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Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia


Addis Ababa

Counterpart Organization:

Ministry of Agriculture and rural development


7 years and 6 months from July 1998 to December 2005

Total Approved Budget:

US$1 866 109 gcSP/eth/057/ita

Special Programme for Food Production in Ethiopia, Irrigation Component, Pilot Phase

Project Rationale and Justification

The economy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is based on agriculture, which accounts for 85 percent of exports, and 80 percent of total employment. However, the agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices, which result in a severe food insecurity. The goal of the government has been making efforts to rehabilitate the agricultural sector through the provision of production inputs and improved extension services.

FAO has been implementing, since 1995, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in different drought prone areas. The objective of the SPFS in Ethiopia is to assist the government to achieve its goal of closing the food gap between domestic food production and consumption requirements in the medium-term, and to improve food security at household, regional, and national levels. The SPFS focuses on demonstration activities in improved agronomic technologies and practices relating to cereals for non-irrigated agriculture. The programme is implemented in the Wolfa district (Tigray region) and in the Habrun and Gonder Zuria district (Amhara region).

Within this framework, and on the basis of the FAO/Italy formulation mission fielded in December 1995, the Italian funded project GCSP/ETH/057/ITA was designed to support in particular the water control/irrigation component. In the Tigray and Amhara regions, with low and erratic rainfall patterns, the project focuses mainly on the development of small-scale irrigation and on the demonstration and future adoption of improved irrigation technologies.

The project became operational in July 1998 and was initially expected to run for three years. However, taking into consideration the difficulties encountered in implementing the project, the Tripartite Evaluation Meeting, which was held on February 2002, recommended for the project to be extended until January 2004 with no extra funds. The aim of the extension was to allow for the project activities to re-focus towards more agronomic aspects of production. A further one year of additional activities through to December 2005 has been also approved at no additional funds.


The overall objective of the project is to increase both productivity and incomes on a sustainable basis. More specifically, the project will focus on: (i) improve irrigation techniques that would be replicable on a wider scale; (ii) make available appropriate irrigation infrastructure to avoid irrigation related problems such as salinity, alkalinity, and water logging; (iii) strengthen the capacity of local teams to undertake technical feasibility studies; and (iv) provide training programmes and capacity building to farmers.

The Italian funded project is also expected to rehabilitate small-scale irrigation in Amhara and Tigray. The development of small-scale irrigation is envisaged to guarantee, as a minimum, two harvests a year, which, while increasing productivity, will reduce the pressure on eroded and fragile lands, creating the conditions for soil conservation and afforestation programmes on marginal areas. Moreover, small-scale irrigation is intended to provide supplementary water supply and protect farmers against lower yields and crop failures, in the event rains are delayed or stop untimely during the season. The schemes are also intended for the production of vegetables and other high value crops during the dry season.

Irrigation extension as well as testing of technologies will be organized in collaboration with the FAO South-South Cooperation Programme in particular through the assistance of Chinese experts.

Activities and Main Results

Activities started with an in-depth review and analysis of the situation on the ground in each irrigation site. A participatory constraint analysis in a limited sample of rehabilitated/newly built and traditional small-scale irrigation schemes was carried out in order to better understand the socio-economic, environmental and cultural issues influencing agricultural production. In this respect, a national consultant for participatory constraint analysis was employed to study the six sites selected for the demonstration of irrigated agriculture. The six sites were: Birki, Miela and Hizat Wedi Cheber in Tigray region and Alewuha, Ketchin Abeba and Tilkit in Amhara region. A marketing analysis on the actual/potential outlets for irrigated crops was also carried out by a national consultant, in the selected areas with an attempt to identify suitable and profitable cropping patterns. The draft report prepared by the national consultant helped to identify some technical bottlenecks in the full development of irrigated crops in the selected schemes.

Based on the outcome of the participatory constraint analysis, the project designed programmes for on-farm demonstrations in order to improve farmer’s agronomic practices and increase yields of irrigated crops. Assistance to farmers was also provided by the project in establishing/ consolidating water users’ associations or cooperatives on a voluntary basis. A total of six irrigation cooperatives (one in each scheme) were set up and registered with their respective regions. The project also established a line of credit to the registered cooperatives in the selected project sites in cooperation with the Regional Cooperative Promotion Bureaus (RCPB) through an agreement with the institutions concerned. The project monitored the implementation of this agreement with the RCPB through regular analysis of credit disbursement and recovery rate and farmer’s own assessment. RCPB has extended funds to Wereda Cooperative Offices to closely supervise activities of the irrigation cooperatives. Moreover, in order to facilitate farmers’ access to inputs and credit, money was transferred to the six registered irrigation cooperatives for participating farmers on a revolving fund.

Significant efforts have been undertaken to promote the SPFS approach in the region. Five out of the six cooperatives have organized a Farmer Field Day (FFD). During the events farmers have been demonstrating improved agricultural practices and irrigation techniques to over 800 farmers, development agents, agriculture subject matter specialists and health and education specialists, with a total of about 1000 participants in each of the five events.

Two regional workshops on ‘upscaling’ are being organized. During the events the project experience will be explained and selected best practices chosen to be replicated to other areas of the country. For this purpose the project is actively engaged in the collection of information and data regarding project activities, with particular attention to improved agricultural and irrigation practices.

A five-day training course on the general area of water management was conducted in the Tigray region in order to support farmers in improving small-scale and low-cost irrigation as well as water management. Training comprised of both theoretical and practical sessions. The last day of training was devoted to cooperative management and delivered primarily by RCPB staff. Similar training was undertaken in the Amhara Region. In relation to training, a manual on recommended agronomic practices for small-scale irrigation was finalized, and distributed to the extension officers, who participated to the training in Amhara Region. The manual has been recently revised and translated into Amharic and will be distributed soon to farmers.

Staff from the Amhara and Tigray Bureau of Agriculture participated in a short training course in India in December 2003 and a further study tour on management of irrigated agriculture in Zimbabwe is being organized.

In the Tigray region, the construction work for about 70 ha of the irrigation canal system of Birki site was completed and the area is under irrigation. In addition, the project has rehabilitated two irrigation systems, one in Amhara and another in Tigray.

Further Remarks

The rehabilitation and construction of a further five irrigation systems, and the realignment of the canals of ten irrigation systems in the two regions, will soon be completed.

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