The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is an agricultural country where the agriculture sector accounts for approximately 40% of the GDP, and more than 80% of its population of 84,700,000 (2011) is farmers. In the semi-arid area constituting nearly 20% of the country, major soil erosion is caused by inappropriate means of agriculture such as monoculture that fail to pay attention to soil and ecology, deforestation for firewood collection and farmland reclamation, and excessive grazing, all of which are related to the increase in the population. To address the situation above, many international organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations World Food Program (WFP), African Development Bank (AfDB), and European Union (EU), bilateral donors, and NGOs provide support on agricultural and rural development including countermeasures against soil erosion and agricultural productivity improvement.
The Oromia region has the largest population (29,500,000) and area (353,000 km2) in Ethiopia. The region’s semi-arid area of 70,000 km2 makes up 20% of the region and 34% of the country’s semi-arid land. The Rift Valley spreading from the Oromia region to the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) is a typical semi-arid land. Scattered common lands are being denuded by the felling of trees, and rain causes a large amount of soil to flow out to farmlands. In the farmlands, cereals such as tef (a gramineous crop) and wheat, both of which are staples in Ethiopia, are mainly cultivated, but their productivity is low because proper cultivation techniques had not been disseminated. Therefore, the region needs to implement sustainable natural resource management that achieves both soil conservation and agricultural productivity improvement. In addition, in the Oromia region, the district agriculture offices carry out most extension activities on agriculture and natural resource management. However, conventional extension methods such as classroom lectures in the Farmers Training Center (FTC) and Development Agents (DAs) visiting the individual farmer’s field have not been very effective because of the lack of skillful DAs and the low completion rate of training participants.
IC Net has been implementing this project to provide farmers and regional official staff the knowledge and skills for natural resource management in the targeted areas through the Farmer Field School (FFS).