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News: Ethiopia accelerates preparation of ambitious irrigation roadmap

Aisha Mohammed, Minister of Irrigation and Lowlands (right), and Worknesh Mekonnen, the UNOPS representative to the African Union, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (Photo: Ministry of Irrigation and lowlands/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – Ethiopia took a significant step towards achieving its ambitious ten-year irrigation road map by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Project Services Office (UNOPS). The road map aims to unlock the immense agricultural potential of Ethiopia’s 6.8 million hectares of cultivable land through the implementation of effective and modern irrigation techniques. The MoU was jointly signed on 24 July, 2023, by Aisha Mohammed, the Minister of Irrigation and Lowlands, and Worknesh Mekonnen, the UNOPS representative to the African Union.

The agreement sets the stage for the exploitation of untapped resources by utilizing advanced irrigation infrastructure and practices. Both parties have committed to mobilizing resources for crucial activities such as technical assistance, comprehensive feasibility studies, pilots, and scale-ups. These initiatives are essential to identifying and capitalizing on the abundant opportunities present in Ethiopia’s vast lowlands. UNOPS will provide infrastructure, procurement, and project management services to support the partnership.

The signing of the MoU followed a conference held at the Sky Light Hotel on 21July, 2023, where the Ministry of Irrigation and Lowlands unveiled research findings. Supported financially by the World Bank, the study titled “Irrigation Diagnostic and Stocktaking” sheds light on key aspects related to Ethiopia’s irrigation capabilities, existing challenges, and policy directions. Aisha emphasized the integral role of these research insights in formulating the upcoming irrigation road map.

Currently, only 1.3 million hectares of the available cultivable land in Ethiopia are being utilized for irrigation purposes. Furthermore, traditional irrigation systems still dominate the cultivation landscape, encompassing approximately 70% of the land currently under irrigation. State Minister for Irrigation and Lowlands, Birhanu Megersa, stated that the recently published study will establish a crucial foundation for future irrigation standards and development programs.

The importance of modern irrigation systems gained recognition from the Ethiopian government after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched the off-season farming program three years ago. The program aimed to reduce extensive wheat imports, which cost the country billions of Birr each year, by cultivating wheat locally. Prior to this initiative, Ethiopia used to import 17 million quintals of wheat annually, amounting to $700 million.

In March 2023, Girma Amente, the Minister of Agriculture, announced that Ethiopia had become a wheat exporter. The federal government allocated 6.3 billion birr as a capital budget for the Ministry for the 2016 Ethiopian fiscal year. AS

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