ISIS Report 25/06/04
Organic Production for Ethiopia
The success of the Tigray Project will now be consolidated by
government policy. Sue Edwards reports.
Spurred by the successes of the Tigray Project, the Ethiopian government
has stated its interest to increase the capacity of farmers to use organic
methods of crop production.
The Rural Development Policy, meanwhile, emphasizes the need to improve
local marketing infrastructure, and also to develop agricultural products to
diversify the economic base of the country.
Last year, the government announced it will support the development of
organic agriculture, and a task force was established to draw up an Ethiopian
Organic Agriculture Regulation, which can become law, and a Regulation for
Organic Agriculture Products to describe how organic products are defined, and
what may or may not be used in their growing and processing. The documents
cover crop and animal production, as well as food processing and marketing,
with the second document providing a basis for a local organic certification
The international trade in organic products is an expanding niche market
that Ethiopia is geographically well situated to exploit. Already, some
communities in the south and southwest have started to develop and export
Arabica coffee with an organic and fair trade label.
There is also expanding awareness of the importance of producing healthy
fruits and vegetables for the expanding educated middle-class and expatriate
market in Addis Ababa. For example, Genesis Farm started three years ago and
production now covers over 40 ha. The farm combines dairy and poultry
production with growing vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants. It is totally
organic and sells certified products on the export market. However, there is a
fast expanding local market and it is interesting to note that none of the
items sold by Genesis are more expensive than other locally produced items, and
several are even cheaper. When I recently visited the farm, there were local
workers buying their vegetables from the farm shop.
As a further development, the administration of the Woreda
(administrative district) with one of the best sites of the Tigray Project, now
wants to have the whole Woreda involved in the project. This will include 2 100
farming families divided in 16 parishes. To start this ambitious
up-scaling, 9 parishes (4 from before and 5 new ones) have been chosen to be
involved in the project this year.
There will be a big workshop in July to launch this update, involving
200 farmers and all 50 of the local experts, from development agents to local
specialists. The local experts will lead the workshop along with one or two
farmers, who will give testimony of the successes of the Tigray Project. There
will also be an experience-sharing session, of problems and how they were
solved, or how these still remain as challenges. A pre-workshop day is
set-aside for the local experts to have an in-depth discussion on what
constitutes sustainable rural development.
Another exciting element is the involvement of the local justice system,
the social courts, to help uphold and enrich local by-laws, to back
up improvements to land and its management.
The experience with the farmers in Tigray in producing and using compost
shows that the aim for Ethiopia to have a substantial number of farmers
producing organically can be realized. It also shows that the introduction of
ecologically sound organic principles can have very quick positive impacts on
the productivity and well-being of smallholder farmers so that they do not
necessarily have to face a conversion period of reduced yields as they change
from chemical to organic production. Most farmers, particularly those in
marginal areas, are not able to afford external inputs, so for them an organic
production management system offers a real and affordable means to break out of
poverty and obtain food security.
It is important to bear in mind that although it may be external market
interests that initially stimulate the development of a policy environment for
organic agriculture, the benefits should be available to all members of the
local society to build a healthy and food-secure future for Ethiopia.
Sue Edwards is the Director of the Institute for Sustainable
Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and co-editor of the seven-volume Flora
of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
ISD would like to acknowledge the unfailing support of the Third World
Network for the Tigray work.