In June 2014, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture inaugurated the country’s first-ever fertilizer blending factory as part of the government’s effort to support in-country production of local fertilizer blends customized for Ethiopia’s soil. Three more similar factories will soon open in other regions of Ethiopia, making these custom fertilizers available to more than 11 million smallholder farmers.
While many farmers take fertilizer and other agricultural inputs for granted as part of the process of maximizing crop production, poor smallholder farmers often lack access to these important tools. Locally produced fertilizers from these new factories will reduce costs for local farmers who could purchase only imported fertilizer previously, and the new custom blends have the potential to help farmers increase yields by up to 100 percent compared to conventional fertilizer application.
The new factory in Ethiopia’s Oromia region was backed by the Agricultural Transformation Agency, which provides innovative and results-oriented support to a range of partners in the Ethiopian agriculture sector, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which awarded a $1.2 million Feed the Future innovation grant for construction. Local partner Becho-Woliso Farmers’ Cooperative Union collaborated on the development of the Oromia factory’s operational plan, and all four fertilizer blending sites will rely on farmer cooperatives to run the factories on a commercial basis with support from regional government officials.
“Improved inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, are a proven factor in agricultural productivity,” USAID Mission Director Dennis Weller said at the inauguration event in Oromia. “The U.S. Feed the Future initiative has awarded over $4 million in grants for improved inputs to help transform Ethiopian agriculture and benefit smallholder farmers.”
In concert with Feed the Future, the Government of Ethiopia has conducted more than 40,000 new fertilizer demonstrations in the four target regions to facilitate adoption by smallholder farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture is working with other partners to open factories in the Amhara, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ regions of Ethiopia following the inauguration of the Oromia factory.
Tekalign Mamo, State Minister of Agriculture, who oversees the national soil fertility survey, believes the establishment of this new factory signals a new future for Ethiopia’s agribusiness sector. “It’s a dream come true,” he says.