OROMIA, Ethiopia — Sponsored by partnerships between USAID, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), a newly-built fertilizer blending facility in Ethiopia is expected to have positive outcomes for crop production and the health of Ethiopia’s soil.
June 7 marked the inauguration of a new soil blending facility in Oromia, Ethiopia, designed to tackle the nation’s problems with nutrient-deficient soil and low crop production. This new facility is only the second of its kind built in Ethiopia and will potentially pave the way for future facilities in the region.
The people of Ethiopia have dealt with a variety of complications as a result of poor soil and inadequate agricultural practices, including a severe famine that lasted over a decade. However, with the implementation of these facilities, such suffering can become a thing of the past. The importance of agriculture in Ethiopia is undeniable; from coffee beans to roses, Ethiopia plays an important role in the global crop production market. Not only do small farmers rely on agriculture to generate an income, it is likely that their families will consume some part of the crops they produce. Therefore, when the soil and means of producing food and other necessary crops are reliable, the chances of people being able to eat and overcome poverty are much more likely.
USAID said, “For several decades, Ethiopian smallholder farmers applied two types of fertilizers that deliver nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients: DAP and urea. However, soil tests show that croplands lack other essential nutrients such as sulfur, boron, potassium, zinc and copper. Demonstrations with wheat, maize, barley, teff, chickpea and sesame showed that fertilizer blending can enhance productivity and quality of all crops with yield advantages of up to 80 percent.”
The soil blending facility was built in a warehouse that is manned by one of Ethiopia’s venerable unions, the Gibe Dedesa Farmers’ Cooperative Union. These workers will blend, pack and distribute soil to farmers at a pace that can meet the growing demand for soil. It is expected that the blending facility will produce 50 metric tons of soil per hour, thanks to the state-of-the-art equipment that allows workers to input the exact amount of nutrients needed in a specific batch.
USAID said, “With the 50 metric tons (MT) per hour blending facility, the Gibe Dedesa Farmers’ Cooperative Union expects the demand for blended fertilizer to exceed 105,000 MT annually and benefit hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers. The newly constructed 5,000 MT warehouse will expand the ability of the cooperative to meet farmer demand. The cooperative has 31 full time employees and represents 130 primary cooperatives and 87,000 smallholder farmers.”
Planning for the soil blending facility began in 2011, when Ethiopia’s ATA was formed. Research provided to the organization showed that blended soil was the best solution to the poor conditions of the soil. The ATA then conducted a comprehensive study of Ethiopia’s soil through soil testing and soil mapping to learn what nutrients were missing in the soil and which nutrients are necessary to produce greater yields. Before such analysis was done, farmers were leeching the soil of more nutrients than what they were putting in, resulting in poor production. With these new facilities, small farmers will have access to nutrient-rich soil that will increase the chances of more healthy crops. ATA estimates that at least 18 to 20 facilities are needed to efficiently address nutrient-deficient soil throughout Ethiopia.
– Candice Hughes