National Chickpea Innovation Platform: Way forward in Ethiopia

Bringing together all actors in the chickpea value chain was a key focus for setting up a National Chickpea Innovation Platform. Other new initiatives include enhancing chickpea productivity and marketing based on the targets of the Ethiopian Growth and Transformation Plan 2 (GTP2) and enhancing household consumption for nutrition and food security– were discussed at a recent workshop in Ethiopia.


Participants generally agreed that chickpea has made remarkable increase in productivity over the last decade but has not reached its potential. Notably, chickpea productivity in Israel is 6.1 tons per ha, the highest in the world. The GTP2 has set a target of increasing the average productivity of chickpea from the current 1.91 tons per ha to 2.8 tons per ha and the total production from the current 0.45 million tons to 0.69 million tons by 2020.

Opportunities for achieving this goal include:

  • Double cropping with cereals (tef, wheat, barley, maize and rice);
  • Production in niches currently not being used;
  • Increasing the number of chickpea processors;
  • Involvement of research and development institutions to tackle biotic and abiotic stresses and design improved agronomic practices;
  • Enhanced adoption of improved varieties and their production packages;
  • Growing demand in major export destinations thus assuring farmers a market for their produce;
  • Proximity to African (Egypt and Sudan), European and Middle Eastern markets relative to competitors such as Mexico, Canada and Australia;
  • The ‘Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa’ (SITA), a project linking Indian investors with African legume farmers.


Many constraints along the chickpea value chain were also identified by the participants.

  • Most international markets demand larger seed of uniform size. Produce from Ethiopia is of low quality (small grain size, mixed and impure) and faces strong competition from other chickpea exporting countries (Australia, Canada, Mexico).
  • Current varieties lack traits of interest such as combining high yield, mechanized production and harvesting, market preferences and pest/disease resistance as well as tolerance to abiotic stress factors.
  • Chickpea has received limited attention in terms of input supply especially fertilizers; only limited efforts have been put on improvement and exploitation of biological nitrogen fixation capacity.
  • Chickpea is considered a secondary crop after investment in the main cereal crop. It faces stiff competition for resources, inputs and labor from cereals (tef, barley and wheat) which have better yields, allow mechanized operations and fetch better prices.
  • Relative to cereals, chickpea does not receive sufficient attention by the national and regional extension systems.
  • Technologies for effective cereal-chickpea double cropping are inadequate; major cereal production areas are under mechanized production while mechanization of chickpea production is still in rudimentary stages.
  • Supply of seed of improved varieties is limited.
  • Limited value addition in terms of scale and level and associated price volatility in the local (and export) market.

Strategic interventions

  • The stakeholders identified strategic interventions, some of which are currently being undertaken through various projects while others are seen as gaps.
  • Developing and disseminating stable varieties that combine high yield and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress as well as mechanized production.
  • Development and promotion of integrated crop management practices suitable for chickpea production in different cropping systems (integrated soil fertility management, rhizobia inoculants, soil moisture management, integrated pest and disease management).
  • Strengthen the capacity of national and regional researchers for chickpea crop improvement (breeding, agronomy, mechanization, seed multiplication and post-harvest handling).
  • Strengthen/establish chickpea seed producing farmers groups and cooperatives besides building the capacity of seed enterprises and other informal and semi-formal sector players to produce and distribute quality chickpea seed.
  • For early generation seed supply, Ethiopian Seed Enterprises (ESE) as well as regional seed enterprises should be encouraged to produce and avail basic seed
    of chickpea. The public and private seed sector should be encouraged to produce chickpea seed in rotation with cereals.
  • To promote mechanization, the government should encourage service providers to identify, introduce and test pre- and postharvest farm machinery prototypes and technologies (planter, cultivator, harvester and thresher) and facilitate local industries to fabricate and manufacture farm machinery.
  • To enhance consumption, and thereby increase demand, it was recommended to develop and promote different recipes and products of chickpea.
  • To fill the gap on market information, the need for regular socio-economic and market surveys was underscored.

The national chickpea innovation platform will be led by the Directorate of Crops Research, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). It will work through thematic working groups: seed systems, marketing and value addition, production, nutrition and gender and theme leaders will be members of a steering committee under the leadership of the Director of Crops Research, EIAR. The members agreed to meet twice a year and the operational resources of the platform will be shared among partners. A 6-member task force was formed to fast-track the operationalization of the activities of the platform. The members of the task force are: Dr Mekasha Chichaybelu, Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) National Coordinator, EIAR; Dr Chris Ojiewo, Senior Scientist – Legumes Breeding, ICRISAT, Dr Sheleme Beyene, PI, Scaling-up Pulse Innovations for Food and Nutrition Security in Southern Ethiopia, Hawassa University; Dr Daniel Dawuro, Director, Legumes Value Chain, Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA); Dr Abdul Sammed, Director Regulatory and Input Services, Ministry of Agriculture & Natural Resource (MoANR), and Dr Yohannes Assefa, Secretary, Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices Processors-Exporters Association (EPOSPEA). The membership of the platform was mapped to various stakeholders including those not represented during the meeting.

In his opening remarks, Dr Asnake Fikre, Director of Crops Research, EIAR, said, “My pride as the Director of Crops Research is not about the huge number of projects operating in the country or on a crop, but the impact created. As such it is important for the stakeholders to talk to one another to avoid duplication.”

Dr Tracy Powell, Agricultural Development Officer, USAID-Ethiopia, emphasized the need for various development partners to work together with chickpea stakeholders for better synergies and more efficient resource utilization. She singled out the need for USAID-supported projects to work with TLIII project on an integrated seed sector development. Dr Amsale Mengistu, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation office in Ethiopia, expressed satisfaction with the Tropical Legumes Project (Phases I and II). She emphasized the need to form innovative partnerships with likeminded stakeholders and players in the chickpea value chain to enhance the gains made so far and make even greater impacts by filling the gaps through the on-going TLIII project.

Dr Emmanuel Monyo, TL III Project Coordinator, ICRISAT, reiterated continued commitment of the project to realizing the common agenda and outlined how TL III is well integrated into the 2020 vision of the GTP2.

The workshop was held in Debre-Zeit from 8-10 Dec. Participants included representatives from international organizations (International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and ICRISAT), national organizations (EIAR-Debre Zeit, EIAR-Melkassa); regional organizations (Oromia, Tigray, Amhara, Sothern); research institutes; MoANR; Regional Bureaus of Agriculture; ESE; ATA; Hawassa University; processors/traders/exporters (Agricultural Commodities Supplies); private seed companies (BaleGreen); and post-harvest handlers.

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