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News: Farmers in Amhara region face setback as fertilizer distribution disruptions compound amidst reignited conflict

A farmer engaged in row planting in Enarj Enawga woreda of the East Gojjam Zone of the Amhara region (Photo: Agricultural Transformation Institute)

Addis Abeba– Farmers in the Amhara region are facing a setback as chemical fertilizers intended for maize and wheat cultivation have gone missing. The Amhara Agriculture Bureau revealed that over 20,000 quintals of fertilizer have been stolen during transit and from cooperative union warehouses amidst the escalating conflict between the federal government and non-state militia group, Fano.

In response, regional authorities have grounded 81 trucks loaded with over 32,000 quintals of fertilizer to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

The grounded trucks were carrying fertilizers meant for farmers in the region who had recently planted maize and wheat crops. Ajebe Senshaw, deputy head of the Amhara Agriculture Bureau, highlighted that the delayed application of fertilizer on 640,000 hectares of land, where maize and wheat are planted, is already jeopardizing the expected yield, estimated at 35 million quintals.

The deputy head emphasized the urgent need for the fertilizers to reach the intended areas within the next 15 days; otherwise, the agricultural output will suffer significantly.

The Amhara region is home to nearly a quarter of the 16.7 million Ethiopian small-scale farmers. The latest survey by the Ethiopian Statistical Service reveals that these farmers in Amhara cultivate 4.5 million hectares, resulting in an output of 112 million quintals of agricultural products. This amounts to approximately 34% of the nation’s total annual production. Leading the pack is the Oromia region, which boasts an annual yield of 175 million quintals, making it the top-producing region in the country.

For the current Mahir season, the Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation (EABC) has imported close to 14 million quintals of NPS, NPSB, and urea fertilizers worth over one billion dollars. On 17 August, 2023, the corporation declared the successful completion of transporting all the purchased fertilizer to the Djibouti port. The corporation also announced that 12.6 million quintals of fertilizer have already been transported and distributed nationwide.

Unfortunately, the timely delivery of these vital fertilizers to small-scale farmers across the country has been plagued by significant disruptions, partly due to the escalating conflict between the federal government and the non-state militia group, Fano. This severe scarcity of fertilizers has resulted in widespread demonstrations throughout the nation, with protest hubs emerging in various cities, including Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region.

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Over the past few months, Addis Standard has extensively covered protests occurring in various cities and towns within the Amhara regional state, where rural communities have voiced their demand for access to and timely delivery of fertilizers. Other protest hotspots were also observed in regions like Oromia and Hadiya Zone.

According to the Amhara Agriculture Bureau, out of the designated 5.2 million quintals of fertilizer for the region, 4.4 million quintals are either en route to cooperative unions or already in the hands of farmers. To make up for the shortfall, the regional government has also provided 300,000 quintals of leftover fertilizer from the previous harvesting season. However, the task of distributing the remaining fertilizer to farmers in the Amhara region became challenging due to fresh clashes that have reignited in several cities within the region in the past few days.

There has been a significant decrease in hostilities and confrontations in Amhara since a state of emergency was declared in the region on 4 August, 2023. This decree was enacted to address the worsening security crisis following a letter issued the previous day by Yelikal Kefale, the former president of the regional state, requesting intervention from the federal government.

In its most recent statement issued on 26 August, the command post, established to oversee the six-month state of emergency, stated that the region is now “relieved of the risk of destruction and disintegration and is returning to its previous state of normalcy.” The command post reiterated its commitment to conclude the ongoing “law enforcement operation” in a short period and create a favorable environment for the regional administration.

Following a period of relative calm, however, fighting has resurfaced in several cities within the Amhara region in the past few days. According to residents interviewed by Addis Standard, this has resulted in multiple fatalities and numerous injuries in cities such as Finote Selam, Debre Markos, and Debre Tabor.

Ajebe indicated that the bureau is working with the command post to find a solution to the problem and deliver the much-needed fertilizer to farmers before it is too late. AS

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