There is a plan in Ethiopia’s to dramatically increase wheat production and achieve self-sufficiency for the crop by 2022.
This has pushed International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Ethiopia’s government to hold a special conference seeking to craft a new strategy to achieve this objective.
According to CIMMYT, annual imports to satisfy Ethiopia’s demand for wheat — one of the country’s four key food crops — now cost more than $600 million and expose national food security to capricious global price shifts for grain, according to Mandefro Nigussie, Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture (EIAR).
“Ethiopians now consume some 6.5 million tons per year but the country’s 4.2 million households grow only 4.6 million tons on 1.7 million hectares and demand for the crop is rising, as more people move to cities and change in life style,” Nigussie explained.
National wheat yields are steadily climbing but still average only 2.7 tons per hectare; well below global standards, according to Bekele Abeyo, CIMMYT wheat scientist and Ethiopia country representative.
“There’s great potential to expand irrigated wheat production, especially in the lowlands along the major river basins,” Nigussie said. “In the Ethiopian highlands, wheat’s traditional environment, more farmers need to use high-yielding, disease resistant seed and modern farming practices. Even modest levels of technology adoption can provide yields as high as 4 tons per hectare.” Wheat yield can also be increased significantly by treating acidic soils and by making broad-beds in vertisol soil areas.
Called “Wheat Self-Sufficiency in Ethiopia: Challenges and Opportunities,” the consultative workshop builds on recent successes and lessons in Ethiopia of the Wheat Initiative, an international partnership of private and public organizations that conducts wheat research for food security and to help wheat farmers in diverse environments to improve and stabilize their yields.
“This is part of strengthening wheat research and development partnerships, tapping into policies that foster competitive and profitable wheat farming, and supporting national efforts both to reduce imports and end poverty and food insecurity,” Abeyo explained. Kristie Drucza, Gender and Development Specialist at CIMMYT, also notes that, “We see striking opportunities to raise productivity by empowering women in wheat farming, fostering their access to knowledge, technology, and financial resources and their voice in decision making.”