Project Description

Picture: courtesy of A. Avdeenko / A. Bohne


In an ongoing project in cooperation with the GIZ Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Government, we analyze the impacts of improved soil fertility management methods in Ethiopia’s highlands on agricultural practices and productivity.*

The second most populated country on the African continent, Ethiopia is also one of the least urbanized countries in the world, with 80% of the population residing in rural areas (ECOSOC 2016). They mostly live in the highlands, where the overwhelming part of the cultivable land is to be found (Mulualem & Yebo 2015). Accordingly, a large share of the population (about 85%, CSA 2015) relies on agriculture as a main source of income. Despite the importance of the agricultural sector and of the natural potential of the highland region, both soil fertility and agricultural yields remain low and poverty and under-nutrition are widespread.

To increase agricultural productivity and thereby reduce farmers’ vulnerability, an integrated soil fertility management project (ISFM+) was launched in 2015 in the regions of Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray. ISFM+ focuses on soil protection and rehabilitation in the Ethiopian highlands and aims at influencing the soil characteristics in ways that optimize plant growth and improve the availability of scarce nutrients. The integrated approach chosen makes use of farmers’ own resources and farming practices, including conserving soil and water, and crop rotation in the fields. It targets wheat, maize, and teff production. Through advice, capacity building and support to Ethiopia’s agricultural extension service and agricultural bureaus, the project is expected to achieve a wider use of integrated soil fertility management technologies and increased crop yields.


The research approach, a randomized controlled trial (RCT), allows for rigorous assessment of the project’s impacts by comparing treatment and control micro- watersheds as units of intervention. This impact evaluation will contribute to the effectiveness of the ISFM+’s training-based program by providing knowledge on soil productivity, farmers’ attitudes toward innovative technologies, evidence of farmers already employing practices like those introduced by the project, and more generally, farmers’ agricultural approaches. The insights generated by the evaluation will thereby inform soil-protection and food-security strategies.


*The project has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).