Oromia region is endowed with vast natural resources and a huge potential for irrigated agriculture. The region has about 23 billion cubic metres of surface water, 58 billion cubic metres of ground water and 1.7 million hectares of irrigable land. However, only about 30% of the irrigable land is utilised by about 45 % of households mostly using traditional farming practices on a small scale. Despite the region’s proximity to input importers, producers and potential domestic and export markets, residents are not fully benefiting from its resources and the area’s agricultural potential is underdeveloped.
As a result, the yield and quality of irrigated crops is far below potential. In addition, low return on investment due to limited markets access also poses challenges to the development and sustainability of the agricultural sector. Some of these problems result from poor linkage and collaboration among relevant stakeholders and a weak link between research, extension, policy and action/practice which results in inefficient practices along the agriculture value chains.
Therefore, establishment of strong linkage among stakeholders including value chain actors can help tackle some of the major bottlenecks to the development of irrigated crops in the region. One of the strategies of bringing together different actors to address agricultural production challenges and identify opportunities is by establishing a specialized regional innovation platform for different commodities. The platform can be used to link farmers, input suppliers, extension system, research institutes, output traders, processors, development partners and other governmental and non-governmental service providers. It can also serve as space for linking research to action/practice to better and jointly articulate existing problems and lay foundations for participatory diagnosis of problems, participatory action research and identifying possible solutions.
To encourage irrigated crops commodity development in the region, the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project and the Oromia Irrigation Development Authority (OIDA) with partners Greenlife Trading PLC, Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and other institutions, held a meeting, on 12 January 2015, to start the process of setting up an irrigated fruits and vegetables innovation platform for the Oromia region.
The initial meeting was conducted at a cost of 103,000 Ethiopian birr (ETB) [USD5000] which was shared among OIDA (ETB68000), LIVES (ETB34000) and Greenlife (ETB1000). Representatives of irrigation development authority from all zones of Oromia participated in the meeting, which was also attended by public service providers, input suppliers, Ethiopian horticultural agency, agricultural unions, farmers and government and non-government organizations.
In total, 44 participants of which two were women, attended the platform establishment meeting including representatives from OIDA, LIVES, Greenlife Trading and Oromia Agricultural Research Institute, who each made presentations on the status, major challenges and opportunities of the irrigated crops development in Oromia. A representative from SNV Netherlands Development Organisation-Ethiopia also shared experiences in managing multi-stakeholder commodity platforms in other countries in Africa.
Following the meeting, participants agreed on the need to establish a regional innovation platform for irrigated fruits and vegetables in order to speed up the development of the sub-sector. To ensure the effectiveness of the platform, a committee of 11 members was elected to lead the process of formalizing the innovation platform. Accordingly, representatives from OIDA and LIVES were elected to serve as chair and secretary to the leadership committee, respectively. In addition, a draft term of reference (ToR) on platform membership with the roles and responsibilities of members as well as that of the leadership committee was discussed, reviewed and ratified. Capacity development for leadership committee, is now planned and will be offered by the LIVES project and the Africa-RISING Program.
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Written by Amenti Chali and Zewdie Adane.