Intake Experience by the Field Team- 19 November 2021

posted in: IFC Project - Ethiopia | 0

Samuel (FR-Butajira): My intake experience was both good and challenging. The Kebele chosen for me is very active that Green Path is actively involved in the Kebele. So, it was good for me. The Kebele leaders were very understanding. The first few I spoke to in the Kebele that were not leaders were somehow giving me difficulty. But the leaders have good awareness and I was able to establish a good relationship with them and was able to start my work more easily. The guider I had was also a representative of Green Path in the area. He is very humble and active. He takes initiatives and even calls me if I am running late. So, I was lucky in that sense.

With farmers also, it was more or less good. Before they give out any information, they ask first where we are from, what is the benefit for them…This is the most common question asked among all farmers. Even when I explain, there was still a misunderstanding. But all in all, it was good.

What was challenging was that most farmers don’t know what research is. They want to know if we are coming back as an organization in the area after 3 months. If not, they say “Why are you doing this?”. It will not benefit us. Together with the guider did our best to explain the purpose but they wanted us to come back as an organization and help them somehow. We explained the target of L-IFT and IFC. We had to take so much time to explain the objectives. The good thing was, I was able to find 4 to 5 respondents at the same place. When I had a chance to explain to 5 people at the same time, it was much better. One was convincing the other one for me.

The other challenge I had was finding traders in my area. There are people who are engaged in businesses like small shops, street selling, livestock selling but there are no traders particularly for vegetables. Green Path sends agents to farmers with vehicles and buys the product from them or they travel to the company and sell their product. Most of the time, they receive their payment via bank account. If there is anything left, they sell it by cash.

Another challenge was the size of the Kebele was very big. It is very wide. It is very tiring to cover it by walking. That is why I had to appoint 5 people in one location and complete the survey. This is how it was in general. If you have any questions, I can answer.

Aschalew (FM): We have been asked by IFC to define what model farmers are in each context. So how are model farmers defined in your area?

Samuel (FR-Butajira): I have also tried to ask that in detail. The model farmers that mostly recognized are known in cash crops specifically Avocado. There is a video also I recorded of an avocado farm which is really amazing. This person has been awarded 2 to 3 times at regional level for his avocado farm. This is one example. Another case are farmers that are known for coffee, ‘chat’ and other crops like maize and wheat. But they also have vegetable production. Other criteria were the use of water. There is a stream in the area which is accessible to some farmers. Those who can use the water can produce 2 to 3 times a year so they consider them as model farmers.

In the beginning, they gave me the list of model farmers from the Kebele and the guider also confirmed them. They don’t have specific list for vegetable model farmers because they only evaluate them in a general sense.

Aschalew (FM): On top of that, when you visit them were you able to confirm that the model farmers produce more than the normal small holder farmers. Can we take it as that? In your view, how did you find them? How was their living standard like their house, their living condition, their produce? What is your opinion?

Samuel (FR-Butajira): I can tell you one particular example. I can’t recall his name now but I was very impressed by him. His land is small, it is only about 1.5 Hectare but his productivity is amazing. His house, his farm…it looks all in a good standard relative to fellow farmers in the local area.

In general, I can say that, they have a better living condition when I compare them with others. Especially in cash crops, they are very much better. Their house is also better – better than everyone else. We can see that; it could be hard to call them ‘small holder farmers. That is the truth.

Aschalew (FM): In Butajira area, there are many who receives support. In most cases, they have relatives in Addis Ababa who can support them. In your opinion, is their living condition better because of their own earned income or support from their family?

Samuel (FR-Butajira): Yes, I also know the area very well. I asked the same question. I also have many friends there. I tried to gather some information beforehand. Yes, there is that kind of trend of what you just said. But this one is not like that. The produce green beans have changed their lives. Green beans within 3 months can earn them about 70,000ETB for only 0.25 Hectare land. This has helped them a lot to improve their living condition. Green path has entered the area around 5 years ago. Within this short period of time, they could earn about 100,000 to 150,000ETB per year from the Company. They could hire from 30 to 40 workers at a time. When they sell this produce to the Company, they earn good amount of money which has brought many changes in their life based on my understanding.

Melesech (FR- Jawi Woreda): As you remember, we were calling each other both with you Mahlet and Aschalew. There is a security issue in my area. The area was very difficult. Another problem I encountered was, farmers don’t farm in that area even if they are resident in that Kebele. All Kebeles including Fendika, the situation is the same. They farm in another distant area sometimes up to 100-150km. They close their house and go to their farming place so it was difficult to find them. After harvesting, they will come back to their residence around December.

Another challenge was the farmers I found also were very hesitant. They have trust issue. The acceptability in that community is hard. Mostly they are not willing to participate. My guider was an agri-expert from the Kebele. But still, it was challenging.

But overall, the most difficult thing for me was finding farmers. Even traders open their warehouse during selling season not at this time. This was my experience.

Mahlet (PM): The data you sent recently has 4 traders. We assumed there were no traders especially for Soya because our understanding was, it is only sold through the Union. So, can you explain the 4 traders? What are their profiles?

Melsech (FR- Jawi Woreda): In the beginning, I focused more on finding the farmers but there are traders. But now the crops are not ready for sale so they don’t open their warehouse at this time.

Aschalew (FM): Do these traders have any connection with the value chain actors? Do they aggregate Soya and sell it to either the Union or to ECX?

Melesech (FR-Jawi Woreda): They don’t have that kind of connection. But they do collect products in large quantity mostly Soya and sell it to agents, individuals and other big traders.

Aschalew (FM): Similar question like the others, what are the definition of model farmers in your area?

Melesech (FR-Jawi Woreda): I got the list from the agri-experts in the Kebele. They said, model farmers are the one who implements what we teach them. They are better in their living standards. Other criteria is their production level but this is not the only condition to be a model farmer.

Mahlet (PM): Are there cut off points in terms of measurement of more production either in quintal or other local measurement?

Melesech (FR-Jawi Woreda): For instance: Farmers that produce more in small Hectare land using appropriate inputs, they call them model farmers.

Aschalew (FM): What about your view and opinion? After interviewing a model farmer from your list, are they actually better or was there anyone that didn’t seem like a model farmer? Or were they truly better than other SHF in terms of their living condition and productivity.

Melesech (FR-Jawi Woreda): Yes, when you see their house, it is better. They also use the inputs given to them appropriately and are more successful.

Aschalew (FM): Okay, good.

Tekalign (FR-Assela): In the beginning, it was difficult for me. I went straight to Kebele leaders with my letters. The Southern Assela Cooperative that is in that area is not very active, it is also criticized for having corruptive system. The people in general do not have a good impression of the Cooperative so I went to the Kebele instead. The Kebeles are powerful. I explained to them in detail what we are about to do. Like wanting to know about companies that buys malt barely from them and their related work activities. Since I did the Kebele survey with the Kebele Chairperson, he knows about the study already. He gave me a contact of Kebele manager. I met him there and he was positive about it. He is involved in distributing seeds and he also collects products from the farmers and is involved in trading. He has a big warehouse. He was interested but he didn’t have time. He also handles security issues so he was very busy. I understood that and I asked for another facilitator. Some time has passed between finding a new facilitator and trying to meet the first person. He also had lots of meetings to attend. I waited for him in the meantime interviewing 2 to 3 farmers who were also attending meetings. Then, the Kebele chairperson gave me another facilitator/guider. He helped me a lot. We went house to house together to find respondents. It also was close to my home so all this was possible. And I was able to finish my survey.

But the biggest challenge was answering the question of “what’s in it for me?”. Since the Kebele is very close to the University, a lot of people who conducts studies approach them for interviews and they never come back. So, they were saying, if you are going to disappear like them, what is our benefit? I tried to explain in detail how we will study their challenges, understand their finances and in the future a financial product will be developed to better their situation. After that explanation, they started to cooperate more. And adding also, “If you are one of the 25 respondents out of 75, I will come to visit you on a weekly basis. The continuous visit was a convincing element.

I tried to include more model farmers and traders. But I couldn’t find traders because now is not the time they are active. They have distributed the seeds already and since there is nothing to be bought now, their warehouse is closed. They will open once the harvesting is done so I couldn’t find them in large number. But the Kebele manager I told you about earlier was a trader and I interviewed 2 additional traders.

There was a challenge especially finding respondents and having time for me. Some were very busy, some were spraying chemicals on their farm, some were taking care of their animals after sending their kids to school. So sometimes, I even had to run after animals to help them. The “Equb” and “Edir” places were also very strategic place for me to find respondents. I shared that story with you on telegram. I got membership in “Gabi Equb” to be part of the community and I was also inspired by them. So, this is the extent I went to do the interviews. It needs flexibility. It doesn’t help at all to present yourself as someone unique. You should be able to adjust yourselves to their level. This was my experience.

Mahlet (PM): Thank you. When is the harvesting time for malt barely?

Tekalign (FR-Assela): There is about a month left for harvesting especially barely. It is not ready yet. Even now, they are spraying chemicals for rust. They were actually complaining about not finding the chemicals. There is also one chemical that kills a weed called “ambo”. They were also complaining about not finding that chemical. I have one story on that which I will share soon on telegram- about the misuse by the Cooperative and traders.

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji): Thank you. I am happy to see you all again. For me, the intake survey experience was really good. The Kebele is a bit far away from Bekoji town. However, the Kebele leader was very cooperative. He was helpful in convincing participants as well. When he told them, they were very willing to participate. It is not harvesting time right now, there is about a month left for that. As malt barely is the major production in the area, one farmer can produce up to 30 quintals per 1 hectare. And model farmers have about 8-10 hectares. Some also collect crops and store it in their warehouse.

The challenge was finding respondents. There were lots of meetings happening in the Kebele. The guider who was the leader in the Kebele was very busy with meetings after declaration of the State of Emergency. He was part of the constant meetings. From respondents, some were rescheduling appointments, some didn’t show up. That was challenging.

In addition, they were model farmers that are known by the Kebele. But it was very difficult to find them. Some were out of town and I waited for them to come back because I knew it was important to be selective of people I interviewed. I made appointments to find traders and model farmers.

All in all, it was really good. People were cooperative. There is some suspicion because of the current situation. But when the Kebele leader tells them, they cooperate more and are willing to participate. I had a really good experience.

Aschalew (FM): I have a question both for Tekalign and Ibrahim. One is: are the traders you interviewed have connection with the value chain actors and second is: What is your observation of model farmers?

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji):  Model famers are more productive. The common land size is 5-8 hectares but even if they don’t own that land themselves, they take land on contract for farming.  Meaning that they pay per year to plough that land. So, their production is higher. Other criteria are they get more support from DAs, they engage more in community issues. There is a mechanized farming system, they also use that. Moreover, they have more production. These are the reasons for becoming model farmers.

Regarding traders, they don’t produce but they collect and supply to cooperatives and companies like Heinken. Some are also given support by the Companies and they work as agents. Some sell to cooperatives and the cooperative sells it to Assela Malt Factory.

Aschalew (FM): Is there a number on average of quintal production that distinguishes model farmers?

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji): In the data, you might see that a model farmer with only 3 hectares or 2.5 hectares. This means that the farmer produces additional crops. He might also produce wheat. The figure you see are only for malt barely. But note that, there are also other crops such as beans, peas…On average, per hectare they could produce from 30 quintals to 40 quintals.

Aschalew (PM): Does it mean if they diversify the type of crops, they are model farmers?

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji): It is not only the diversification. For example: on a small hectare land, he might use half of it for barely and half of it for another crop. You know what we call subsistence farming? This person has diversified his crops but this solely doesn’t make him a model farmer. For model farmers, it has to be a surplus production. They produce for not only domestic consumption but for sale.

Tekalign (FR-Assela): I have some addition regarding model farmers. It is not only production but sometimes, it has to do with involvement in health extension programs, participation in the community…being exemplary in general. Being a model means that someone that can influence the society and can be an example for any change we want to implement in the community. For example: using solar in places where there is no grid electricity. The model adopts it and then also convinces others to follow suit. They adopt agricultural technologies, use fertilizers for example compost. Even if they don’t own land, they rent other lands on contract basis (there is something called ‘rented in’ and ‘shared in’). So, they produce on multiple areas by hiring workers, using machines in both ploughing and harvesting. These are they type of people, people that are examples are called model farmers.

The development assistance (the DAs), Woreda officials and local administrators discuss and decide which ones are model farmers. It is an administrative decision. No one can designate themselves as model farmers. There are general criteria but not a very specific. It is an overall determination.

I want to add something on the trader questions. The aggregator/trader has two types of nature. The 3 traders I interviewed are connected with Soufflet. Soufflet gives them seeds and they distribute the seeds to the farmers. For some, they sell it via cash and make them a promise to sell back the products. And then the trader collects and supply to Soufflet. When we started the intake survey, the Soufflet company was giving them training for 6 days. One of the trainees was the one I told you about called Chala (the Kebele Manager). He participated in the training with farmers that work with him.

If the farmers don’t have cash to buy the seeds, he gives them credit. After they have produced the crops, he will get paid back by the market price of the crops. And also, they sell him the remaining product. So, they have that kind of agreement. Sometimes, the farmers use his warehouse to store their products. When the prices go up, they sell it and that is how he maintains his customers.

Another arrangement I heard was about the Cooperative. Assela malt factory was previously owned by the government. When the government decided to sell it, the Cooperative union bought the factory in partnership with Oromia Cooperative Bank. So, the arrangement is the Cooperative buys the malt barely at higher price and sell it to the factory which is owned by themselves. I was told, this is not functional anymore. They complained that, there is management problem; there is no good governance and they are corrupted.

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji): To add on model farmers, in my case, they also have house in town. When it is production time, they travel to their farming areas. On other times of the year, they stay at their house in town. They have exposures to towns/cities. Their living standard is higher that is related to their production level.

Another thing is their engagement in Cooperative is high. Sometimes, they sell 120 quintals to 150 quintals straight to the Cooperative. They get technical support from the Cooperative. I just want to add that.

Regarding traders, the ones I found are two types. Some collect and sell the products to Adama, Nazareth, Assela…Others have direct contact with Companies like Heiniken and Soufflet.

Tigist (FR-Dangla Woreda): When I was doing the Kebele survey, I was told that the Kebele was about 7 Km but I found it to be around 10km. But the Kebele is better than the other 2 Kebeles I did the survey on. It is better but transport was still difficult. I had to walk about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

To start with, I went to the Kebele leader to give me a list of respondents. It was difficult to meet him that I had to go back and forth for about 3 days. On the third day, I found him and told him what I was looking for like model farmers, small holder farmers that have connection with Admas Union and specifically those who are engaged in maize production. I gave him the letter. He insisted it should be in Amharic. But I explained the situation. He was not very cooperative as there was no monetary benefit to respondents. He said, other organizations, NGOs give money but you are not paying anything. He refused to cooperate with me.

On another day, I went back and looked for others in the Kebele that could help me. I found an expert in Agriculture. He was understanding and he gave me the list of respondents that fulfils the criteria. I started to conduct my survey with his help.

After I started though, the respondents were very willing to participate. I didn’t find them to be difficult. When I told them the possibility of visiting them for 3 months that I will ask about their income and expense and data will be shared with them at the end. They were convinced and said “No problem”. They first thought I was part of the government and they had many complaints about getting enough inputs. They said, if you were part of them, we would have sent you away. But for me, they agreed to participate. I was able to finish the intake survey in time. Some of them are even calling me now to know the status of the research asking me “when are you coming back”. So, my respondents are very good even for the next phase.

Another thing, I was given the list of 35 model farmers. They produce more like 25 to 30 quintals. But there were others who produce more like 80 quintals but were not part of the model farmers. I was surprised by that. As you have seen from the data, in some cases there is discrepancy in terms of production amount and being a model farmer. But what they call model takes into account also active participation in the Cooperative and in various meetings. I tried to do it according to our study in maize and I followed the list given to me.

I have made a mistake in submitting the data with regards to labelling some farmers as model farmers but I communicated that with you and I think you fixed it on your side.

Aschalew (FM): Melesech has found some traders. What about your experience in relation to traders?

Tigist (FR-Dangla Woreda): The Unions is found in the Kebele so farmers supply their crops to the Union. Even if there are left overs, they sell it in the town market. There are no traders that goes into the area to buy the crops. I found one model farmer who has a grinder in the Kebele. He used to collect maize for trading but when I probe him more, he said “I don’t do that anymore”. So, there are no traders in the Kebele.

Gurmessa (FR-Meki): I had a connection problem so I couldn’t share my experience with the team during the Zoom meeting. I am sorry for the inconvenience. I recorded my experience on voice recorder.

Regarding the survey, the good thing is I finished within the scheduled time. There were some challenges especially with transportation. The place is a bit far and after the state of emergency, motor bikes are prohibited to give transportation service. So, I encountered problem of transportation.

Another challenge is the perception of farmers on research. They have lack of understanding which caused them to refuse to participate. “What are we getting out of these in practical terms?” was the most common question. I used different mechanisms to convince them. I told them about how the results of the study might benefit them. Specially, the market-oriented farmers were very much interested in the diaries about their finances. They told me; they took some trainings via the Union but they still have weaknesses in cost-benefit analysis. I tried my best to change their attitude and convince them to participate.

Regarding lesson learnt, I got a chance to see the value chain development theory in practical terms. The process starting from seed supplier to consumers, there are many actors involved. And I saw that in practical terms. Their produce also goes to international market like the Netherlands, UK…

I was also impressed about the Pack House in Adami Tulu which was built by the Union. They process packing, the pre-cooling in this Pack House. This was impressive to observe. There are some weaknesses that is connected to seed suppliers, farmers, traders, unions but the beginning is really good.

Regarding model farmers, the definition is relative and contextual. The model farmer in Dodicha Kebele may not be a model farmer in another area. So, the definition is relative depending on the area. For my case, the criteria include: those who have about 500,000ETB in capital; those who adopts agricultural technologies; those who have better income relatively; those who are better in managing their family; those who sends their kids to school; those who have irrigation tools and those who have a certificate from primary cooperatives. For example: In Dodicha Kebele, there are about 14 farmers who have certificate. This certificate is very useful to have even for the international market.

Regarding traders, there are many traders/aggregators in the area. Some are located in the Kebele and some come from outside. But in general, traders are very active in that Kebele.

Thank you.