Seed, fertilizer, and agricultural extension in Ethiopia

David J. Spielman, Dawit Kelemwork, Dawit Alemu
essp ii working paper
Over the past four decades, decision-makers in Ethiopia have pursued a range of policies and investments to boost agricultural production and productivity, particularly with respect to the food staple crops that are critical to reducing poverty in the country. A central aim of this process has been to increase the availability of improved seed, chemical fertilizers, and extension services for small-scale, resource-poor farmers. While there is some evidence to suggest that the process has led to improvements in both agricultural output and yields, decision-makers still recognize that there is an urgent need for more substantial improvement. This paper attempts to synthesize the lessons learned from Ethiopia’s past experiences with providing smallholders with access to seed, fertilizer, and extension services, identify challenges facing the country’s continuing efforts to strengthen its input systems and markets, and recommend policy solutions for the future. The paper does so by specifically focusing on three policy “episodes” in Ethiopia’s recent history to shed light on the potentially complementary, but often conflicting, roles played by the public and private sectors in the provision of seed, fertilizer, and extension services.