Transforming Ethiopian agriculture


Allana to donate USD 200 thousand per annum
The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and Allana Potash Corp. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will introduce the use of potash as fertilizer to the Ethiopian agricultural scene. Allana will donate either potash worth USD 200,000 or the money itself every year in a bid to transform Ethiopian agriculture, according to the MoU signed on February 12, 2013 at MN International Hotel, located around the Wuha Limat area.  
Potash, a potassium-rich mineral salt, would be used in demonstration sites of ATA.  Allana will import the potash necessary to do so till its potash site in Ethiopia starts production within two years. The long-term plan after demonstrations is to introduce the usage of potash to Ethiopian farmers all over the country after assuring them of its usefulness.
In accordance to the MoU Allana has signed, it has agreed to donate a total of USD 200,000 per year for the first two years of the effort, or directly pay for the procurement and shipping of blended fertilizers from abroad in an amount equaling the money. The agreement, in addition states that the company will donate potash, estimated to be in the range of USD 300,000 to USD 400,000, two years after it begins the production of commercial potash, for the local market.
Allana’s potash development project in Dallol, an area located in the northeastern part of Ethiopia, will start production two years from now. Once it starts production, Ethiopian farmers will be supplied with potash fertilizer from the site instead of importing it. Allana originally intended its production only for export purposes.
For several years, Ethiopian farmers have used only two types of fertilizers, Urea and Di-ammonium Phosphate, commonly referred to as dap, for all kinds of crops and soil types. However, experiments by various stakeholders including ATA, indicated the need for potassium-rich fertilizers in many agricultural areas of the country. 
According to experts, the use of DAP and Urea only cannot upgrade the fertility status of soils and fulfill the needs of specific crops. Ethiopia bought more than 600,000 metric tons of fertilizer last year, down from what it bought in the 2010/11 cropping season, which was 900 tons of dap and urea.
In order to help Ethiopian smallholder farmers increase their crop production, ATA is preparing a geo-statistical soil fertility map of the agricultural land in the country. ATA recommends relevant fertilizer applications for each local woreda and the development of fertilizer blending facilities, which will expand the range of soil nutrients to farmers in field-level quantities, customized to their specific soil types, crops and agro ecologies. These fertilizer blending plants use potassium as one of the vital crop nutrients.
“Providing and popularizing a full range of soil nutrients to Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers is essential to helping them  realize their full production and profit potential from the farming lands they till,” said Khalid Bomba, CEO of the ATA.
Ethiopia harvested more than 218 million quintals of crop last year, of which 188 million is attributed to major food crops like teff, wheat, maize, sorghum, barley and the likes, while the remaining balance were oil seeds. This is up from the 205 million quintals it gathered the previous year. This is a productivity level of 18.5 quintals per hectare.
Currently, more than 12.8 million hectares of land is under cultivation. Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy. It employs more than two thirds of the total population which is over 86 million and is also the major source of hard currency. It contributed a whopping 45.3 percent to the Gross National Product.
Allana Potash, a Canadian publicly-traded corporation with a focus on the international acquisition and development of potash assets, has partnered with ATA to demonstrate the important role of potash fertilizer to farmers used directly and in blends. Khalid believes that Allana is an ideal partner to introduce and promote the benefits of potassium fertilizers among Ethiopia’s smallholders. Ferhad Abasov, President and CEO of Allana Potash, who regards agricultural economy as a critical step in creating a robust national economy, promises to contribute to Ethiopia’s agricultural growth strategy as the government has provided support and encouragement to his company during the development phase.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is implementing expansive fertilizer projects in conjunction with regional bureaus of agriculture, with support from the ATA, and is currently working to build four fertilizer blending plants in Oromia, Tigray, Amhara and SNNP Regional states. They would be run as independent, profitable business enterprises by the selected agricultural cooperative unions in these regions.