Voices from the field: Demitu Desasa, Ethiopia

Woman farmer with radio

Demitu Desasa has a wide smile as she shares her story outside her circular home in Leman Ayetu kebele, in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia. Demitu grows wheat and teff on a small plot of land, just a half acre. She also grows beans and a bit of coffee and khat, which is a plant chewed for its stimulant properties.

Demitu recently made a big investment in her soil, purchasing blended fertilizer. The soil in Ethiopia has been farmed for thousands and thousands of years, and farmers are doing everything they can to ensure it has enough nutrients to give them a good harvest year after year.

The Ethiopian Soil Information System has sampled soil in 18,000 kebeles, or villages, and made recommendations so that specially-blended fertilizer can be available to farmers.

Each week, Demitu listens to the local farm radio program, Atota, on Oromia Radio and she heard about the benefits of blended fertilizer. She also heard how other farmers had improved their harvests after purchasing blended fertilizer.

She says, “I have to do every improvement so that I can have a better harvest and a better income.”

Blended fertilizer is an expensive input for a small-scale farmer like Demitu, who typically harvests just enough food to feed her four children.

But last year she made the investment in blended fertilizer thanks to a savings group. Each of the 30 members set aside a bit of money each week and each month, a different person takes home the savings. When it was her turn, she took home 1,400 birr.

Demitu purchased the recommended fertilizer and used it on her wheat field. And her harvest increased by 75%.

This increased harvest provided her with additional money to pay the land tax, school fees, and to purchase clothes. This year, she’s renting more farmland – and she will be sure to use blended fertilizer again.

This was part of a project to use information and communication technologies to scale-up agricultural technology in Ethiopia, which was made possible 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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