Cultivating A Future Through Mechanisation And Modern Technology

Ethiopia’s Agricultural Processing Industrial Parks are industrialising the agriculture industry – and the country.

Ethiopia’s agriculture industry brings in more FDI than any other sector. Over the past fifteen years, Ethiopia’s economic improvement has been a remarkable example for all of Africa, especially in agriculture, with its growth at double-digit levels. As the most exported sector in the entire country, agriculture is crucial in transforming Ethiopia from a poor, agricultural state to a middle income, industrialised economy by 2025. Through the implementation of modern technology and industrialisation, Ethiopia sees a future in agriculture that is ripe with opportunity.

The Agricultural Transformation Agency, which connects the Ministry of Agriculture and the private sector, is laying the foundation for the future of agriculture through mechanisation. In March, the government opened a US$61 million Agricultural Processing Industrial Park. Its purpose is to link farmers to processing plants, creating a strong value chain within the agriculture industry and resulting in more wealth for farmers.

Khalid Bomba, CEO of ATA, states, “The goods that these agro-industrial parks are processing allow value addition in the country. In this way, we are actually able to produce the goods that you see in supermarkets. Until five years ago, if you went to a supermarket in Ethiopia, most of the agricultural products would be imported from outside Ethiopia.”

The parks allow the sector to evolve through modern farming approaches that will strengthen the value chain. Hon. Oumer Hussen, Minister of Agriculture states, “farmers always rely on the market. In this Industrial Park, there is a demand-driven approach for our farmers. That produces a big economic impact and guides them to using modernised techniques.”

Moreover, modern techniques appeal to Ethiopia’s young, tech-savvy workforce. Bomba tells Penresa, “The way agriculture has been practised in Ethiopia traditionally is not attractive for the youth. There are many other activities that you can commercialise and industrialise that make it more attractive for young people.” Agricultural service centres offer diverse opportunities for young people where they work directly with farmers through distribution, finance or accounting.

Today, agricultural workers consist of up to 85% per cent of the labour force. Esayas Kebede, General Manager of Ethio Agri-CEFT, one of the largest private players in the Ethiopian agro-processing industries, states that “agro-processing Industrial Parks can create even more jobs than agriculture [alone], for example if a farmer has a degree in agro-processing, he/she can either go into industry or service.” Thanks to agriculture, the Industrial Parks have brought diversity to the job market.

In addition, the ATA has collaborated with OCP Group, pioneers of Moroccan fertiliser, resulting in the biggest public-private partnership of the country, totalling US$ 7 billion. OCP Group is tailoring Ethiopian soil to its specific crops. Mostafa Terrab, Chairman and CEO of OCP Group explains, “not all crops need the same nutrients. The role of our fertiliser is to fill the gap between the nutrients in the soil and the growing needs of the crops.” To understand this need, OCP Group and the ATA have implemented Soil Fertility Maps in various districts of Ethiopia, with plans to merge them by the end of 2019. Soil Fertility Maps help farmers understand their soil content, which will enhance the ease of farming.

The ATA is also enacting underground water mapping. By identifying where water aquifers are located, farmers will be able to irrigate easily with minimal technology. Bomba states, “Farmers have a GPS map that tells them exactly where to drill with a minimum of 85% accuracy, meaning that almost 9 times over 10, when you drill following that map, you find water.” Additionally, the ATA debuted the 8020-farmer hotline, where farmers can call toll-free for extensive information about their soil. “This weekend we reached our four-millionth registered user,” says Bomba. “This is all digitised, we know where the farmers are calling from, so if there is an issue with the soil, we send an automated message to every farmer in a particular area. This is an innovation that is changing the way farmers work.”

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