Agricultural advisors say professionals must be heard

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

The ministry of agriculture set up a council after a panel is made with intellectuals to transform the Ethiopian agriculture sector.
Agricultural researchers, higher institution lectures, partners in the agricultural sector, and scholars from abroad participated in a discussion on Ethiopian agriculture. The advisory council then presented their findings to the Prime Minister.
The scholastic body has criticized the close door approach the ministry has been practicing which they say alienates agricultural professionals. Unstable organizational structure of the ministry was one of the areas in which scholars were disappointed. They said more attention needs to be paid to professionalism. The scant attention given to professionals in the field in favor of political appointees has led to tortoise like growth in the sector the scholar said.

Oumer Hussein, Minister of Agriculture Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Currently, agriculture contributes 35 percent of GDP which employees 79 percent of the work force in Ethiopia. The sector has only registered 7 percent growth on average for the last 10 years, despite the rapid population growth. As a result, Ethiopia has imported agricultural products such as wheat, palm oil, rice, and sugar.
According to ministry data, the nation produced 4.6 million tons of wheat last fiscal year which makes Ethiopia the third largest producer of wheat in Africa next to Egypt and Morocco. However, the paradox is, the nation still imports wheat that takes huge foreign exchange.
Ethiopia imports 1.7 million tons of wheat to meet the market demand. Wheat is also one of the areas that has taken much of the hard currency, last fiscal year, the country spent 600 million USD.
“The ministry is in a strong position to produce enough wheat for its people,” says Oumer Hussein, Minister of Agriculture.
The ministry has a strong commitment to boost wheat productivity through irrigation so as to produce wheat.
In its pilot project in Afar and Fentale, an area with a semi desert climate, farmers can collect up to 45 quintals per acre, which is by far better when compared to the productivity of wheat worldwide.
The country’s average productivity of wheat is 27 quintals. Rain fed agriculture is what the country primarily relies on currently.
“The government shows high commitment to change this scenario by shifting to irrigation and making wheat import history,” adds Oumer
In this regard the ministry is working to engage in public private partnerships and commercialize farming through irrigation.
According to the ministry, only 2.1 million hectares of land are cultivated by irrigation.
At the end of this harvest season the country expects to harvest 374 million quintals of major crops, including wheat. Wheat accounts for the fourth largest share of total cereal production.
Out of the total 1.1 million square kilometers of land size in Ethiopia, the cultivable land is about 13.2 million hectares, or 12% of the total land area, and only 6 million hectares of land is cultivated. Small-scale farmers occupy 96% of the cropped area, while the remaining 4% are cropped by State farms and Producers’ Cooperatives, according to FAO.