Despite decades-old local awareness and knowledge on production of irrigated high value cash crops, many farmers only began to expand irrigated onions and tomatoes for sale once the local agricultural bureau began to support them after 2005. Small but well-focused outside support can help small farmers to seize local opportunities that, though incurring production and market risks, can raise their earnings and improve their livelihoods.
Most types of small farmers – young or small, poor or rich –took part in the intervention. Female farmers, however, were discouraged owing to demands on their scarce time, price fluctuations, working capital, and difficulties selling crops.
The intervention helps local agriculture to become more commercialised. Once farmers engaged in commercial production, a remarkable change was observed in the objectives of farmers growing irrigated crops. Investment on farm and non-farm businesses emerged as the principal objective, rather than just subsistence and income.
In view of emerging challenges to expand irrigated farm land, effort should be made to learn and scale up practices of best performers who currently harvest substantially higher yields more than their neighbours.
In marketing, there is scope to improve the seasonal mismatch in demand and supply and facilitate the linkages between producers and potential buyers in nearby towns.
Gebreselassie, S. Helping small farmers to commercialise: Evidence from growing onion and tomatoes in central Ethiopia. Future Agricultures Consortium, Brighton, UK (2012) 5 pp. [Commercialisation theme Research Update 03]