Capacity building of agricultural services for Supporting Horticultural sector development in selected Woredas-Ethiopia

Place: ethiopia, Africa
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 3.000.000,00 | Period: From October 2011 To


 The project objective was to strengthen capacities of local agricultural services, at the level of four districts, to support intensification of horticulture and access to markets by smallholder farmers. The project succeeded in mobilizing a wide community of smallholders. It worked through the promotion and organization of smallholder networks for improving farmer’s knowledge on horticulture, enhancing communities access to water for irrigation purposes, improving farmers linkages to products and inputs supply markets.


CIHEAM Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari - Italy

Lead applicant

The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (MAIB) is a Centre for post-graduate training, applied scientific research and design of in-loco partnership actions in the framework of the international cooperation programmes. It works in four thematic areas: “Land and water resources management”, “Integrated pest management of Mediterranean fruit and vegetable crops”, “Mediterranean organic agriculture” and “Sustainable agriculture, food and rural development”.

Amhara National Regional State Bureau of Agriculture - Ethiopia

Initiative partner

Bureau of Agriculture of Oromyia Region - Ethiopia

Initiative partner

Promoting agriculture and rural development in Oromyia Region

Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia - Ethiopia

Initiative partner

Promoting Agricultural and Rural Development in Ethiopia

The best practice is framed within the SupHort Project (Capacity building of agricultural services for Supporting Horticultural sector development in selected Woredas) implemented in Ethiopia in four woredas (districts) in the regions of Oromyia and Amhara. SupHort is operating for strengthening local development services to increase opportunities for smallholder farmers from horticultural activity.The project works for developing institutional capacities in services provision to smallholder farmers; enhancing knowledge of smallholders on appropriate and market oriented horticultural technologies; increase the access to irrigation water by farmers communities; link farmers to inputs and outputs markets.

The best practice proposed deal with the promotion and organization of  smallholder farmers’ networks for creating income opportunities from horticultural activities. Promoting farmers networks means both organizing farmers in a horizontal way, trough framer’s group creation aimed at sharing  experiences on new horticultural technologies and/or acquire economic power; both in a vertical way, to create opportunities to link with important value chain horticultural actors, such as product buyers and inputs and  services providers.

Farmers networked Farmers networked under Market Horticultural Producers. Group of Ilu Gelan.
Farmers networked under water user group of Wagelsa Farmers networked under water user group of Wagelsa

Horticultural activity can be an important income resource for smallholder Ethiopian farmers. In some Ethiopian areas is generating  significant changes in their livelihoods. Farmers, in SupHort territories, are scattered in rural areas with very poor road and communication networks, that limit their linkages with external actors and markets. They have small horticultural land that range from 0,2 up 1 ha and their productivity is highly constrained by several factors: poverty that limit their capacities to invest; a low access to water due to poor irrigation schemes and infrastructures; the distance (physical and economic) from markets to get quality seeds and inputs and were to sell products, a poor access access low costs services to improve their knowledge on horticultural related issues.

At each district level there are organized governmental agricultural services that however suffer fort he lack of means and competencies to support horticultural development. 

Selling of products Selling of products
Small scale agriculture Small scale agriculture
Traditional irrigation Traditional irrigation

More than 140 Farmers Groups, (2800 farmers) organized to create and extend local knowledge on appropriate horticultural technologies. They implemented trials on more than 35 ha, testing quality seeds available on markets and technologies for new crops and varieties.
Upgraded 7 small scale irrigation schemes with farmers participation. A total command area of more than 600 ha is under irrigation and a communities of around 2250 households (around 17000 people) is getting a better access to water for horticultural intensification.
Farmers organized 4 market groups for production and commercialization of fresh products. Around 400 farmers are part of these groups. In the 1st cultivation season they sold around 12710 tons of products with an income of around 150.000 €.

90 farmers organized 4 seeds producer groups for seed and potato crops, for supplying improved seeds and tubers for local markets. In 1st multiplication round they produced 2000 q of potato tubers and 30 q of onion seeds.

The project worked for strengthening the capacities of local institutions in delivering services to smallholders  to increase their opportunities from horticultural activities. These institutions mobilized farmers in the creation of networks with the aim to increase farmers knowledge on horticultural technologies and their organization to approach markets.

Thus the final beneficiaries have been farmers who, through their networks, increased their knowledge on horticulture, mobilize resources for the upgrading of irrigation schemes, organized themselves to develop market opportunities.

Farmers have been able to increase their productivity from 2 up to 4 times, according to crops, and, accordingly, improve their living conditions, getting additional food and incomes.

Farmers harvest Farmers harvest
Farmers in the field Farmers in the field
Selling products to traders Selling products to traders

For the field activities the project engaged a team of 4 facilitators with a background in horticulture and on research and extension services. They were coordinated by a team of 4 experts on horticultural technologies, irrigation, market developmet, and community based approaches. At the woreda level the most important actors were the local offices of agriculture and cooperative authorities, who acted through their Subject Matter Specialists and Development Agents operating in the territories. Through the assistance of the project facilitators and project education tools (trainings, sharing experience visits, workshops) on key issues, woreda staff were fully responsible for the implementation of the project activities and the mobilization of farmers communities.

Field day Field day
Women training Women training

Project implementation required capacities on community mobilization to encourage farmers to stay together, discuss actions for approaching markets or solving problems, like access to water, organize themselves in market groups. Major challenge was dealing with local institutions for agricultural services. They mainly operated through subject matter specialists and development agents with skills on specific issues (livestock, natural resource management, agronomic practices).
Facing these constraints in routine activities was tuff: personnel rarely had specific experience in horticulture and market; contacts with farmers were limited for the poor roads and lack of transport.
Project solved these constraints proposing facilitation role for woreda personnel, aimed at periodically grouping farmers and stimulating them in working together, discussing challenges and needs, letting farmers play a main role for their development and being partners of the project and not only beneficiaries

Discussion with farmers Discussion with farmers
Farmers participation in construction works Farmers participation in construction works

 The project proposed farming practices that allow for horticultural intensification but with a sustainable management of resources.

For example for saving water purposes technologies such as furrow irrigation and drip irrigation were introduced instead of surface irrigation, limiting the water use to less than 50%.
For soil fertility and plant disease management, rotations that include leguminous and cereal species were proposed.
Seed treatments with chemical were also done before seedling preparation and transplanting, to avoid the insurgence of pests along the 1st growing stages that would require an uncontrolled use of pesticides.

Other important interventions environmental friendly regarded the construction of storehouses, with local materials and with zero-energy features, for conserving products, based on light diffusion, air circulation technologies.

Furrow irrigation Furrow irrigation
Low costs potato storehouse Low costs potato storehouse
Seedlings preparation Seedlings preparation

The project is not still ended. However the started processes and the proposed technologies have been designed in a way to not impact natural resources and to fit smallholder capacities and thus ensure replicability and transferability mechanisms.

Data indicates that horticultural technologies have been already largely adopted by the surrounding communities and that market groups are enlarging partnerships.

Project results have been scaled out in a successful way through the organization of filed days at the local were farmers that were involved in the activities extend their experience toother farmers of the surrounding areas. It allowed for a fast extension of results to other farmers, creating the conditions for the mobilization of wider communities in the horticultural sector. Each filed days could easily group 100 farmers and the project organized upto now more than 40 field days.