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A network of centres offering training and advice to more than 30,000 Ethiopian farmers is to be set up in Oromia Regional State.
The Farmers’ Service Centres will be funded by the Citizens’ Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA), a programme run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Oromia Bureau of Agriculture believes Ethiopian agriculture – which employs more than 80 per cent of working Ethiopians – is inadequate to feed the population or generate money from exports or industrial development.
Its head, Abebe Diriba, praised the government for its agricultural development policies and pointed out that work is now being done to encourage the private sector to invest in better quality seeds and chemicals.
At a grant-signing ceremony on Tuesday, CNFA awarded almost quarter of a million dollars to six farmers’ co-operative unions and entrepreneurs to create six Farmers’ Service Centres in Oromia. The six new FSCs – Shashemene, Nekemte, Dodolla, Ambo, Fiche and Bishoftu – will invest a total of $1.5 million and play a key role in providing training for farmers in the region.
Adanech Zewdie, the owner of Shasheme FSC, has been assisting farmers for the last 18 years. She said, in the past, many farmers paying for technical advice and training packages “didn’t know how to use them.”
Gary Robins, Chief Officer at USAID, said: “Increased private sector participation across a range of agricultural activities, including input supply, is necessary for Ethiopia to achieve its ambitious growth objectives.”
The six Farmers’ Service Centres awarded funding will receive technical training, advice on marketing, business planning and management, business procedures and policies and dealing with environmental factors.
If successful, USAID hopes the grants will establish a model for future larger scale public-private partnerships.
Sources told Capital that a similar scheme could be set up in the Amhara, Tigray and other regions if the Oromia programme delivers the right results – improving farmers’ productivity, and enabling them to contribute directly to income generation and household food security.