The chickpea yields in Ethiopia could be increased by about 90% at the current input level by enhancing the technical efficiency of its production and technology use, revealed a study conducted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) published in Springer Nature’s Food Security journal.
Led by Dr Shalander Kumar, an agricultural economist at ICRISAT, the study was conducted in three major chickpea growing regions in Ethiopia – Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNP) – to estimate the potential to close yield gaps through increased efficiency of chickpea production in the country.
Ethiopia is the sixth-largest producer of chickpea globally and the largest in Africa. Chickpea is Ethiopia’s third most important export legume after faba bean and haricot bean, generating a revenue of about $61 million annually, making chickpea one of the main pulse crops in the country in terms of cropped area, total production and direct human consumption.
As part of the study, the researchers compared technical efficiencies (TE) (the ability of farmers to attain potential crop production per unit of inputs) in chickpea farming in three major chickpea-producing areas of Ethiopia using a two-step meta frontier model.
Although Ethiopia has witnessed significant advances in chickpea production and area planted in the past two decades, data analysed by the researchers showed that the grain yields significantly vary within and across the three study regions.
This study of 681 chickpea-growing farm households from three regions, showed significant differences in the efficiency of chickpea production across regions and individual farm households. The study also reveals that farmers in the three study regions employ different types and levels of technology for chickpea production.
What are the factors influencing chickpea production in Ethiopia?
The study indicates significant potential production gaps due to inefficiency and identifies its drivers.
The first one was the size of land allocated to chickpeas by a household that significantly impacted the production performance.
“Relatively larger chickpea farms performed better, most likely benefitting from the specialization and economies of scale. In other words, if farmers allocate suboptimal land sizes to chickpea on their farms, their production performance decreases,” read the study.
The second important factor that influence the performance of chickpea production was the inappropriate usage of nitrogen-phosphorus – sulphur (NPS compound fertilizer) and its application rates.
“While some farmers are below the fertilizers recommendation rates for chickpea, others might be using higher NPS amount than its requirement,” read the study.
Pesticide use was identified as the third most important input influencing the chickpea production performance. Increased use of pesticides to control pests and diseases, especially the pod borer can enhance the chickpea production performance. The access to and use of oxen for field operations was another important factor that positively influenced in chickpea production.
What does the study suggest for improving production efficiency and grain yields?
Enhancing farmers’ awareness through participatory extension programmes and improved access to low-cost financial resources (credit) and input markets may encourage need-based pesticide use and optimal level of fertilizer use for increased chickpea productivity and production in Ethiopia.
Production of chickpea was much more efficient in households with greater involvement of women workforce. Therefore, strengthening capacity of women chickpea producers is likely to result in significant gains in production efficiency and yield levels. Formal years of schooling was another factor that increased the efficiency of chickpea production.
How much production can increase?
The study clearly shows that improving TE will help farmers increase crop yield at the same level of inputs or achieve the same level of yield at lesser inputs.
Analysis indicated that if farmers overcome some of the practical limitations in accessing the knowledge-based interventions and capital and adapt to biophysical constraints, it may increase the average technical efficiency (TE) of chickpea production from the current level of 0.53 to 0.75 if not 1. It implied that the farmers could increase chickpea output by about 53%.
“Thus, chickpea production in Ethiopia could be increased from its current level of about 5,00,000 ton to about 7,50,000 ton by improving TE while narrowing the yield gaps,” read the study.
The researchers analysed the different production levels and identified ways to increase chickpea production while minimizing yield gaps. Evidence from the study suggested a realignment of gender priorities at the farm level in the conventionally male-dominated extension system that would enhance the efficiency of chickpea production. There is a need to organize gender-responsive training (by changing the approach, time and place of training) and refocus it on women to sustainably intensify chickpea production.
Access to labour/farm machinery and oxen were identified as other key drivers that can potentially improve production. While increased access to improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides were critically important to improve chickpea productivity, the researchers felt there is a need to enhance farmers’ awareness of rational use of fertilizers to have a positive effect on chickpea performance.
Policy support for enhanced small-scale mechanization, especially for harvesting and threshing, would mitigate labour requirements and improve the performance of chickpea production, reduce drudgery and enable better utilization of crop residue as livestock fodder.
The availability of highly efficient farmers in each region suggested that promoting farmer to farmer’ extension is likely to significantly increase the efficiency of chickpea production and prevent losses due to inefficiency of production and yield gaps in Ethiopia.