The production of cereal grain crops like wheat, teff, maize, barley, sorghum and millet accounts for roughly 60% of rural employment and covers 80% of the total cultivated land in Ethiopia. But population expansion, low productivity due to lack of technology transfer and decreasing availability of arable land have continuously put the country’s food security in a precarious position. These days, the government imports a large amount of wheat to meet food demand and narrow the supply-demand gap for the important cereal.

The current crop production situation has stirred researchers and extension system workers to explore options that would improve crop productivity in the rain-fed and irrigated production systems. As part of this effort, Africa RISING is introducing, validating and facilitating scaling up of farmers-selected improved wheat varieties to reach and benefit more smallholders.

Field day in Tsibet Tigray
Farmers evaluate a new wheat variety during a field day in Tigray, Ethiopia (photo credit: Apollo Habtamu/ILRI).

This four-minute video describes the contribution of Africa RISING in providing farmers with better wheat varieties that have boosted their productivity in disease tolerance and early maturity compared to the old varieties of wheat they used to grow before. This activity was implemented by Africa RISING scientists and experts from the International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), who did the initial variety trials together with farmers in Basona Worena Woreda (district) in North Shewa Zone of the Amhara Region. The project identified different bread (Wane, Daka) and durum (Bulala and Fetan) wheat crop varieties that are preferred by farmers. An evaluation of the wheat varieties was done using participatory variety selection (PVS) approaches in the 2017 to 2019 cropping seasons.

‘The new bread wheat variety “Wane” is better in disease resistance and grain quality, I like it, it’s my choice,’ says Wondafraw Kebede, one of the farmers who took part in the variety trials in Basona Worena.

As a result of this activity, the numbers of direct beneficiaries from the scaling up of bread wheat crop varieties in Africa RISING operational areas in North Shewa grew, in number of households (HHs), from 6,059 in 2017, 7,584 in 2018 to 18,407 in the 2019 cropping seasons. The Africa RISING project reached and benefited more than 91,964 farm HHs with improved bread wheat varieties in the Amhara, Tigray, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) regions of Ethiopia. Many of the direct beneficiaries and other farmers have also been a part of community-based seed multiplication, field days and experience sharing visits.

This work has once again reignited the farmers waning interest in wheat production. In addition, having seen the benefits of the improved wheat varieties first-hand, local partners from other kebeles and regions have expressed interest in scaling up the wheat varieties to their parts of the country.

Together with ICARDA, Africa RISING continues to implement more participatory variety selection trials with farmers to identify more disease- resistant, high-yielding and locally preferred cereal crop varieties. At the same time, the project also continues to work with local partners to strengthen private and government seed growers and ensure access to sustainably improved seed supply for smallholder farmers.

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