Agricultural innovation in a changing Ethiopian context : the case of dairy farming and business in the Addis Ababa milk shed, Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s economy remains largely dependent on agriculture, where smallholder farming is the main feature. Historically, a dominant smallholder economy came into existence during the communist regime (1974–90), when the government confiscated rural land from the aristocracy and redistributed it to the citizens. The communist regime paid more attention to state farms, with private agriculture being limited to smallholder farms. Following the change of government in 1990, private-sector agriculture developed quickly, although land remained state-owned. The land lease policy of the state allowed for the rapid growth of the private sector in agriculture, manufacturing and trade. Livestock is an important subsector in the country. Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, but does not benefit sufficiently from this resource. Technical reasons such as genetic limitations of the indigenous animals for milk production, poor quality feed resources, poor artificial insemination (AI) and veterinary health services are as important challenges. However, important but less explored factors of interest in this study include interactional (linkage and communications) limitations, institutional issues, policy and scarcity of knowledge. Development actors, including the government of Ethiopia, need to pay attention to these issues. The role of government on the livestock sector is increasing in some areas. For example, the Growth and Transformation Plan of the Ethiopian Government considers live animal exports an important source of foreign exchange earnings. The plan also recognizes the contribution of small ruminants and poultry to household food security. Dairy development is at the crossroads as there is a growing interest and participation of diverse actors in production, processing and marketing, which has created impetus for innovation. On the other hand, dairy innovation is constrained because of several important challenges. Explaining this paradox and identifying the key leverage points that could help to transform the dairy subsector into a more functional system is, therefore, the main focus of this study. The Addis Ababa Milk-shed is used as a case study. The Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) framework, an alternative to the Transfer-of- Technology (ToT), is the theoretical framework used in this study. The conventional ToT approach has limitations for understanding complex systems and functions. It only recognises the traditional actors in research, extension and farming, while undervaluing the private sector actors. The AIS framework explains how innovation takes place through interactions of people, policy and institutions. It is used in this study to firstly outline important historical episodes in the dairy subsector, and analyse how policies and other factors affect innovation over different periods. Secondly, it analyses the dairy resources and how innovation is enhanced. The third dimension places emphasis on understanding the complex interaction of actors outside the mainstream ToT model. Finally, the fourth area is on policy and institutional issues. This study is therefore premised on developing new insights into the innovation system framework by using concepts of resilience, leverage points, trust building and the implications of historical legacies in shaping contemporary innovation. The innovation capacity assessment model is used to develop the methodology of this study. Data collection, guided by the key components of the innovation system framework, include sector mapping, historical evolution of the sector, resource base analysis, interactions between actors, the policy environment, habits and practices, and resilient features and leverage points. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used for data collection and analysis within this framework. Key-informant interviews, questionnaire surveys, document review and consultative workshops were the main methods used to generate data. For quantitative data analysis, SPSS software was used, while the qualitative data were analyzed using tools such as systems drawing, linkage matrix, typology of linkages, habits and practice analysis, and content analysis. The lessons learned from history were used to identify key leverage points and formulate recommendations for innovation. Analysis considered dairy resources such as land, feed, genetic resources and services. The current system was compared to the previous regime in relation to how dairy innovation was affected. This study has shown a reduction in milk productivity by smallholder farmers in the Addis Ababa milk shed. The policy of the current government, based on a free market economy, privatization and investment, is contributing to diversification and innovation, but mainly in the processing industry and commercial farmers. The study has also identified productive interactions of dairy actors. These interactions are growing over time, but the impacts on the lives of the smallholder farmers have not been as beneficial as expected. For example, the critical problem of access to markets for smallholder farmers is not yet a main agenda item of any of the networks. This study, furthermore, found that four factors contribute to the existing market problems, namely the extended fasting season (196 days per annum) of the Orthodox Church believers; a limited tradition of milk drinking in Addis Ababa; high milk prices when compared to low incomes of the majority of citizens; and underutilization of the capacity of the milk processing industry, mainly as a result of a limited domestic market and the dominance of the informal milk market. The initiatives to enhance innovation to overcome these challenges are few. Promoting smallholder dairy production without addressing the market problems inhibits innovation. The study also concludes that interactions of the actors in the dairy innovation networks and the economic policy measures taken by the government have contributed to the development of the sub-sector. The government needs to consider a “bridging policy” to support the dairy subsector to become competitive in the export economy. Developing the dairy subsector in Ethiopia is urgently needed because the population is increasing as is the emerging middle class. This situation calls for urgent institutional innovation in research and extension agencies, NGOs and the private sector.
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