The OTIPAVA-project which is one of the projects hosted by SWR Ethiopia, had its annual workshop in Adama on March 27, 2023. Dr. Tewodrose Tefera, OTIPAVA project manager, welcomed everyone to the workshop. Dr. Tewodrose stated in his welcome speech that the workshop is intended to spark a national compost movement, endorsement of the ‘one-timad’ package into the main extension system, and piloting of the ‘small-pack’ fertilizer initiative. In his opening statement, Dr. Dawit Alemu, the country representative for SWR Ethiopia, thanked the attendees for coming to the session. He gave the audience an overview of SWR Ethiopia. Furthermore, he emphasized that the workshop is intended to review the results and evidences of the OTIPAVA project, which were developed after many years of hard work starting from BENEFIT program. He encouraged everyone to participate actively in the discussion and wished the deliberation success.

Dr. Tewodrose Tefera, project manager for OTIPAVA, addressing the audience and introducing the workshop

Pathways and backgrounds for OTIPAVA

Dr. Tewodrose made a presentation which emphasized the OTIPAVA project’s evolution and achievements. He briefed how the project came-up building up on the innovation and evidence generated by its precedes, BENEFIT-CASCAPE and BENEFIT-REALISE projects. The customized extension approach, the so-called ‘one-timad package’ was piloted by BENEFIT-REALIZE. It was piloted because the conventional extension package in Ethiopia is no longer feasible given the changing population dynamics, limited availability of arable land, rising fertilizer costs, and rural poverty. Hence, one timad package validation is intended to show how low-input methods can be inclusive and tailored to the needs of community members who are marginalized. Dr. Tewodrose remarked that effort has been exerted to integrate the “one-timad package” in the primary extension system, however the MoA demanded additional validation. The reasons stated were that there is no standard method for composting, that additional research is required to determine how IFSM affects yield, and that the package needs to be evaluated on a wider scale. In light of this, the project evaluated several composting techniques to see how they affected nutrient content and quality, the impact of ISFM on crop production, biomass, and soil health, and it also piloted a “one-timad package” on more than 600 farmers to collect additional evidence.

OPTIPAVA project results and evidences

The project’s results and evidence were then presented by Professor Yehenew Gebreselasie, senior advisor for the OTIPAVA project. He indicated the experiments conducted in three regions (Amhara, Oromia and SNNP) on maize, wheat, and teff crops in collaboration with Adet, Adami Tulu, and Areka Agricultural Research Centers. Eight treatments were validated, and the results demonstrate that combining vermicompost and inorganic fertilizers to provide higher yield, are both economically feasible and advantageous to soil health. He went on to say that the results demonstrated that the package improves crop productivity, soil organic matter, and water-holding capacity. According to Professor Yehenew, the package proved successful in raising productivity and reducing production costs.

Dr. Worku Tessema presented an assessment of small fertilizer packs and major findings. The presenter emphasized that the rising fertilizer prices make full-package adoption difficult for the majority of smallholder farmers. With this context in mind, an assessment was launched to determine how these farmers would react to small fertilizer packs. The study’s primary finding was that smallholder farmers are willing to pay for fertilizer in small packs. If the fertilizer is made available in small packs, 45.5% of non-users are likely to adopt the package. He indicated that packaging fertilizers in 25 and 10 kg is feasible for farmers having small landholding, experience capital shortage to buy the conventional big fertilizer package and remote located areas where transport access is difficult.

Discussions and reflections
The participants then had a thorough discussion. Some attendees asked technical questions, which presenters addressed. Farmers from Shashemene and Achefer woredas witnessed benefits of the “one-timad package.” They discussed the benefits of using the package and stated that it is appropriate package for farmers like them. They emphasize that the practices not only reduce production costs, but also allow them to convert garbage from their surroundings into organic fertilizer.

“The package is more suited to women farmers, who are typically resource constrained. They have a small and dispersed land holding. Women farmers are also the primary actors in compost preparation at the household level. The ‘one-time bundle’ meets the specific needs of female farmers.” said a representative from MoA.

On a quarter of a hectare, I tested the “one-timad package.” on maize crop.  I cultivated maize using the conventional way on 0.25 ha side by side to the package. The field sown using the conventional method performed better during emergence. When I saw that I regretted using “one-time package.” My friends felt I wasted my plot. Because there wasn’t enough rain, the dry spell lasted longer. The plot that I conventionally planted has been affected. It started to dry, but the “one-timad package” plot started to perform better. It has been visited and everybody was amazed with the performance. I realized that the package was better because it preserved moisture. I harvested 1,000 kg from ‘one-timad package plot’ however I could get from the convention field was only 425 kg. 

Farmer Shume Abame, Oromia region Siraro woreda

We used to use inorganic fertilizer in huge amount. After the OTIPAVA project we learned how we can reduce the amount of the inorganic fertilizer by combining it with compost. Using combination of the inorganic fertilizer together with compost helped us reduce fertilizer cost and increase yield. I tried the ‘one-timad package’ on 0.25 ha. As you have seen on the presentation, I harvested 2000 kg.
Other fellow farmers who saw my field are convinced and planned to apply the package in the coming season. I am also planning to expand the land size which I will plant using ‘one-timad package’.

Farmer Teshome Melese, Amhara region Achefer woreda

“When I was working in the field, some female farmers welcomed me to their home for coffee. I went to their home after accepting the invitation. The person preparing the coffee was seated on an old, hardened fertilizer bag. They explained that they were compelled to purchase the 50kg bag, which is more than they actually wanted, when I inquired why. Hence, there was little we could do about the excess volume. As you can see, we are currently using the leftover as a seat.”

said W/ro Tigest from MoA, women and social inclusion department, when sharing her experience regarding the challenge of women farmers in accessing fertilizer in amount they need.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Dawit Alemu stated that the results and evidence presented do not imply that the initiatives are complete but sufficient to stimulate change in our agricultural inputs use, in our extension advisory service and how package and distribute fertilizers. He went on to say that in order to institutionalize it and expand its reach, all relevant stakeholders should be involved.

In conclusion, the public agricultural extension system is a key component of the government’s investment in agriculture. Although this has noble intentions, it is necessary to recognize the hard realities on the ground. Integrating customized agricultural packages is necessary in order to lower the cost of inputs farmers must acquire in order to apply best practices. The results and evidences presented, showed that the package has paramount importance to increase adoption, enhance inclusion, and improve food and nutrition security.

The small pack can benefit farmers by making the technology affordable. If an affordable package is availed to farmers, it is more likely will increase adoption of technologies. It avoids the illegal retailing of fertilizers thereby addresses the problem of quality compromise due to illegal trade.

More than 20 participants attended the workshop which came from Ministry of Agriculture, zone and woreda agriculture offices, Bahirdar University, South Agricultural Research Institute, Adet, Areka and Adami Tulu agricultural research centers, International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), and SWR Ethiopia

Workshop participants

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