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Ethiopia has begun applying a number of strategies aiming at augmenting local capacity thereby building homegrown economy to see off dependency syndrome since the recent reform. This move in turn requires the combined effort of all ranging from the Ministry of Agriculture to an ordinary farmer. Here, the issue of agricultural inputs comes at the forefront especially when sowing crops is approaching after land preparation.
The Ethiopian Herald talked to Muluneh Atomsa, an economist graduated from the University of Gondar, regarding the significance of focusing on homegrown economy. He said, "Developing homegrown economy is not a miracle, but attainable option if Ethiopia is committed in all aspects to work hand in glove with all economic actors centering agriculture, on which the lives of 85 percent of the population highly relies."
Here, distribution of agricultural inputs is a key component in the government's food security and export drive. To curb a number of challenges in relation to agricultural processes, there is a need for efficiency and effectiveness in the distribution of agricultural inputs. The Ministry of Agriculture together with other stakeholders has a very important role to play in the distribution process of inputs beyond the initial adopters along this line. Agricultural stakeholders should put in place a mechanism for smooth distribution of farm inputs and their prudent utilization that will facilitate the transformation of country's agriculture and ensure food security, he added.
As to Muluneh, seeds, fertilizers and other necessary inputs have to be well fulfilled to make the sector more productive. Seeds are the foundation of agriculture. Technology has modernized much of farming day-to-day operations, but without a steady supply of high-quality seed, appropriate and timely inputs, crop quality would be greatly decreased.
Yes, seed quality plays an important role in the production of agronomic and horticultural crops. Characteristics such as trueness to variety, germination percentage, purity, vigor, and appearance are important to farmers planting crops with a view to coming up with satisfying homegrown economy, he added.
The important role that seeds play in producing superior crops, landscape plants has to be well understood by agricultural operators at all levels.
Muluneh further stated that the national production increase accompanied by sufficient mechanisms can help the nation stabilize market. Economic growth is a better way out from dependency and loan expectation as it helps the nation boost income revenue and minify repayments of debts incurred to obtain the extension packages and to escape from ever increasing interests on unpaid loans.
"The boost in domestic food production has enabled the country to substantially reduce its food gap at a larger scale and meet the required national growth standard. Besides, good national grain productions in Ethiopia would be of immensely significant in buttressing export possibilities to neighboring countries," Muluneh opined.
True, it is proved that utilizing agricultural inputs enables farmers to raise production and productivity. The demand for inputs is increasing from time to time following the awareness raising program among the farming community.
There are of course various types of agricultural inputs including soil fertilizer, selected seed and vegetable genres, agro chemicals and the like are frequently used together with the small and big machinery. Supplying inputs to farmers on time and the right place based on the demand by considering the types and the quality is essential too.
He said, "Most agricultural inputs are imported from abroad but they are also produced locally. However, the latter has to be well capitalized on if the country is in a position to declare economic independence. It is absolutely possible to become self-sufficient in terms of food security as Ethiopia possesses virgin acre of lands, productive and diligent citizenry--the youth in particular--a bountiful soil and so forth."
The sector serves as a means of employment for over 80 percent of the working force. Therefore, the development of agriculture has a spillover effect on other sectors. The more mechanized the agriculture sector the more prompt the country's economic trajectory.
The government is providing farmers and other actors with the necessary inputs such as fertilizer, selected seeds, farming techniques and extension services to make the sector much more lucrative.
According to Muluneh, agricultural inputs raise productivity but they also have their own environmental impacts. As fertilizers, for instance, taken by flood to rivers during the rainy season, they pollute river water consumed by humans or animal, and it might bring health risks. Hence, employing organic fertilizer is preferable. Exporting organic agricultural products also has market advantage; currently, feeding the growing population without enhancing production by fertilizer is very hard. Therefore, to reduce possible environmental impacts due to utilizing chemical fertilizer, the government planned to change the non-organic fertilizer to the organic one through time.
He also elucidated that agricultural inputs are those materials used in the production or handling of agricultural products. Timely and convenient availability of these inputs is a critical factor for attaining production targets in the sector--boosting homegrown economy.
The government has adopted a commodity based approach for increasing food security, production and exports. These include maize, beans, coffee, market fruits, vegetables, rice, bananas, dairy and beef cattle and fish. The approach is to ensure availability of improved seed varieties and animal breeds by research organizations.
The farmer forums at various districts and zonal levels are also empowered to oversee the supply and distribution of agricultural inputs for some projects.
"The concerned body should develop a long term strategy for distribution of inputs where different measures are well coordinated and implemented throughout the country. Yes, the ministry should ensure that future distribution of inputs to farmers is based on verifiable needs assessments, transparent criteria for allocation and timely distribution to beneficiaries," Muluneh underscored.
He further said that the importance of identifying and maintaining crop diversity is widely recognized as a priority. The long history of cultivation and the high level of topographic and cultural heterogeneity have given rise to a large number of landraces, or traditional varieties.
Previously, farmers never minded the type of seeds that best suits their garden and the impact of such seeds during harvesting time. However, a farmer has to consider the types of seeds to plant to reduce the burden of managing the pesticides and the diseases that affect crops before harvest.
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True, the wrong choice will cost the farmer to use expensive fertilizers, frequent cultivation and using various planting methods for the seeds to fit the soil. As a result, knowing the type of land through soil test will enable one to choose the best seeds for the farm which will increase the chances of getting better yields thereby getting optimum production.
Consequently, selecting the best seeds for farming considers the ones that are resistant to diseases and as a result, they will produce better yield with less cost. Similarly, choosing a variety of seeds that are as well resistant to insects need to be well applied in the sector to get impressive crop production.
Since such a careful choice seeds and other necessary ingredients will increase the quality and quantity of the crop harvest, the government in collaboration with local, regional and international development partners is expected to work hard to make country's vision a reality--seize the ladder of attaining home grown economy.
In sum, improving agricultural treatment, applying state-of-the art technology in the sector and drawing best experiences from countries which have developed time-tested agricultural practices such as Israel is an incomparable means to help the agriculture sector well grow.
Besides, thinking of the environmental effects of the crops, attack from the insects and the results from the diseases as well as the impact of the climate change must be taken into account to further augment homegrown economy--the best way out of economic dependency.
BY MENGESHA AMARE
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