Define
best
practices

It is a Tuesday morning and six men sit around a wooden table in the meeting room of the district’s (woreda) administration bureau, an hour drive from Bahir Dar. At the head of the table, a smart young man with shirt and jeans stands out from his remaining more experienced and smarter-dressed colleagues. Sitatow Bayleyeon reads out today’s agenda: community planning, irrigation and natural resource management. Those three points will dictate the following months of the approaching dry season. The aim is to be independent of the rain by encouraging farmers to use both surface and underground irrigation. “For all of those activities, we will identify the existing best practices and work on them,” he says.

Sitatow looks at his watch and presses on. Here, time is precious and running out. “There is a huge workload, I am head of the woreda office of agriculture and now I am also head of the woreda administration.” The meeting finishes and Sitatow gets ready for his next appointment: a field trip. Now the jeans and shirt come in handy. There are 18 sub-districts (kebeles) in his woreda with a total of 25,342 households. On his way out, he passes small sheds with ribbed roofs where advisors, locally known as ‘wise men’, assist people in legal affairs. The noise from the main road grows louder as he approaches his motorbike. The next moment he turns the keys, gives the engine a roar, and disappears in a cloud of red dust.

Commitment

Field supervision is part of his job. There are 54 development agents working in his district, identifying low-income households who have problems satisfying their food demand. “Even though there is no study, we can assume that our woreda is food secure,” he claims. But Sitatow’s work does not stop there: “I would like to increase productivity of our farmers. Farmers living in poverty should be alleviated from it and model farmers should be linked to the market.” The woreda counts 506 model farmers and 12 operational training centres, enough contact points to transfer the knowledge and new technologies made available by the government and initiatives like CASCAPE.

“Thanks to CASCAPE, we have a more evidence based and knowledge-intensive approach,” he says checking his watch again. Yet, he feels that everyone’s hard work has not paid off. “This is mainly due to the knowledge gap, as we don’t have sufficient know-how in planning to break the vicious circle of the farmers,” he explains. Long working hours and insufficient pay sees some experts return to office jobs. Sitatow believes that woredas have to work closer together in order to share information on best practices. “There should be a commitment for this, otherwise it is impossible to achieve any impact. Every individual should be committed,” he says before his time is up in the kebele and his dirt bike takes him back to the office.