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Fertilizer Blending Plant Initiative Matches Inputs and Soil

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USAID Provides International Management Contracts that Assign Fertilizer Experts to Each Factory for 10 months

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—The Government of Ethiopia, World Bank and USAID have collaborated to erect five fertilizer blending factories throughout Ethiopia, each in a strategic location serving a large population of farmers in Tigray, Amhara, SNNPR and Oromia.

Blending fertilizer at the factory in Bahir Dar, Amhara, owned by Merkeb FCU.

Blending fertilizer at the factory in Bahir Dar, Amhara, owned by Merkeb FCU.

In support of the fertilizer blending initiative, USAID AGP-AMDe installed the first fertilizer blending plant at the Becho Woliso FCU in Oromia, and over the last six months, another four plants were installed at Gibe Didessa FCU in Nekemte, Oromia; Merkeb FCU in Bahir Dar, Amhara; and Enderta FCU in Mekele, Tigray. A fifth plant, owned by Melik FCU in Worabe, SNNPR, will go online later this year. In addition, the Government of Ethiopia has plans to expand the fertilizer blending operation to 12 more sites over several years.

“Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Transformation Agency in partnership with key stakeholders launched the program to deliver blended fertilizers to Ethiopia’s most important agricultural areas. Through our partnerships, we plan to address and introduce blended fertilizers to the majority of our farmers in the next couple of years,” explains State Minister and Soil Fertility Expert, Tekalign Mamo.

Under the initiative, AGP-AMDe committed approximately one million dollars to introduce fertilizer blending plant management and best practices at the five plants. AGP-AMDe provided funding to hire management firms with international experience and experts in the production and marketing of fertilizers. The firms are contracted to manage the plants for 10 months producing blended fertilizers and implement management systems in production, quality control, marketing and finance. The firms are also tasked with training union staff who will take over management of the plants at the end of the contract period.

Each blending plant creates at least 20 full time jobs, and even more jobs during the peak season. The plants also create fixed capital, which enables the unions to gain access to increased funding and critical partnerships.

Stacks of fertilizer ingredients in Bahir Dar.

Stacks of fertilizer ingredients in Bahir Dar.

Each blending plant expects fertilizer demand to rise well above 100,000 MT per year and benefit millions of farmers. The Enderta FCU in Mekele, Tigray, has 23 full time employees, represents 20 Primary Cooperatives and 42,120 farmers and actively supplies inputs in southern Tigray. Every year, the FCU used to sell on average 19,000 MT of fertilizer to area farmers. Thanks to the new plant, Enderta FCU expects the demand for blended fertilizer in Tigray to exceed 300,000 MT annually within five years and benefit hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

“Demand could reach as high as 600,000 MT per year. Initially, some 300,000 farmers will benefit in Tigray. We are also making links with the sesame investors in the Western Zone of our region, which would increase the demand dramatically,” says Tadesse Aragawi, Enderta FCU’s Deputy Manager.

At full capacity, the plant can produce 50 MT of blended fertilizer per hour, each fertilizer customized with different levels of nutrients depending on soil types, deficiencies and agro-ecologies.

For years farmers have relied on traditional fertilizers like diammonium phosphate-DAP and urea. Results from soil fertility tests show Ethiopia’s soil is deficient in sulfur, boron, potassium, zinc and copper, hence a need for blended fertilizer. Demonstrations with wheat, maize, barley, teff, chickpea and sesame showed that blended fertilizers can enhance productivity and quality of all crops with yield advantages of up to 80 percent.

Since 2013, the Agriculture Transformation Agency has sent over 45,000 soils samples to certified soil laboratories in Europe to once and for all map Ethiopia’s soil needs. The campaign to better understand the country’s soil is a critical component of the fertilizer campaign.

Inauguration in Bahir Dar

Inauguration in Bahir Dar

“Ethiopia has a varied topography and has suffered heavy erosion for many years. Farmers also tend to remove all crops from their soil leaving little to no bio-material behind to decompose into the soil. Knowing the overall carbon status for Ethiopia’s soil will be a huge step towards improved agriculture practices and long term sustainability,” explains Tegbaru Bellete, ATA senior technical expert.

ATA is also working with partners to carry out fertilizer demonstrations in the same areas sampled. The initial mapping of the soil will inform the recommendation for the types of fertilizers needed, and through demonstrations, farmers will witness which fertilizer works best.

“Once the farmers in a certain area realize what they need, we hope that knowledge will become institutionalized and create demand for the improved fertilizers that are being blended in these factories,” says Tegbaru.

 

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