Mechanisation for smallholders in Ethiopia

Project description

Title: Agricultural mechanisation and technology for smallholder productivity (AMTP) 
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ethiopia 
Lead executing agency: Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)
Overall term: 2015 to 2021

Tractors_oxen plough


Agriculture plays a major role in Ethiopian society. It provides a livelihood for 79 per cent of the population and accounts for 40 per cent of total economic output. In those parts of Ethiopia designated as ‘high potential areas’, considerable increases in productivity are possible and can in turn be used to supply other parts of the country or even allow Ethiopia to become a net food exporter. 

The aim of the Ethiopian Government is to adopt agricultural mechanisation solutions as one way of achieving sustainable increases in smallholder productivity, and thus contribute to both higher incomes and the development of rural regions. 

Around 300 contractors (in particular private service providers and cooperatives) offer mechanisation services to Ethiopian smallholders. Yet the demand for such services far outstrips the supply. Until now, the use of machinery has been restricted largely to primary soil cultivation and to harvesting grain with combines. In most of these cases, the technology used is not only unsuitable for agro-ecological conditions, but is also obsolete and of poor quality. Furthermore, the number of technical training courses available in the area of agricultural technology is extremely limited. The efficiency and quality of mechanisation services are therefore also low. 

The lack of innovation in agricultural mechanisation and technology prevents smallholders from increasing their productivity and income.


More smallholders are using high-quality mechanisation services and technologies to raise their productivity and income levels.



Technical and business training courses are used to develop the capacities of mechanisation service-providers and their employees (in particular machine operators and mechanics). The quality and efficiency of the services provided by the machinery already in use are therefore improved. 

Practical demonstrations of modern mechanisation technologies are conducted on smallholders’ land so as to illustrate the positive impacts of the technology on yields. Technologies are presented which are suitable for agricultural use locally. They comprise farming equipment that can be used for a broad range of work performed on the field, in addition to ploughing and harvesting. The aim of such demonstrations is to boost demand for the relevant services. If sufficient demand exists, any investment in such technologies that will subsequently enable providers to offer services will be a profitable one. 

stubble m demo


Results are becoming evident, not only in the area of training but also in relation to practical demonstrations.


  • 49 service-providers (owners of agricultural machinery) took part in training courses on business plan development and agricultural machinery management. 
  • 76 machine operators were given training on how to operate tractors correctly (including safety standards) and on soil cultivation methods. 
  • The trained service-providers and their machinery operators together provide their mechanisation services to around 6,700 smallholder households. 
  • In cooperation with a local agricultural machinery dealer, a total of 94 young people were trained in 2018 to become tractor and combine harvester operators. 

Practical demonstrations of modern technologies: 

  • Mould board ploughing on 86 hectares. This technology improves integrated pest management as well as soil fertility compared to the prevalent ploughing technology (disc ploughing).
  • Seed drilling on a total 134 hectares. It is worth noting that smallholders have actively asked for what is for them a new service and have paid a relatively high price of 1,500 Ethiopian birr (approximately 55 euros) per hectare (compared to an average of between 800 and 1,200 birr per hectare for ploughing). One of the reasons for this is that the seeding rate per hectare can be halved by seed drilling as opposed to sowing by hand (with increases in yield being recorded at the same time), thereby reducing the amount of money spent on better quality seeds which are not available in sufficient quantities. 
  • Stubble mulching on 180 hectares: Under traditional arable farming, this procedure is not being performed. Working stubble back into the soil after the harvest supports integrated weed control, helps to maintain moisture levels in the soil and increases soil fertility due to the incorporation of organic matter.