Tef is the main Ethiopian cereal grown on 2.5 million hectares annually, and serves as a staple food for more than 50 million people. The major constraint in tef husbandry is its susceptibility to lodging (where the plant is unable to support its own weight and may fall over or snap) that results in low productivity, about an average of 1 tonne per hectare. Scientific research on improved varieties and management practices of tef have, until recently, been little adopted by farmers. The improved higher yielding varieties tend to produce dark seeds, that are unappealing to consumers. In addition to poor extension work, farmers have been reluctant to adopt the improved varieties.
Debre Seit Agricultural Research Centre (DZARC) developed a hybridisation by crossing 2 improved pure-line varieties (DZ-01-974 and DZ-01-196). The resulting hybrid, Quncho combines popular a white seed colour from DZ-01-196 with the higher yields from DZ-01-974. From 2006 to 2009 the number of farming households using Quncho increased from 300 to 7,741 due to the development of a variety better suited to farmer’s preferences and improved agricultural extension.
DZARC and their partners also developed and used a novel agricultural extension approach to improve adoption rates. First, a complete package of recommended cultural management practices along with the new variety was provided, rather than just the seeds alone. An important part of the package was training provided to farmers by DZARC, with regular follow-up sessions and supervision. Second, the new variety was demonstrated on-farm in large plots of ¼ hectare using a fast 1 year extension approach, rather than using small demo plots over 3 to 4 years, so that farmers were able to see the impact of the new variety and methods on yields more immediately. Farmers were given the initial seed by DZARC on a ‘revolving seed loan,’ a scheme that permits them to repay in equivalent amounts of seed after harvesting. This way, the farmers receive not only seed, but also a guarantee against the uncertainties regarding the performance of the new crop and associated technology.