The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Agriculture Transformation Agency (ATA), the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Council Secretariat (EARCS), regional bureaus of agriculture, and other stakeholders has recently launched an initiative to produce wheat in three lowland basins of the country. This initiative is being implemented in Awash (Oromia and Afar regions), Wabeshebelle (Somali Region), and Omo (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) basins, locations where wheat production was not previously practiced.
Lowland wheat production was successfully demonstrated in Awash and Omo basins in 2018/2019 (2011 E.C.). In the new Ethiopian year, the initiative will be demonstrated on 1,500 hectares along the Awash basin, 3,200 hectares along the Wabeshebelle basin, and on 660 hectares along the Omo basin. Additionally, this there is a plan to move to largescale production in Awash and Wabeshebelle basins on more than 32,000 and 3,200 hectares, respectively.
“The implementation of the lowland wheat project will contribute to achieving Ethiopia’s import substitution efforts in the long term, and will also have an immediate positive impact on improving the livelihoods of the farmers and pastoralists residing in the implementation areas,” Dr Kebere Bezaweletaw, ATA Senior Project Officer, Crop Value Chain, commenting on the significance of the lowland wheat initiative to ensuring food self-sufficiency and improving the lives and livelihoods of Ethiopian smallholders.
The ATA and the EARCS are jointly engaged in demonstration of lowland wheat along the Omo basin. They have already mobilized the required agricultural inputs and provided training and technical support. The MoA will engage in controlling birds that destroy the wheat farm during plantation and harvesting periods, while EIAR will provide cross-cutting technical support to the initiative in all three basins in addition to the lowland wheat project it runs in the Awash basin. Both smallholder and commercial farmers in the targeted regions have demonstrated their willingness to be involved in the project.
At full implementation, the lowland wheat initiative will cover more than 132,000 hectares of land across the three basins and is expected to produce nearly 6 million quintals of wheat along with more than 100,000 quintals of improved wheat seeds. Combined with the existing support to increase production and productivity in the Ethiopian highlands, this lowland wheat project will make significant contributions towards achieving Ethiopia’s plan to gradually replace importation as laid out in the country’s import substitution strategy.
For close to half a century, Ethiopia has been importing wheat to provide for local consumption, with the quantity of imported wheat gradually increasing to meet the growing local demand. All the while, the need for ensuring food sustainability without importation had lingered in the minds of the Ethiopian agricultural leadership community. With the introduction of the lowland wheat initiative, import substitution and sustainability of local supplies will soon be achieved.