The initial phase of the ACC Initiative in the Tigray region includes four major commodity clusters (wheat, tef, sesame, and horticulture) and three livestock sub-clusters (beef, honey, and dairy) for implementation during GTP II. In 2016, the regional BoANR and the ATA have focused on the crop commodities, in particular wheat, sesame, and tef, to improve their production and productivity and establish sustainable market linkages. Moreover, the region has worked intensively on the application of the full recommended research package in 27 woredas and 108 kebeles, to be expanded to all ACC woredas in the coming few years.
The Regional Transformation Council, chaired by the Regional President, has agreed to focus on a number of future initiatives. These include developing an improved seed development, multiplication, and distribution system (especially for the Tigray RARI and the Inputs department of the regional BoANR); encouraging more contract farming agreements for wheat grain; and enhancing market infrastructure, particularly to establish a vegetable Sunday market in Mekele. In addition, commodity specific VCAs were established for the wheat, tef, and sesame clusters.
This cluster lies in 13 woredas of the Eastern, Southern and South Eastern zones of Tigray. It encompasses 101,630 hectares and benefits 210,322 households. The 92,923 hectares of land cultivated by wheat in this cluster are responsible for 13% of the country’s total wheat production. Only 47% of the bread wheat grown here is marketed, primarily by private aggregators and suppliers, while primary cooperatives play a minor role (12%) in marketing.
With an expected wheat productivity of 30 quintals per hectare, a harvest of approximately 3.1 million quintals can be achieved in each cropping season. This represents an increase of 25% in average yield per hectare, one of the targets set by this cluster for GTP II. Other targets include increasing domestic revenue from processed wheat products by 119%, raising farmers’ annual income by 60%, and decreasing post-harvest losses by 36%.
The vision for this cluster is to generate annual revenues of 63 million USD by 2020 through domestic sales of bread wheat grain, biscuits and crackers, flour, feed and bread. Substituting imports of bread wheat products alone will earn 13 million USD. All product processing will be handled within the cluster.
Despite the high number of wheat processors in the region – 54 are located in Mekele alone – there are poor links between primary cooperatives, unions, and processors. Activities around creating market linkages and VCAs are attempting to address this issue. Additionally, ineffective demand assessment for seed, fertilizer; lack of control of wheat rust; and the limited capacity of cooperatives in aggregation, transport, and marketing all pose challenges for this cluster. Attempts are underway to expand the role of cooperatives in output marketing by providing greater access to financing, as well as to develop an ICT-based wheat rust early warning system and demand assessment mechanism for farming inputs.
The sesame cluster is composed of 323,430 hectares over four woredas in the Western and North Western Tigray zones. Approximately 88% of farmers are engaged in sesame farming in the cluster, the largest sesame producing area in the country accounting for 41% of national production. Sesame grown here is primarily for export, with ECX trading 98% of exported sesame.
The five-year vision for this cluster is to generate annual revenues of 555 million USD by 2020 through 41 million USD in domestic sales of sesame grain, oil, tahini and feed, and 496 million USD through export of grain and hulled sesame in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and China. The cluster will process 85% of the products and the remaining 15% will be processed through contractual arrangements with processors in Addis Ababa.
A number of ambitious targets have been set for this cluster in order to turn it into an agro-processing hub for sesame products. Among these targets are plans to quadruple the agro-processing capacity through the establishment of an Agro-Industrial Park in Kafta Humera woreda. At present, the majority of sesame is exported in raw, cleaned form, but this development could greatly increase the amount of sesame products exported, as well as increase domestic revenue from processed products by 239%, and contribute to increasing the number of non-farming jobs by 705%.
In addition to limited agro-processing capacity, the cluster currently faces other challenges in the form of poor agronomic, harvest and post-harvest practices of farmers, and high labor costs for the production of sesame. Providing incentives to mechanized service providers is expected to reduce farmers’ labor costs for production and simultaneously boost their efficiency, at the same time that expanding the extension service package should improve their farming practices.
The Central and Northwestern zones in Tigray are dedicated to tef production. Ten woredas and 55,921 hectares cultivated by 114,159 households make up this cluster. Tef is the most important crop in the cluster, with 10% higher production than the next most important crop, sorghum.
Within five years, this cluster is envisioned to generate annual revenues of 19 million USD through 17 million USD in domestic sales of tef grain, flour, and injera, and 1.7 million USD through export of tef grain to the United States and Western Europe. All product processing will take place within the cluster.
Similar to the sesame cluster, the Agro-Industrial Park planned to be situated in Kafta Humera woreda should considerably enhance the processing capacity of the current 30 agro-processing plants in the area, the majority of which are small scale-mills. The Tef, Improved seed, Reduced rate, Row planting (TIRR) package has already been actively implemented in this area since 2011, and is expected to contribute to the planned increase in average yield per hectare of 23%, as well as encouraging the usage of improved inputs planned to increase by 100% in five years.
Nonetheless, certain bottlenecks must be addressed to help the cluster achieve its full potential and vision. Some interventions already underway to address such bottlenecks include implementing a tef strategy that also identifies secure markets; providing incentives and technical support to agri-businesses on processing and value addition; ensuring that farmers are aware of the availability of credit through IVS; and training farmers, woreda professionals, and DAs on improved agronomic, harvest, and post-harvest practices.
Considerable work was carried out in terms of full package scale-up, as well as capacity building of agricultural experts and DAs. Trainings were complemented by an instructional video distributed to the 27 woredas. Although challenges remain in this area, cropping activities in some areas are taking place through mechanization: five woredas in the wheat cluster and two in the tef cluster have now introduced tiller tractors.
Furthermore, smallholders were encouraged to access additional agronomic information via the IVR / SMS hotline. At the time of reporting, 38,241 farmers from all clusters had registered to access the system. Farmers are also actively using the IVS system to obtain inputs using cash or credit vouchers.
Market linkages and VCAs have been strengthened in all three clusters. Four primary cooperatives entered into contract agreements with Selit and Dipasa sesame hulling clusters for the purchase of 24,000 quintals of the grain. In the coming year, the two companies have agreed to buy 70,000 quintals of sesame from six cooperatives. Similarly, cooperative unions in the wheat cluster have committed to supplying an equivalent amount of grain to flour factories. The wheat VCA is following up on implementation of this contract and undertaking resolution of any challenges that may arise in the process. Furthermore, efforts were initiated to bring together tef suppliers and buyers through contract farming agreements amounting to 60,000 quintals. A tef VCA has been established to follow up the process and provide guidance, since the cluster is still in an infant stage.
The sesame cluster is still feeling the residual effects of last year’s drought, which has led farmers to lose interest in using the full package, since the resulting inadequate soil moisture prevented them from seeing meaningful results in their crops. Farmers in this cluster also requested more access to input credit given the positive results of the IVS thus far.
Meanwhile, trainings in the tef cluster were not delivered as extensively as in the other clusters, which raises the concern that farmers may not take up all of the recommended inputs. In the wheat cluster as well, especially in the Western zone, input use was below the recommended amounts.
The primary changes in implementing full package scale-up were inadequate quantities of seed varieties, limited availability of row planters, and farmers’ limited awareness of agro-chemicals. Insufficient access to input credit also hindered farmers from implementing the full package in some areas.