Sharing innovation on the radio, and throughout the community


In Awash Bune kebele, in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, women don’t plough the fields. They hire labourers or leave the ploughing for their husbands. This is largely because the heavy plough and maresha, or wooden beam, weighs seven kilograms before it’s covered in heavy, sticky, waterlogged mud.

But this doesn’t stop women from having an opinion on how ploughing should be done in their fields.

Aster Etuche and Tslahy Tedesu are two women farmers in Awash Bune kebele who have learned about the Aybar BBM plough on the radio and are now using it, sharing one plough between six farming families.

Ethiopian farmers Aster Etuche and Tslahy Tedesu
Tslahy Tedesu (left) and Aster Etuche outside their respective homes

The Aybar BBM is a made-in-Ethiopia innovation. It’s a lighter broad-bed and furrowmaker, just half the weight. It’s meant to assist in creating furrows for draining waterlogged soils and for creating broad beds in which the seeds will germinate. In Ethiopia, only 25% of the 7.6 million hectares of vertisols are used for farming, because much of the rest is too waterlogged for planting.

Aster and Tslahy tune in to Atota, the farmer program on Oromia Radio, each week. Aster keeps the radio in her home, locked away as a prized possession, between meetings, pulling it out when the women gather to tune in.

After learning about the advantages of the Aybar BBM, and hearing from other farmers who have used it, they decided to make the investment. Rather than each purchasing one, however, they decided to share, taking turns when using it before they plant wheat.

Aster says the Aybar BBM is an improvement because the oxen do not have to be as strong to pull the plough through the waterlogged soil. And it doesn’t put the seeds far into the soil like the former broad-bed and furrowmaker. It also creates nice, straight furrows and is easier to lift out of the soil.

Tslahy Tedesu plants a quarter acre of wheat. She says they harvested 25% more wheat last season after using the Aybar BBM.

This was part of a project to use information and communication technologies to scale-up agricultural technology in Ethiopia, which was made possible with the support of Digital Green through USAID’s New Alliance ICT Extension Challenge Fund, a component of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

Launched in 2012 at the G-8 Summit, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a partnership that contributes to the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). It aims to address constraints that prevent smallholder farmers, especially women, from increasing their output. The New Alliance ICT Extension Challenge Fund focuses on contributing to this goal by supporting financially sustainable ICT-enabled extension services to help reach more farmers so they adopt new techniques that can increase their productivity.

About the author
Katie Burnham just finished a yearlong Uniterra program volunteer placement with Farm Radio International in Arusha, Tanzania, where she managed the Barza Wire news service. She recently returned to Canada and took up a new position with the Farm Radio team in Ottawa, coordinating the production, distribution, and monitoring of our resources for broadcasters.


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