Agriculture employs three-quarters of Ethiopia’s workforce, and more than 13 million households in the country depend on farming for their livelihoods. Despite considerable economic growth and poverty reduction in recent decades, 11.5 million people – representing more than 10% of the population – require emergency food assistance.
In Ethiopia, soil degradation negatively affects agricultural productivity, and is accelerated by climate change and deforestation. Despite years of investment in sustainable land management (SLM) and watershed rehabilitation, agricultural production is still severely threatened by the decline of soil fertility and loss of biodiversity. One of the top priorities of the country’s agricultural development interventions has been to reverse soil degradation. TMG Research provides research support to GIZ Ethiopia’s Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) project in the highlands of the Amhara National Regional State. The project focusses on the socio-economic, cultural and political-institutional factors that constrain farmers’ uptake of SLM practices.
As part of a special initiative by the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation entitled One World – No Hunger, GIZ Ethiopia has, since 2015, implemented the Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) project in the highlands of Amhara, Oromia and Tigray regions.
TMG Research has supported the ISFM project since 2016 in selected Kebeles [the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia] in East Gojjam in the Amhara region. The locations were selected together with the ISFM project team, and research questions and goals were developed jointly.
The work of TMG Research pursues two principal goals: helping the ISFM project to better reach farmers and address the problem of soil fertility decline; and identifying issues of strategic relevance to German development cooperation and which can contribute to rural transformation in Ethiopia.
One example of the first goal has been the development of a twinning mechanism to better target disadvantaged farmers. This involves model farmers or ISFM ambassadors visiting more vulnerable farmers (often women or other disadvantaged groups). Training modules and demonstrations were adapted to the specific needs of these households. The role of community-based organisations such as the Idir and Iqub, especially in terms of widening access to information and technologies, was also recognised, and these were incorporated into the ISFM strategy.
Community-based organisations in the study area
Idir: An informal institution that supports families following bereavement. It is established on a voluntary basis by the community, and a committee elected by Idir members governs participation and enforces rules and regulations on use of commonly held resources .
Iqub: An informal institution in which a small group of people each contribute a fixed amount of money periodically, usually monthly. The total amount is paid out, on a lottery basis, to members in turn. This lump sum allows the recipient to invest in their farm or other business.