Showcasing bundled climate-smart innovations for Ethiopia’s ‘Wheat Belt’ 🌾👩‍🌾

Women smallholder farmers in Iteya getting ready to welcome visitors to their booth to share their experiences as well as the cultural delicacies they’ve prepared.

In the beautiful town of Iteya, nestled in the heart of the Oromia administrative state, smallholder farmers have made a living by working on family-owned farms or small plots of land and rely on the income generated from their harvest to support themselves and their families.

These smallholder farmers play a crucial role in sustaining local communities and providing food security in many parts of the country. These smallholder farmers face numerous challenges in their daily lives. Climate variability and change, coupled with extreme weather conditions such as floods and extended dry spells, had made it difficult for them to cultivate crops and make a living. Limited access to inputs, mechanization, and financial services further compounded their struggles.

The Lersha App is displayed with all the different services it provides to smallholder farmers.

However, things began to change when the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA)-led partnership with Green Agro Solutions (GAS)-Lersha introduced the Lersha App to the town of Iteya. The app was designed to provide smallholder farmers with comprehensive and actionable agro-climate advisories, bundled with information on farming inputs, mechanization services, and financial services. The user-centric app, available in different local languages and could be accessed offline, proved to be a game-changer for the farmers.

These smallholder farmers in Iteya have been receiving agro-climate advisories every two weeks for the past four years through the Lersha App, along with training on different agricultural practices. They also have had access to insurance for the past year. Now they have access to finance mainly in the form of inputs. As a result, there were significant improvements in their productivity, but not only that we also saw a significant change in the way they perceived agriculture, access to finance, the role and participation of women farmers, and the participation of youth in agriculture.

Ana Maria Loboguerrero (Director, AICCRA), Esayas Lemma (Director, Ministry of Agriculture — Ethiopia), and other participants talking to women smallholder farmers of Iteya.

The impact of this initiative was significant. Not only did the farmers see improvements in their productivity, but they also saw a change in the way they saw agriculture, access to finance, the role and participation of women farmers, and the participation of youth in agriculture.

With the newfound access to finance, the farmers were able to invest in high-quality inputs, leading to better yields and higher profits. The insurance they received also gave them peace of mind, knowing that they were protected against crop failures and other risks.

The training they received taught them new agricultural practices that helped them adapt to the changing climate, making them more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.

Moreover, the role of women farmers in agriculture was elevated, with many of them taking on leadership roles in their communities. The youth also began to see agriculture as a viable career option, with many of them aspiring to become agri-entrepreneurs.

The use of the Lersha App has helped farmers make informed decisions about crop varieties, planting dates, fertilizers, and weeding. They were better able to manage climate risks and take advantage of market opportunities, resulting in increased yields and higher incomes. The app also helped to foster a sense of community among the farmers, who shared information and best practices with each other.

The success of the Lersha App was not limited to Iteya alone. The Lersha App along with the Lersha Call Center and SMS has been disseminating agro-climate advisories using multiple channels, reaching over 121,900 smallholder farmers across Ethiopia’s Amhara, Somali, Oromia, Sidama, and SNNPR regional states. Private and public extension agents were trained to make sure Lersha’s agro-climate advisories were comprehendible for effective decision-making.

On October 18, 2023, AICCRA in partnership with Lersha held a field day in the town of Iteya, where donors such as the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, and other partners along with Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) employees joined us to experience a day in the life of smallholder farmers who were gathered together to share their stories of how the agro-climate advisory had transformed their lives.

The field day started with a beautiful welcoming ceremony from the Adde Sinqes, respected women elders in the community, and continued with blessings from the Abba Gadas, cultural elders who are leaders in the Gadaa system which is an indigenous and democratic system of governance which has been used by the Oromo people, and developed from knowledge gained by community experience over centuries.

Adde Sinqees welcoming the participants to the field of Iteya farmlands, with the traditional Sinqee blessings.
Aba Gadaas, taking turns, welcoming the participants to the Field Day.

After the initial briefing took place, the participants were assigned into groups of 4 and went around the four booths to listen to; women farmers in the first tent, men farmers in the second tent, Development Agents, Lersha Agents & Youth Chemical Sprayers in the third tent and the Hitosa Union in the fourth tent.

Dr. Kindie Tesfaye (CIMMYT, Director) and Abrhame Endrias (Managing Director, Lersha) briefing the participants on what to expect on the Field Day.

The women farmers and men farmers spoke of how they had been able to improve their crop yields, send their children to school, and invest in their farms. They spoke of how they had become more resilient in the face of climate change and how they had found a renewed sense of purpose in their work.

Men smallholder farmers in Iteya explain how they’ve been using the agro-climate advisory they’ve been receiving through the Lersha platform for better decision-making.
Abrhame Endrias (Managing Director, Lersha), Ana Maria Loboguerrero (Director, AICCRA), and Dawit Solomon (Director, AICCRA Ethiopia) tasting the porridge prepared by the women smallholder farmers.

The Development Agents, Lersha Agents, and Youth Chemical Sprayers spoke about how they started working with Lersha.

Lersha Agents, Lersha Agent Coordinators, Youth Chemical Sprayers, and Development Agents answering questions raised by the participants.

The Hitosa Union spoke about how they’ve been supporting the farmers by providing different inputs they might need.

Hitosa Union Leaders explaining the services they provide to support smallholder farmers.

After that, the participants went to different selected farmlands of two women farmers and two men farmers and saw the yield produced with the help of the agro-climate advisories they got from Lersha.

Momima, a woman smallholder farmer, stands next to her plot of farmland showing the impact the agro-climate advisory has brought on her productivity.

Thanks to the Lersha App and the AICCRA-led partnership, smallholder farmers in Iteya and beyond had a brighter future ahead of them. They had the tools and knowledge they needed to thrive in an ever-changing world, and they were determined to make the most of it.

All participants of the Field Day posing for a picture with the Aba Gadaas, Hitosa Union Leaders, smallholder farmers, AICCRA Team, CIMMYT Team, and Lersha Team.

All in all, the AICCRA-led partnership with Green Agro Solutions-LERSHA had made a significant impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in Iteya. Through climate-smart innovation and access to finance and insurance, the farmers were able to improve their productivity, increase their incomes, and secure their livelihoods. They were now the leaders of a thriving agricultural ecosystem, and their success was an inspiration to others in the region.

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LERSHA - Make Agriculture Easy For Everyone

A one-stop digital platform which combines a Mobile App, Lersha Agents and Call Center for farmers to access inputs, services and advisory. 🌐 🌐