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Sustainable agricultural technologies: A sure pathway for improving African smallholder farmers’ nutrition and food security

May 17, 2016

A four-year project concludes with rich evidence that will enable policy makers to support adoption of innovative agricultural technologies by smallholder farmers in Africa

Angeline Odero in her maize–legume plot. The use of herbicides has reduced her cost of weeding from $160 per hectare using hired labor, to less than $60 per hectare. Photo credit: CIMMYT/Johnson Siamachira

Angeline Odero in her maize–legume plot. The use of herbicides has reduced her cost of weeding from $160 per hectare using hired labor, to less than $60 per hectare. Photo credit: CIMMYT/Johnson Siamachira

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (CIMMYT) – Policy makers, funders and stakeholders in the agricultural sector will gather in Addis Ababa from May 17 to 19, 2016, to view the findings of the four-year Adoption Pathways project that is concluding its work in five eastern and southern African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The project’s goal was to research and provide solid data to support adoption of sustainable farming practices and pave the way for improving smallholder African farmers’ food production, profitability and livelihoods. Among these practices are intercropping, adequate fertilizer application, use of improved maize varieties, minimum soil disturbance and crop rotation.

The project findings come at a time when Africa’s ability to produce enough to feed its population is being seriously undermined by declining resources, particularly water and land. Producing more food without straining the available resources is thus critical.

According to Olaf Erenstein, Director of CIMMYT’s Socioeconomics Program, “The Adoption Pathways project has generated a wealth of empirical evidence and recommendations to help farmers cope better and produce more through adopting innovative farming technologies. This, coupled with institutional changes to access better extension services, improve credit markets and infrastructure for market access, will give smallholder farmers a head start to a stronger food system in Africa.”

Fentahun Mengistu, Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), will officially open the three-day event. The institute has been very involved in the project, and will serve as a pilot for integrating research findings into policy for the benefit of millions of smallholders in Ethiopia.

The event will include a one-day summit where policy makers will discuss mechanisms for linking the project’s micro-level data and research findings to policy processes and how policies can be formulated, implemented and improved based on the evidence generated by the Adoption Pathways project. Although integrating micro-level information into the policy-making process is challenging, quality evidence-based information will allow more informed decision making, improved policies and better agricultural services.

“Adoption Pathways has established a very valuable socioeconomic and biophysical database on policy analyses and a permanent mechanism to enable greater and regular use of these data in policy analysis and dialogue,” said John Dixon, Principal Adviser for Research at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which funded the project.

“We expect to strengthen our pilot policy engagement process in Ethiopia during this summit as an example for other future projects so that such datasets as presented by Adoption Pathways can influence the development of agricultural policies that encourage adoption of sustainable intensification practices among farmers,” said Paswel Marenya, CIMMYT socioeconomist.

The project report highlights policy issues such as establishing a fertilizer subsidy program to benefit poor rural households with little or no land; investing in and expanding agricultural extension systems and increasing extension personnel to match the farmer population; diversifying food production to enhance nutrition and alleviate micronutrient deficiencies in poor farmer households; and maintaining high productivity by applying adequate amounts of fertilizers, employing best agronomic practices and planting improved resilient varieties.

The Adoption Pathways project was part of CIMMYT’s focus on sustainable intensification aimed at developing and deploying climate-resilient technologies to sustainably increase farmers’ productivity and profitability, reduce yield variability and lessen agriculture’s impact on the environment. It was conducted in partnership with five national agricultural research organizations in the target countries with support from ACIAR.


For more information, please contact:

Paswel Marenya, Socioeconomist, CIMMYT–Ethiopia

Chilot Yirga, Coordinator, Agricultural Economics Research, EIAR

Media inquiries:

Brenda Wawa, Communications Officer, CIMMYT–Kenya

Tedla Pascal, Acting Director, Research Partnership, Communication and IPR Directorate, EIAR


Background Information

 SIMLESA Project website I Sustainable Intensification

About ACIAR: The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is an Australian Government Centre, which supports international food security and poverty reduction through partnerships of African, Australian and international research organisations, and this builds science bridges between Africa and Australia. ACIAR has worked on more productive farming systems and agricultural policy in East Africa since 1982.  ACIAR currently supports agricultural research in ten countries in East and Southern Africa. The Adoption pathways project is a sister of SIMLESA, which is the flagship for regional engagement in the region.

About CIMMYT: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT, by its Spanish acronym) is the global leader on publicly funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, Mexico, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.

About EIAR: The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) is responsible for the running of the country’s federal research centers, while the various regional agricultural research institutes are administered by the regional state governments. In addition to conducting research at its federal centers, EIAR is responsible for providing the overall coordination of agricultural research countrywide, and advising the government on agricultural research policy formulation. EIAR is part of the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Service which also encompasses 55 research centers and sites located across various agro-ecological zones, as well as Higher Learning Institutions in the country.