-making, and low rewards accruing from the country’s agricultural and economic development.
  • Women’s access to markets is particularly constrained in Ethiopia, indicating that redressing the gender imbalance in the country’s market-oriented agriculture will yield high returns.
  • By removing the constraints Ethiopian women face in both education and the labour market, it is estimated that the country could add almost 2 percentage points to growth of its gross domestic product every year between 2005 and 2030.
  • If we consider in addition the effects of a ‘gender-equal’ agriculture on national growth, the expected economic benefits of including women in development strategies become huge.

For these reasons, the Ethiopian Government has instituted an Agricultural Growth Program that is focusing on increasing the involvement of women and youth in projects to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crops and livestock in selected woredas (districts) in the country.

A project, ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers’ (IPMS), implemented by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, has led to several successes, such as doubling the income of women fattening sheep in Goma, benefiting women dairy and honey farmers in Ada’a, helping women in Dale start an initiative that is supplying pullets for semi-commercial poultry producers, and increasing the levels of butter production and sales by supporting women with livestock fodder interventions.

The lessons, strategies and approaches raised at this workshop, and an understanding of what makes them effective in the Ethiopian context, should be immensely helpful to us in designing strategies to scale them out for the agricultural transformation to which the Ethiopian government and people are firmly committed.

Find the whole speech by the minister on ILRI Gender and Agriculture Blog.

Follow discussions on this and related topics at a workshop being held this week on ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on this main ILRI News Blog, on ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture Blog, or by searching for ‘AgriGender2011′ on social media websites such as Twitter (quotable quotes), Facebook (blog posts), SlideShare (slide presentations), Flickr (conference and other photographs) and Blip.tv (filmed interviews).

Read a full 68-page research report: Opportunities for promoting gender equality in rural Ethiopia through the commercialization of agriculture, IPMS Working Paper 18, ILRI 2010.

Read a 13-page general brief from which these recommendations were extracted: Empowering women through value chain development: Good practices and lessons from IPMS experiences, January 2011.