22 Jul 2020

There’s more to farming than good fertilizer


“You wouldn’t think a fertilizer company like OCP would help farmers in Ethiopia, like myself, with irrigation, but they did,” says Abiye Astatke, the owner of Faji Farm.

Agriculture is central to life in Ethiopia. It accounts for the majority of the country’s labor force and is the backbone of its GDP. But farming here is tough. Water scarcity, low profitability, low availability of seeds and lack of efficient fertilizer are just some of the challenges farmers face.“These challenges are what people outside the country hear about,” says Etsubdink Tekalign Mamo, from OCP Ethiopia, “they’re not hearing about the progress we’re making”.


Progress from the ground up


“At OCP, we’re focused on feeding a growing world, and in Ethiopia we’re literally starting from the ground up,” she says. “We’ve been conducting widespread soil analysis –using our mobile agricultural caravans to reach the very isolated areas –to understand what the crops need, and how to ensure the environment benefits. “Because we’ve partnered with the Ethiopian government, we’re able to develop fertilizer production capacity locally, combining the nitrogen from Ethiopian natural gas with Moroccan phosphate,” says Mamo.


Making water go further


On Faji Farm, three hectares are dedicated to orchards, where “I grow apples, pears and plums,” says Astatke. “These orchards are best suited to temperate climates, so they need water.

“When OCP visited my farm, they started by helping us install drip irrigation, so we could make the best use of the water we have. It’s amazing. We can do so much more with our water now.”

It’s amazing. We can do so much more with our water now.

Abiye Astatke , owner of Faji Farm

Everything stems from understanding the soil


“After doing soil analysis and testing, and based on the fruit I grow, they recommended liquid fertilizer was best for my farm, but before OCP arrived, liquid fertilizer wasn’t even available in our country,” he says.

“The use of liquid fertilizer is really changing the quality of the soil,” says Mamo. “It is giving hope to more farmers as their crop yield improves. But there is more to good farming than fertilizer, so we constructed drip irrigation at farms like Faji, but we’re also introducing agri-tech to help farmers with the tough jobs.

“In addition to this, more than 25,000 farmers have benefitted from an e-voucher scheme that gives them a simple way to get seeds for their farms.”

A hopeful future for all farmers


“OCP isn’t just helping farmers like me, it’s also helping researchers and university students,” says Astatke. “They come to my farm to work out new ways of cropping, which is great for them as they get to learn. Looking forward, it could be good for all common farmers like me, as you never know what they might discover. It makes me hopeful for the future too.”

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