Notes to broadcasters
Ethiopia is one of the top ten producers of legumes in the world, the second-largest producer of faba beans after China, and the fifth or sixth largest producer of chickpeas. Legumes occupy about 13% of cultivated land in Ethiopia and are critical to small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. Legumes are grown for a number of reasons. Primarily, they are grown for household consumption and nutrition. They are a cost-effective source of protein. Legumes also generate household income for small-scale farmers. In addition, legumes improve soil
health when they are sown in rotation with other crops. There are about ten types of legume crops grown in Ethiopia in significant volume. Faba bean is the first in volume of production and cultivated area, followed by field peas, haricot bean, chick pea, and lentils.
Although legumes have great nutritional and environmental benefits, they are considered as secondary crops in most parts of Ethiopia. Thus, they do not receive as much investment and policy attention as cereal crops such as teff, wheat, maize, barley, sorghum, and millet. This lack of investment and policy attention negatively affects land allocation to legumes as well the commitment by stakeholders to improve production.
In this script, three small-scale farmers were asked about their legume production. They talked about their access to improved seed varieties, mechanization services, fertilizers, herbicides, and methods for managing diseases. They talked about the challenges they have long been experiencing and mentioned how the support they have recently received from GIZ Ethiopia on faba bean production has improved productivity. But they also express the need for better access to improved seeds and ways to prevent faba bean diseases. We also
spoke to Dr. Dessalegn Molla, a senior advisor and legume value chain manager at GIZ Ethiopia. He emphasized the need to do more to support small-scale farmers to increase legume production and improve farmers’ livelihood.
If you want to produce a program on legumes, including faba bean, you may wish to draw inspiration from this text. If you choose to present this radio script as part of your farming program, you can use voice actors to represent the people interviewed for this script. In this case, please tell your audience at the very beginning of the program that the voices are those of voice actors and not the actual participants.
If you want to air programs on a similar topic, talk to farmers who grow legumes, as well as others in the legume value chain.
You may wish to ask them the following questions, among others:
- Are legumes suitable for this area? If so, which legumes are the most beneficial for generating income? For feeding the family?
- What are the major challenges with growing legumes? What solutions have been proposed for these challenges?
- What are the opportunities for women to be involved in the legume value chain?
Ethiopia is one of the top legume-producing countries in the world, and the second largest producer of faba bean in the world after China. This massive production of legumes is carried out by small-scale farmers. One of these farmers is Tesfaw Abebe, who lives in the South Wollo Zone of Amhara Regional State. He explains why legumes are very important in supporting his family of six.
Faba bean seed was almost disappearing. After we sowed the seed, it germinated and dried up after sprouting two leaves or so. We told GIZ and they gave us a new seed variety after giving us a short training. We sowed it and sprayed the chemical they gave us when that disease appeared twice in a seven-day period. Then the disease disappeared. After that, there was no problem and we got a better yield.
Row seeding is generally recommended by farm experts for a better yield. But it is not easy for farmers who lack family members to assist them with row seeding. Because of this, having many children is considered an asset in rural areas of Ethiopia.
According to farm experts, seeding in rows with the recommended spacing between rows increases productivity by providing sufficient aeration, moisture, sunlight, and availability of nutrients. In contrast, broadcasting requires higher seeding rates while also reducing yields. Also, it’s very difficult to hand weed and hoe after you broadcast. Faba bean is sensitive to competition with weeds, which reduce plant growth and yield.
Tesfaw, did you use row seeding on your faba beans?
Another practice that the overwhelming majority of small-scale Ethiopian farmers have applied for ages is using oxen to plough their plots. Tesfaw’s land may not actually be suitable for using tractors. And in Ethiopia, the use of mechanization services is limited by several factors: small and fragmented plots, the rugged topography, and the widespread presence of stones in fields, which complicates mechanized plowing. I asked Tesfaw how he ploughs his land.
My biggest concern is the disease that affects young faba bean leaves in this area. I would like this to be addressed.
Shewaye Tadesse is a mother of two who lives with her husband in the South Wollo Zone of Amhara Regional State. They mainly produce wheat, teff, and faba bean and use crop rotation.
Kumsa Legesse is a farmer in the Arsi Zone of Oromia Regional State who mainly grows wheat and legumes on his rented plot of land.
Some Ethiopian farmers do not have their own plot of land because land has been shared among family members and become smaller and smaller, which makes it difficult for a household to earn a living from it. Mr. Legesse leases farm land from someone who has land but cannot cultivate it. He is a father of three and sowed faba bean on one-quarter of a hectare of land last season, using seeds supplied on credit from GIZ.
How do farmers such as yourself plough the land in your area?
All three farmers we interviewed emphasized the benefits of legumes in supporting their family. Legumes can be sold as a cash crop, consumed in the household, and are valuable for maintaining soil fertility when sowed in rotation with crops like wheat, which is becoming a common practice in Ethiopia. These three farmers’ concerns are more or less identical: access to better seed and disease prevention.
Dr. Dessalegn Molla is a senior advisor and legume value chain manager at GIZ Ethiopia. Dr. Molla, please tell us about the benefits of legumes for small-scale farmers.
The national agricultural research system managed the development and release of 169 improved varieties of food legumes in the country between 1973 and 2012. Although a wide range of grain and forage legumes were developed, the emphasis was on faba bean, field pea, chickpea, lentil, and haricot been.
But the formal seed system in Ethiopia has been skewed towards cereals and hybrid varieties. More than 80% of the total volume of certified seed produced in the country every year is for wheat and maize.
So, even though legumes are critical to smallholders’ livelihoods in the country, current legume production falls significantly below the potential.
Getting better access to inputs is a key step in improving production.
Generally, Ethiopia’s agriculture is very old and relies on the ox plow and rain-dependent techniques, and has a very low rate of mechanization. Purchasing and using modern machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters is typically limited to a few large-scale farms because of their high cost and low availability for small-scale farmers. But recently, private mechanization service providers are increasing in some regions, particularly in the Arsi and Bale zones of Oromia region and the West and East Gojam zones of Amhara region. Appropriate farm mechanization technologies have been identified and introduced. Row planters, combine harvesters, and threshers are being purchased and used. This leads to significant reductions in farmers’ production costs.
Today, we spoke to the farmers Tesfaw Abebe, Shewaye Tadesse, and Kumsa Legesse as well as the expert, Dr. Dessalegn Molla.
Here is what we learned: Some farmers are using new varieties and practices introduced by GIZ for faba bean production, including row seeding. This helped them achieve a better yield. But they also expressed their need for better access to improved seeds and ways to prevent faba bean diseases. Dr. Dessalegn also emphasized the need to do more to support small-scale farmers to increase legume production and improve farmers’ livelihoods.
Contributed by: Netsanet Hailu, media and communications consultant.
Reviewed by: Dessalegn Molla, Advisor, Legumes Value Chain, Promotion of Agricultural Productivity Programme, Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector – Ethiopia, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Tesfaw Abebe, farmer, April 20, 2021
Shewaye Tadesse, farmer, April 19, 2021
Kumsa Legesse, farmer, April 20, 2021
Dr. Dessalegn Molla, May 11, 2021
This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.