Intensification of Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia

The prevailing orthodoxy is to see the problem of smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia strictly as a technical and resource related problem. This view identifi es the low level of agricultural productivity as the key problem. In response, the government of Ethiopia has since the mid 1990s, implemented a high-profi le, national technologyled extension programme. But has this worked, and what are the limitations of such a strategy?

The Smallholder Intensification Programme

The Ethiopian government’s development strategy centres on ‘Agricultural Development Led Industrialization’. A ‘green revolution’-like intensifi cation of smallholder agriculture was seen as key. Policymakers assumed that signifi cant productivity growth could be easily achieved by improving farmers’ access to technologies which would narrow the yield gap. Researchers identified crop technology packages that could make a huge difference.

They indicated that maize yield, for instance, can be increased from current farmers’ yields of 1.6 tonnes/ha to 4.7 tonnes/ha, if farmers used the right type and amount of improved seed varieties, fertilizers and other recommended practices. The ‘Participatory Agricultural Demonstration Training Extension System’ (PADETES) thus aimed to attain yield improvements at a national level, based on the much touted experience of the Sasakawa Global 2000 programme.

The strategy was a technology-based, supply-driven intensifi cation which consisted of enhanced supply and promotion of improved seeds, fertilizers, onfarm demonstrations of improved farm practices and technologies,improved credit supply for the purchase of inputs and close follow up of farmers’ extension plots