Ethiopia fertilizer sector assessment

Fertilizer Alerts identify current challenges and urgent action in the Ethiopian fertilizer sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders.

Below, please find the most recent fertilizer alert for Ethiopia with key actions defined. You can also download the complete assessment.

Methodology

Rapid assessments are conducted at the country level in May and June 2020 through survey and focus group discussions (FGDs). In its approach the rapid assessments are inspired by the sector model developed by AidEnvironment. Read more about the methodology on our page 'Rapid assessments: methodology'.

Fertilizer sector assessment - July 2020

Alert 1: Mobility restrictions and fear of infection limit the import and national distribution of fertilizers

The impact

  • The COVID-19 crisis affects the timely delivery of fertilizer bags from India to the port of Djibouti, which slows down fertilizer supply in Ethiopia
  • The cross-border transport of fertilizer has been impacted to a limited extent (see Fertilizer watch, page 8)
  • The transport of fertilizer from the port of Djibouti to 106 central stores has been affected (according to the majority of survey respondents; see Alert dashboard, page 7)
  • The risk of contracting COVID-19 has created fear among labourers working at the port and warehouses in Djibouti, and in central stores
  • Truck drivers are unwilling to engage in the transport of fertilizer as they are afraid of contracting COVID-19; 100-120 trucks were available for deliveries per day in mid-June, which is well below the daily 250 trucks required to deliver fertilizer to central stores across the country
  • The cost of transporting fertilizer has doubled
  • Labour associations have demanded work be halted in several occasions; labourers who continue to work have tripled their fee for unloading goods
  • The process of offloading trucks takes much longer (2-3 days), which further slows down supply and increases costs
  • Some central stores have been closed temporarily due to fears of spreading COVID-19
  • Central stores are unable to rent additional storage facilities as private owners are also concerned about the further spread of the virus
  • Those involved in loading and unloading trucks are afraid to meet drivers as their health status is unclear and they travel from cities where the rate of COVID-19 infection is rising

Actions required

  • Promote and support the establishment of multi-stakeholder task forces, at federal and regional levels, to address challenges in the transport and distribution of fertilizer; ensure that these task forces include the health sector
  • Support the task forces in the development and implementation of COVID-19 crisis response strategies that address emerging challenges in the supply and transport of fertilizer; the strategies should include an operational plan, actions required for resource mobilization, the sharing of responsibilities, and mechanisms for strengthening integration and collaboration
  • Raise awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic and enforce required socialdistancing and hygiene regulations among stakeholders and labourers involved in the distribution and transport of fertilizers
  • Create awareness among central store and union workers and enhance their understanding of their responsibilities in relation to operating and working safely
  • Ensure that workers across the entire fertilizer supply chain are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene products
  • Urge the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and regional Bureaus of Agriculture (BoAs) to closely monitor, review, update and amend the fertilizer supply and distribution schedule, in this continuously changing situation
  • Prioritize the supply and distribution of fertilizer according to the agroecologies and cropping calendars of different areas and crops
  • Foster the partial shipment of fertilizer bags from India to Djibouti, rather than waiting for shipments to reach capacity
  • Increase the number of trucks that travel to Djibouti to transport fertilizers
  • Provide the resources and instructions for disinfecting trucks upon arrival and before unloading
  • Establish a mechanism to replace and change truck drivers responsible for driving to and from Djibouti, with those driving in and out of Addis Ababa
  • Set up testing stations with the authorities to conduct COVID-19 screening and provide resources for truck drivers to go into self-quarantine
  • Identify and contract large transport companies for the transportation of fertilizer from the port of entrance to regions and woredas, avoiding frequent movements of small vehicles

Alert 2: Mobility restrictions hamper the last-mile delivery of fertilizers to unions and cooperatives

The impact

  • Mobility restrictions limit the supply of fertilizers to distribution centres and subsequently affect the availability of fertilizer for purchase at 3,500 unions and cooperatives (see dashboard, page 7)
  • Mobility restrictions and social distancing hamper the distribution of fertilizer through cooperative stores at kebele level
  • Social-distancing measures affect the day-to-day activities of workers at distribution centres, unions and cooperatives; survey respondents indicated that the measures have a negative impact (see dashboard, page X)
  • The price for loading and unloading fertilizer has increased significantly
  • Moreover, survey respondents indicated that mobility restrictions have led to a decrease in the number of trucks travelling from regions to distribution centres, unions and cooperatives
  • Participants in focus group discussions (FGDs) and experts indicated that the cost of renting trucks for the transportation of fertilizer to woredas and farmers has increased up to tenfold
  • Reductions in the availability and distribution of fuel, particularly in Tigray, affect fertilizer distribution
  • In Tigray state, the regional government determines the price of fertilizer, which causes fertilizer supply to become a loss-making operation for cooperatives and unions as they cannot recover the increased cost of transportation, which subsequently puts their business at risk of bankruptcy
  • In other states - including Amhara; Oromia; and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) - the regional governments do not fix the price of fertilizer; cooperatives can recover their increased costs by raising the price of fertilizer to be paid by farmers, subsequently reducing affordability for and use by farmers
  • Cooperatives need to cover the extra transport and storage costs, which ultimately increases the price of fertilizer for farmers (in all regions except for Tigray)

Actions required

  • Create awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic among transport workers and stakeholders involved in the last-mile delivery of fertilizers
  • Provide PPE and hygiene products to workers at distribution centres, unions and cooperatives
  • Ensure compliance with government regulations on social-distancing and hygiene measures among workers at distribution centres, unions and cooperatives
  • Support an increase in the number of trucks contracted for the transportation of fertilizers from distribution centres to unions and cooperatives
  • Urge unions and cooperatives to disinfect fertilizer already in storage
  • Encourage the BoA in Tigray to provide financial support to cooperatives, compensating them for their losses or subsidizing fertilizer transport

Alert 3: Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures hinder farmers from purchasing fertilizers at unions and cooperatives

The impact

  • The participants of both the survey and FGDs highlighted the fact that due to the limited availability of transport and fears of contracting the virus during their travels, farmers are restricted to traveling to cooperatives to purchase fertilizer
  • The quantity of fertilizer that will be used by farmers over the coming season, as estimated during FGDs, is likely to be reduced
  • Moreover, an increase in the price of fertilizer will affect its sale and use
  • Participants in FGDs indicated that because of delays in fertilizer supply farmers have shifted fertilizer application from maize to late-season crops; for example, to teff in Western-Oromia
  • Restrictions on the number of people who can meet in groups affect the operation of development groups; this limits their involvement in the distribution of fertilizer to farmers
  • Participants in FGDs revealed that the restrictions hamper the use of the voucher system for purchasing fertilizers, as the system requires at least 20 farmers to register for voucher on the same form

Actions required

  • Create awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic and enforce required socialdistancing and hygiene regulations among staff and workers at cooperatives and customers
  • Develop a strategy to distribute and supply fertilizer at locations that are accessible to farmers
  • Support cooperatives in the set-up of fertilizer distribution schemes, which allow orders to be prepared and specific time slots to be allocated to farmers; this prevents mass mobilization in fertilizer distribution and sales
  • Increase the working hours of workers at cooperatives (e.g. 12hrs, 7 days a week) to create a wider window for farmer customers to visit the centre
  • Promote the sale of vouchers for fertilizer purchase at kebele level and reduce the number of farmers required for the system to operate
  • Encourage the use of financial incentives for staff involved in fertilizer supply because of the increased risks they face in performing their duties at the time of the pandemic

Alert 4: Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures affect interactions between extensionists and farmers

The impact

  • Mobility restrictions and social-distancing measures affect the capacity of extensionists to conduct their work promoting the use of good agronomic practices, including fertilizers; survey respondents indicated that such measures have a negative impact (see dashboard, page 7)
  • Extension officers are hindered from gathering information for fertilizer demand forecasting and from providing advice about fertilizers to farmers
  • Social-distancing measures prevent extension officers from conducting or organizing fertilizer demonstrations and field days; they cannot organize farmer training events, and if they are able to set up demonstrations, the measures limit the number farmers allowed to visit them
  • During the FGDs, experts indicated that the budget allocated to fertilizer demonstrations has been reassigned to COVID-19 responses
  • Because of uncertainty and limited knowledge about the pandemic, experts have noticed that farmers are reluctant to interact with extensionists during field supervision
  • The social-distancing measures impede group and peer learning among farmers, which prevents extension officers from achieving scale
  • During FGDs, participants indicated that the cluster approach, in which farmers share and exchange labour, information and knowledge, is not feasible as long as social-distancing and mobility restrictions are in place

Actions required

  • Create awareness among extension officers about the COVID-19 pandemic and enforce required social-distancing and hygiene regulations
  • Provide extension officers with PPE and hygiene products
  • Design and promote the use of alternative extension modalities, including supportive extension training and communication materials, and organize demonstrations and field days involving a limited number of participants
  • Develop and provide guidelines to arrange training events with a limited number of participants, which are in line with COVID-19 social-distancing measures
  • Promote the use of information and communications technology (ICT) such as television, radio, and interactive voice response platforms to disseminate information; prepare and distribute guidelines for the use of ICT in extension
  • Purchase airtime on television and radio to disseminate agricultural information
  • Invest in the purchase and distribution of tablets among development agents located at kebele level so that they can reach farmers through web- and mobilebased extension practices
  • Promote the use of megaphones by extension officers to disseminate information among farmers
  • Design, distribute and promote the use of posters, brochures and other printed communication materials
  • Address aspects of COVID-19 measures and ways to adapt extension work and farm work during the training of extension agents
  • Engage with various levels of government to regularly review mobility and social-distancing measures, and request them to be specific about the impact of these measures on extension work, such as the number and quota of employees allowed in the office, restrictions on farm visits, and the number of farmers participating in events