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Enhancing farmers’ technical knowledge Could Double Ethiopia’s Chickpea Yield: study

ADDIS ABABA – Chickpea yields in Ethiopia could be potentially doubled by enhancing the technical efficiency of its production and technology use, a new study said.

The study, conducted by researchers from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), is published in Springer Nature’s Food Security journal.

ICRISAT researchers studied 681 chickpea-growing farm households in  Amhara, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNP) regions that are among the major chickpea-growing areas in the country. 

Data analyzed by the researchers showed that the grain yields significantly vary within and across the three study regions, despite a significant improvement in chickpea production at the national level in the past two decades.

Farmers in the three study regions employ different types and levels of technology for chickpea production, the study found. 

Researchers also identified three potential gaps – the size of allocated land, inappropriate usage of nitrogen-phosphorus-sulfur fertilizer and increased use of pesticides.

These gaps have a major influence on the production of chickpea in the country. 

“Relatively larger chickpea farms performed better, most likely benefitting from the specialization and economies of scale. In other words, if farmers allocate suboptimal land sizes to chickpea on their farms, their production performance decreases,” said the study. 

Ethiopia is the sixth-largest producer of chickpea globally and the largest in Africa. 

Chickpea is also the third most important export legume after faba bean and haricot bean, generating a revenue of about US$61 million annually, making chickpea one of the main pulse crops in the country in terms of cropped area, total production, and direct human consumption. 

The researchers’ analysis revealed that if farmers overcome some of the practical limitations in accessing knowledge-based interventions and capital and adapt to biophysical constraints, it may increase the average technical efficiency of chickpea production from the current level of 0.53 to 0.75 if not 1. 

It also implied that the farmers could increase chickpea output by about 53%. 

“Thus, chickpea production in Ethiopia could be increased from its current level of about 500,000 tons to about 750,000 tons by improving technical efficiency while narrowing the yield gaps,” read the study. 

Enhancing farmers’ awareness through participatory extension programs may further increase chickpea productivity and production in Ethiopia, the suggested. 

In addition, it said strengthening the capacity of women chickpea producers is also likely to result in significant gains in production efficiency and yield levels. 

Researchers pointed out policy implications such as realignment of gender priorities at the farm level, access to labor/farm machinery, policy support for enhanced small-scale mechanization, and availability of knowledge farmers that can potentially enhance chickpea production and narrow yield gaps.