Low-cost low-risk agricultural practices and technologies
Agricultural technology/practice has been a primary factor contributing to increased farm productivity in recent years in Ethiopia though there is still widespread food insecurity. Smallholder farmers are advised through agricultural extension to use full package of the technology/practice, which involves use of external inputs such as hybrid seeds, inorganic fertilizers and other agro-chemicals. Whilst use of the technologies/practices can lead to increased productivity, adoption is associated with high costs that poor people may not be able to afford. Resource poor farmers thus tend to benefit less than others from agricultural technologies, which is more pronounced in areas with low agricultural potential including many of the woredas under productive safety net programme (PSNP)/REALISE.
Basket of technology options including low-cost low risk technologies, instead of full package, can create opportunity in benefiting resource-poor farming households. Local resource-based innovations such as agroforestry, cover crops, compost and the like have been adopted by resource-poor farmers although they are considered by some as labour-intensive as well. Risk in agriculture plays a vital role in the farmers’ production decisions related to choices and levels of inputs and outputs. In risky situations where there is no third party to absorb the shock like insurances, farmers become risk averse even though the technology may have the potential to increase return on investment. A means of reducing the risk and associated costs may enhance use of technologies and farmers may get benefit.
BENEFIT-REALISE programme is working to generate evidences on the use of low-cost and low-risk technologies that are beneficial and relevant to resource poor farmers. The interventions include integrated soil fertility management with miro-dosing of fertilizers, micro-packaging of seed and fertilizer, and provision of weather forecast to reduce crop failure. Fertilizer micro-dosing technology consists of the application of a small quantity of mineral fertilizer together with seeds of the target crop in the planting hole at sowing or few weeks (3 to 4) after planting thereby enhancing fertilizer use efficiency and improving yields while minimizing input cost. In addition, increasing fertilizer use has long been confronted by difficulties in providing the right inputs in affordable pack sizes. Piloting of the micro-packaging of seed and fertilizer will contribute to the efforts of putting in place effective input supply system. Change and variability in rainfall amount and seasonal patterns are already being experienced in many parts of the country. Due to the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters, notably recurrent droughts, floods and erratic rainfall, farming is becoming risky business. Thus, weather information dissemination is very important to mitigate and manage the risks, and for strategic planning.