InnoFoodAfrica Blogs



Kibur Engidawork


This report is a summary of a value chain analysis and market survey on four crops: namely maize, teff, faba bean and sweet potato in Ethiopia. These crops are primarily cultivated in rural areas characterized by shortage of farming land and inadequate infrastructure. We looked at the activities implemented by small holder farmers, wholesaler, large- and small-scale processors and their linkages.

Maize, teff, faba bean and sweet potato are critical to food security in Ethiopia as they are among the widely produced and consumed crops in the country. Putting in mind that Ethiopia’s agro-food system as any other African countries shall advance to ensure food security and the overall sustainable developments of the country, attempts should be made to improve the performance of value chain actors that can use technologies and improved seeds. The Ethiopian Ministry of Agricultural underlines that improved agriculture practices does not alone bring meaningful changes unless it is accompanied by efforts to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of value chain actors (Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, 2017). Enhanced performance among the actors not only results in increments of yields for local consumptions but exports. It can also help to reduce waste, low pricing, inconsistence production in agricultural products. However, there is little information about how best these crops can be utilized by various actors to improve the livelihood of people in rural and remote areas.

With the aim of informing interventions to develop resource-efficient, safe and sustainable food production VCs in Ethiopia by empowering small-holder farmers, processors, producers and consumers via, the study identified the major opportunities and barriers related to the production and process of the above mentioned crops. The study is part of a larger InnoFoodAfrica project that aims to operationalize “Locally-Driven Co-Development of Plant-Based Value Chains towards a More Sustainable African Food System with Healthier Diets and Export Potential”.


The study was carried out by a combination of quantitative and qualitative data from both secondary and primary sources. Interviews were conducted with farmers, assemblers, wholesalers, millers, processors, traders, and policy makers in Ethiopia. The analysis helped to identify the main actors, major bottlenecks, gaps and opportunities at farmers, wholesalers, small-scale and large-scale trading levels in value chain of the selected crops in Ethiopia. 

Major Findings

According to this value chain assessment, the key market actors involved in teff, maize, faba bean and sweet potato value chain are farmers, millers, cooperatives, large traders/wholesalers, assemblers (small traders) and households. Thus, value chain development intervention practitioners for these crops should take in to account these actors while devising initiative strategies. –

The major production constraints that the farmers face are lack of fertilizer and poor postharvest crop handing techniques. Furthermore, shortage of land, inadequate supply of improved seed, bad weather conditions, infestation by crop diseases, weed infestation, natural hazards and soil acidity have affected the production of the crops. The study also observed lack of awareness among farmers on improved production technologies and supply of herbicides to control weed. Some of the constraints wholesalers face in expanding and maintaining their businesses include insufficient product market, poor quality crop produces, lack of storage, and problem repaying loan. It was also found that large and small-scale millers/ traders are challenged by insufficient quality agricultural products and tools, interference of illegal brokers, lack of warehouses, inadequate information about the market and price fluctuation, shortage of basic services like electricity and water and lack of skilled manpower.

Despite these challenges, the crops value chain has great economic potential with lots of opportunities. The opportunities include increasing demand and price, suitable land to cultivate the crops, potential use of organic fertilizers such as compost and low seed per hectare and cheap human labour. Availability of cooperatives or consumers’ trade unions and high demand with fair price of the crops for non-edible uses are additional opportunities that give rise to the potential economic value of the crops value chain. Ethiopian government also shows a strong commitment to transform agriculture. Through agricultural extension system, the country has deployed about 21 development agents per 10, 000 population to assist farmers with agricultural activities. These are indicators of the great potential in the value chain which is yet to be utilized by different stakeholders.

Policy implication and recommendations

In the absence of the abovementioned bottlenecks and gaps, the crops could have a great potential to be inputs for household consumption and industrial processed food items in both local and global markets. Going forward, Ethiopia should strengthen the existing linkages among actors; improve the technological and management gaps to withstand the growing structural challenges such as shortage of farming land, climate change and inadequate infrastructure. Such attempts should be aligned with the country’s education, agriculture, finance, transport and other sectors’ policies and strategies.  

To effectively address the gaps, the following recommendations shall be noted by policy makers and intervention implementers:

  • Providing capacity building and refresher trainings for extension workers to improve their knowledge and skill on marketing and value chain.
  • Providing capacity building training on improved production methods and postharvest crop management for men and women farmers through existing agricultural extension system.
  • Providing improved seeds and fertilizers with affordable prices and access to financial services for farmers.
  • Mobilizing farmers to expand irrigation, soil and water conservation practices.
  • Establishing and expanding farmers’ cooperatives and facilitating information exchange to enhance the bargaining position of farmers.
  • Rewarding early adopters and innovative farmers to encourage best practices.
  • Improving existing buying and selling rules, facilitating infrastructural services, providing quality professional advisory services, providing loan services and mentoring for processors and traders.
  • Formulating policy framework to guide and regulate the market, creating a forum to facilitate direct linkage between farmers, traders and processors.
    • For example, branding the crops could enhance qualities and trust between actors
  • Establishing investment promotion programs and enacting regulations to attract foreign investors.
  • Establishing strong marketing information system by engaging the media and communication industries.
  • Encouraging scientific studies to identify improved seeds and best marketing practices.
  • Disseminating information to increase public awareness about the nutritional values of crops such as Faba bean and sweet potato.



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