Enhancing productivity and climate-related risk management in Ethiopia through mainstream and modern communication channels

Source: How We Made It in Africa article, Jeanette Clark, August 2021
Mainstream and modern communications channels are being used to provide millions of Ethiopian farmers with vital climate information and agro-advisory services.

Agricultural and food systems in Africa are at the mercy of global climate change and localized weather fluctuations. And smallholder farmers have long struggled to cope with these changes, often resorting to techniques and tools from an indigenous knowledge base.

With the advent of modern agricultural science to help salvage harvests and ensure sustainable livelihoods for millions, innovative and advanced instruments to support farmers and relevant actors in agriculture have been in place in Ethiopia. Both mainstream media and modern communications channels have enhanced the capacity of agricultural extension agents in Ethiopia, who work closely with smallholder farmers.

"There are numerous and multifaceted challenges in Ethiopia's agriculture sector…One area we are effectively working on is transforming the communication channels and outreach system we use to reach farmers at a household and community level."

H.E. Mr. Oumer Hussien, Minister of Agriculture, Ethiopia


Radio Broadcasting to Create Awareness about Climate-related Information Crucial for Agriculture during the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020/21 saw the launch of a nationwide awareness and climate agro-advisory campaign through a popular Fana Radio broadcast. This awareness campaign fell under the auspices of the EU-IFAD project and was part of an initiative aiming to scale climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices across Ethiopia. It aimed to reach nearly 15 million people across the country, including 167 districts in Amhara and 333 districts in Oromia regions. 

Fana Radio is one of the major media houses in Ethiopia. In addition to its central station based in Addis Ababa, it has another 12 regional FM radio stations across the country. Each covers roughly 150 kms2, which includes urban and rural areas. By making good use of this extensive infrastructure and media reputation, the broadcasting campaign delivered specific and highly contextualized information in the local languages to farmers and support actors in each area.

This was done in collaboration with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), International Maize and Wheat  Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the National Meteorological Agency (NMA).

This media campaign has successfully raised awareness about climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at different levels.

Many of the broadcasts involved scientists from national and international research centers providing expert advice on a range of CSA-related topics. These included seasonal and sub-seasonal climate forecasts and their implications for farm management, input supply and distribution, disease and pest incidence and protection, soil and water conservation, and even minimizing COVID-19's impact on food and nutrition security for the farming community in particular and the agriculture sector in general.

The radio broadcasts also included a series of high-level discussions between Fana Radio DJs and the Minister of Agriculture on the connections between climate change and agriculture in Ethiopia's agricultural policy and development plan. These conversations highlighted the need for creating effective communication and awareness campaigns about agriculture in Ethiopia.

Digitizing Agriculture to transform Ethiopia's Wheatbelt

In today's highly digitized and globalized world, it is essential to ensure farmers have easy and timely access to climate, crop production, and disease and pest management information. Multistakeholder engagement involving researchers and the private sector can catalyze positive change in this regard by facilitating access to technologies and best practices, which can help to ensure the future of millions of farmers.

The 'Capacitating African Stakeholders on Climate Advisories and Insurance Development' (CASCAID-II) and Accelerating Impact of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA)-Ethiopia programs have been working together to support stakeholders in creating innovative climate risk management platforms, including through digital agriculture.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and CIMMYT, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, have also partnered with Green Agro Solution, an organization that has been working with smallholder farmers for over six years. This has resulted in Green Agro Solution's agriculture-focused digital platform, 'Lersha', which can help make farming easier and more accessible for everyone.

Image of hands holding cellphone
A 'Lersha Agent' with a virtual platform enables him to reach, support, and advise farmers on critical climate forecast, crop production, and disease/pest management information.
Photo: ©GIZ/Mulugeta Gebrekidan

Farmers in Ethiopia have long had to cope with inadequate advisory services, which can lead to poor agronomic practices and slow adaptation towards climate change. Lersha – meaning 'for agriculture' in Amharic - aims to provide farmers with a solution to this problem. It provides verified and evidence-backed data and climate information to both farmers and extension agents. Through trained Lersha agents, farmers in the Amhara and Oromia regions get advisory services effectively and on time.

This is particularly valuable in the high-yielding areas of central Oromia, where wheat plays a vital role in ensuring livelihoods and feeding millions.

Between July and December 2021, lead farmers and extension service agents from over 40 districts were trained as part of a Training of Trainers (ToT) programme and have gone on to engage wider communities in disseminating the Lersha platform to wheat farmers; demonstrating its usefulness for improving productivity and income.

This piece is co-authored by Brook Tesfaye Makonnen (ILRI), Kindie Tesfaye Fantaye (CIMMYT), and John W. Recha (ILRI),