Input supply critical to enhancing agricultural productivity

Bisheftu-Alema FSC supplies different agricultural inputs (pictured, above)

Timely and reliable agricultural input supply service has a critical impact on improving smallholders productivity in particular and ensuring the country’s sustainable growth in general. Unable to access quality inputs and services to the needy has a great impact not only on the productivity of the farmers livelihood but also on food security ensuring.

To this effect, recently, the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) -Funded Bishoftu – Alema Farm PLC, the first of the six centres to be opened through USAID’s Commercial Farm Service Programme ( CFSP) was officially opened recently.

Minda Ayalew 28, was a private organization employee. Now he runs his private business. He produces vegetables like tomatoes and cabbages on one hectare of land. He said that he received training and professional support from the Alema Farm Centre. “I can get quality and cheap farm inputs from the centre.

Major Alamayhu Amde-Mariam, Alema Farm PLC Owner said that farmers are customers of the farm and the country’s greatest assets. “ As a local business, our goal will be to always do our best in giving them what they need to succeed.” It is uplifting to know that the government of Ethiopia has put an agricultural industrialization plan in a place to make sure that agriculture output can be used both as a raw material for industries and a source of food security.

On the one hand the efforts of the government in collaboration with many other concerned bodies are geared toward improving agriculture. On the other it is undeniable that agriculture still faces many challenges. As there are many stakeholders in the agriculture sector addressing the challenges also requires the collective engagement of all these concerned bodies, he said.

He further said that Alema Farm PLC is a commercial farm which has served the farmers across the country for 20 years through the distribution of improved breeds of chicks, pullets, swine and animal feed. It has also been supplying different kinds of products such as sausages, broiler meat and table eggs. In addition to providing various products, Alema Farm plc has created jobs for over 350 people, he added.

“We know that farmers still have other needs. Keeping this in mind, providing a one stop shop holistic service to farmers has been at the back of my mind for several years.”

When he first found out about the USAID grant available through the Commercial Farm Service Programme (CFSP), he did not hesitate to apply. He felt that this grant could be a way to make his dream of serving the community come true.

“We believe in making sure that farmers have the products they need. The Bishoftu-Alema FSC supplies different agricultural inputs-both crop and livestock and has an inventory portfolio of over 122.” Alema farm also supplies animal feed, improved chickens, pullets, agricultural tools and equipment, pesticides and veterinary drugs to farmers,” he said.

Professionals from the centre provide consultations, professional services and various types of training aided with live demonstrations. It also conducts outreach and extension programmes to promote the centre and its products, services and trainings. Centre proffessionals provide door to door veterinary services. Agronomists provide trainings on safe use of pesticides, Major Alemayehu indicated.

In only 45 days of operation, the Bishoftu-Alema FSC attracted over 300 customers, and obtained over 100, 000 birr in sales. During this time the Centre conducted an on-site training that was attended by 50 members of the government, 15 farmers and 35 professionals from input supply sector, according the owner of the Centre.

USAID Mission Director, Dennis Weller said that the agriculture input sector has a critical impact on the agricultural productivity. The Director also indicated that the Centre would enhance access to high quality seeds, fertilizer, plant protection and veterinary services. Through the application of such quality inputs, Ethiopian farmers can achieve higher productivity which will in turn contribute directly to income generation and household food security.

As part of the effort to improve the accessibility of improved inputs and enhance the effectiveness of the sector, the USAID CFSP is developing a pilot network of locally- owned, private retail input supply and farm service businesses in the Oromia Region. These farm service centres provide increased access to high- quality, reasonably priced inputs, training, technical advice and output market linkages for a least 30 thousand smallholder farmers. Having taken a look at the supplies and services available at the Bishoftu FSC, it is clear to see how the model will achieve the overall programme goal of improving smallholder productivity, food security and income through the development of sustainable, private sector driven agricultural input supplies and services, he said

Oromia Agriculture Bureau Deputy Head, Abebe Driba said on his part that in any part of the region and for any crop or animal, FSCs are offering products and services that cater to local demands. The diversity of the Oromia region offers the FSC model an opportunity to demonstrate how it can be an enterprise that responds to the need of the local farmers in terms of offering agricultural and veterinary services.

In the areas surrounding each of the FSCs – Ambo, Bishoftu, Dodola, Fithe, Shashamane and Nekemte– local Ormoia Agriculture offices and their experts work closely with the FSC staff in the areas of training, and need assessment survey.

“ Acknowledging the importance of inputs to farmers, my bureau will continue to wellcome this initiative and work with the progarmme and FSC team members to do all it can to see the project attain the set objectives,” he said.

Fikre Markos, from Agriculture Ministry said that the government of Ethiopia has long recognized the importance of inputs and service previously in the economic development of the country. “ We thus welcome the opening cicerones of for each programme six FSCs. However, since inputs could include some potentially harmful products the need to develop environmental protection guide and workers safety manual complemented with training is essential. Having learned that this project places ample emphasis on this aspects, I am confident that the farm service centers will contribute immense to the country’s effort to safely increase farmers productivity and self- sufficiency.



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