Aethiopien August 15 337

 A satisfied Ethiopian beekeeper, who increased the honey production significantly when introducing beehives during
a cooperation with the German 
development projects “One World No Hunger”.

With 97 million people by 2015, a rapidly growing population and vulnerability towards stricter weather conditions, Ethiopia faces challenges linked to agriculture. International cooperation contributes to solutions, also within the organic farming sector as shown by this report from the German initiative
“One World No Hunger”. ISOFAR President Gerold Rahmann is the program manager of “Green Innovation Center – Ethiopia”, which is part of the One World No Hunger program.

Geography and main productions

Ethiopia is a large and diverse country. It is land-locked and located in the Horn of Africa, with an area of 1.1 million km2. The bio-physical environment includes a variety of ecosystems, with significant differences in climate, soil properties, vegetation types, agricultural potential, biodiversity and water resources. Hence, also the farming systems are very diverse, with products ranging from rainforest crops (e.g., coffee, tea, tropical fruits) via humid-cold crops (e.g., grain crops like maize, rice, wheat, pulses and oil seeds) to desert crops (wild collection from bushes and herbs). This bundle of food crops includes also unique food crops like Tef (millet) and Enzett (false banana). Livestock plays an important role in these diverse agro-ecological conditions. Cattle, sheep, goats, camels, poultry and bees are the predominant animals all over the country. For food safety reasons, only leather so far has a potential for export of premium livestock products.

Ethiopia is a country of many nations, nationalities and peoples, with an estimated total population of 97 million. Only 17% lives in urban centers, the great majority of them in Addis Ababa. At a current annual growth rate of 2.6 percent, Ethiopia’s population is estimated to reach 130 million by 2025, and is projected by the United Nations to be among the world’s ten largest countries by 2050. The urbanisation will increase by 20-30 million people, because people move from rural areas into the towns. They will search for jobs and better living conditions. The middle class is increasing by numbers of people and percentage. There is an increasing demand for non-contaminated (pesticide free) food, particularly in expatriate and more wealthy urban areas.

Small income, but agricultural growth

Ethiopia is vulnerable to trade shocks from international food and fuel prices, and to large domestic weather-related shocks as demonstrated by the 2011/12 East Africa droughts. Lack of foreign currency for required imports is one of the most important difficulties to develop the economy and livelihood. Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries. The country’s per capita income of US$570 is substantially lower than the regional average of US$1,257 and among the ten lowest worldwide. Ethiopia is ranked 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The agricultural sector remains a dominant sector in the Ethiopian economy and an important source of economic growth. Although there is an on-going structural transformation in the Ethiopian economy, predominantly from agriculture to services and manufacturing, agriculture still comprises 45% of total output, and continues to dominate employment (78%) as well as export incomes (80%). Despite its declining share in the economy, the agriculture sector is growing rapidly. Over the past 15 years, the annual growth rate has been ca. 7% thanks to an increased area under cultivation, and increased productivity driven by large public investment including extension service, rural roads, and advances in public policy such as improvements in land tenure security.

Ambitious public targets for agricultural production have been set, and the production of cereals, pulses and oil seeds increased from 180 million quintals in 2009/10 to 274 million quintals in 2013/14, which is slightly above the target set for 2014/15, 268 million quintals (1 quintal = 100 kg).

Exports: Coffee, oil seeds, pulses and roses

Coffee export comprises 65% of the foreign exchange for the country. Further export crops are oil seeds and pulses such as niger seeds, sesame, linseeds, sunflower seeds, groundnuts, rape seeds, castor oil seeds, pumpkin seeds, haricot beans, pea-beans, horse beans, chick peas and lentils. Floriculture has also significant share in the export market. The export of honey is currently low, but there is a large potential. According to the data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Germany is the prime export partner of Ethiopia, accounting for 11-13% of the export volume. Other major partners are Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, US, Switzerland and Italy.

Shock fall in coffee prize called for organic farming initiative

Ethiopia has a significant organic production and a high number of organic farmers. About 170.000 smallholders, with farms comprising on average 1 ha, produce organic coffee, sesame, honey and some other products. 167,000 ha (0.5%) of the Ethiopian farmland is managed organically. According to the Ethiopian Organic Association (EOA) there are about 60 certified projects, involving about 140,000 smallholders. The organic sector has a rapid growth, with about 12% each year. Lack of knowledge and infrastructure hamper an increased export. EOA keeps track of organic sales, and 15,000 tons of organically certified products were sold during 2014.

Ethiopia has a high potential for production of organic quality crops for the local and regional retail markets. Although the country‘s traditional production system is in line with current organic requirements, the modern concept of organic agriculture was only introduced around 13 years ago.

Following the shock price fall in the coffee market in the early 2000s, the Government of Ethiopia invited consultants from Europe to designate a strategy, which could help Ethiopian coffee to become competent in the world market. It was during this time that the concepts of organic agriculture and certification were introduced. In 2003, the government announced it would support the development of organic agriculture, and a task force was established to outline an Ethiopian Organic Agriculture Regulation, which could later be implemented into the juridical system as a Regulation for Organic Agricultural Products. It was designed to describe a general definition of organic production and to define the regulatory framework for growing and processing. In March 2006, the Government issued Federal Negarit Gazeta: Proclamation No. 488/2006 to establish “The Ethiopian Organic Agriculture System“.

Despite a growing sector of organic agriculture, there is little activity in the field of processing of organic foods. The only recorded product is the production of Tahina from sesame seeds. The average annual production of Tahin is 3 tons.

So far, organic certified production is targeted towards the export market, without very low domestic sales. The reason for low domestic consumption  is a combination of an absence of national standards, low awareness amongst consumers, and limited consideration from the government side. On the other side, external factors such as a reliable market situation, clear trading schemes and a secure premium on certified products encourage farmers to produce for export, hampering the development of a national market. Coffee and sesame are either exported directly by the producers or enter the Ethiopian commodities Exchange (ECX). All commodities entering ECX are directed towards the export market, unless the product is below required quality standard. For cereals, the input of agrochemicals is more difficult to avoid, and  organic certification is not considered so far.

Honey Etiopien350pix


Ethiopia has a high potential for organic production, but the country is at a very low stage compared with other countries, even in Africa. The potential needs a further developmental support to establish production, processing and trading infrastructure, as well as to increase the human capacities for organic production along the whole value chain.

Read more about One World, No Hunger








Ethiopian honey is processed, labelled and
sold as organic 
honey in local shops.
The potential for export is also significant.