Bigger land plots and smarter mobile apps – reshaping smallholder farming in Ethiopia
"To break the smallholders’ dependence on arbitrary middlemen, the state should build regulations, appoint officials and design information systems that compensates for this imbalance,” Beyene argues.
To some extent, this is already being done today for some products, such as coffee, which is one of Ethiopia’s most important export products. Smallholder coffee farmers can have their beans graded by a public official and then, based on the grading, get money transferred straight to their bank account.
“This system has to a large extent wiped out the market for those middlemen who come to the farm gate and offer rip-off prices,” Beyene says.
This trend is fuelled by modern technology that helps improve smallholders’ access to markets. Through smartphone apps, toll-free phone-in services, and other trading services, such as the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), they get updates on world market prices and connect with purchasers in the closest cities.
“However, this technique is not yet available for all crops and all regions. It needs to be further elaborated,” he says.More policy advice
- Build capacity in water management.
- Secure land rights and promote land consolidation.
- Support for co-operatives based on bottom-up initiatives.
- Put more effort into post-harvest handling.
- Expand the use of trading services.
- Liberalise the market for extension services.
Atakilte Beyene, Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI). His research is mainly focused on governance of natural resources, agricultural transformation and food and energy security – in Ethiopia, and also more broadly in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.
Rural vs urban population – from 1960 to 2017. Rural population in Ethiopia went down from 94 per cent in 1960 to 80 per cent in 2017, but the country is still one of the least urbanised in the world – and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Source: World Bank (download original data file in csv-format or excel-format).
Average smallholder farm size (hectare) and Average smallholder household size (number of persons). Source: FAO, Small Family Farms Data Portrait (2017).
Sectoral Contributions to GDP. The agricultural sector’s contribution to Ethiopia’s GDP has gone down from 45 to 35 per cent over the past 15 years. Source: National Bank of Ethiopia, Annual Reports.
Agricultural Transformation in Ethiopia
State Policy and Smallholder Farming
Edited by Atakilte Beyene, senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute.
An examination of Ethiopia's agriculture system, and the vitally overlooked importance of this component of development strategy for health and food security in the wider region.
Published by the Nordic Africa Institute and Zed Books in the Africa Now series.
Text and infographics: Henrik Alfredsson
NAI Policy Notes is a series of short briefs on relevant topics, intended for strategists, analysts and decision makers in foreign policy, aid and development. They aim to inform public debate and generate input into the sphere of policymaking. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute.