Strengthening Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) for Effective Technology Transfer in Amhara region, Ethiopia
SAA Ethiopia successfully implemented Pro-Environment Market-oriented Agricultural Project (PREMAP-I), in the North Mecha district of Amhara region and the Negele Arsi district of Oromia from March 2022 to May 2023, under the funding of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). At the Beraqat Kebele Farmers’ Training Center (FTC) in Amhara, which was transformed into a Model FTC with newly constructed facilities, the inauguration ceremony was held on May 28th 2023 to celebrate the successful project completion and to transfer the FTC to the local authority.
The inauguration ceremony of Beraqat FTC was attended by farmers, extension agents (EAs), and guests from the region and district. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was done jointly by Mr. Bekele Hailu, Head of North Mecha District Agriculture Office, Mr. Amsalu Gobaw, Head of Public Relations at Amhara Region Agriculture Bureau, and SAA Ethiopia Country Director Dr. Fentahun Mengistu.
Guided by the district extension team leader, the participants visited the training and exhibition rooms, a greenhouse for seedling production, cold storage for vegetables, and water-well-equipped with solar-powered water pumps and drip systems. The 2-hectare compound is also fenced for the security of the FTC compound. In addition, the project has provided pre- and post-harvest technologies to strengthen agricultural extension service delivery. These include gardening tools, farm implements, two-wheel tractors with rotary tiller and 1.5-ton capacity Trailer, a tractor-mounted harvester, a maize sheller, multi-crop thresher, metal silos, and safety devices for safer agrochemical applications.
The tour of the Beraqat FTC also included an introduction to an AI-powered brain for an agricultural solution, known as “e-kakashi”. This decision-support device, installed for digital agricultural extension and advisory services, monitors environmental conditions such as solar radiation, air temperature, relative humidity, soil temperature, soil volumetric water content, and soil electrical conductivity. “Based on the pre-set cultivation navigation or recipe, e-kakashi provides advisory tips to EAs and farmers, delivering early warning messages through their smartphones about irrigation frequency, pest and disease alerts, and the prediction of optimum harvesting periods," explained Mr. Bekele. He shared an instance where SAA's Tokyo office, noticing low soil volumetric water content in the potato demonstration plot, promptly alerted the DAs in Ethiopia to irrigate the vegetables.
Participants also visited ICT gadgets like Digital Classroom System (DCS) for video-based farmers' training and solar-powered desktop computers with printers to be used for data management.
Following the visit, a panel discussion chaired by Dr. Fentahun and Mr. Bekele was conducted. The discussion elaborated on the project objectives and the implemented capacity development activities, infrastructure development, technology delivery and training to EAs and smallholder farmers, which included trainings on permagardening and installation of solar-powered water pumps and drip irrigation kits.
Mr. Amsalu, representing the regional bureau of agriculture, highlighted the importance of the Beraqat FTC. He emphasized its role in transforming the extension system and changing the mindset of farmers thanks to the various technologies and materials it houses. In his remark, he also stressed the need for proper management and effective utilization of resources. Participant farmers expressed their appreciation for the support provided by SAA and the Japanese Government. Finally, the event was concluded with a certificate reward ceremony to recognize those individuals and institutions who supported the project implementation and the facilities officially handed over to the district by Dr. Fentahun.