Introducing new agricultural technologies and marketing strategies: A means for increasing income and nutrition of farm households in Ethiopia
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Many developing regions have excellent potential agricultural resources. However, historically, the population has become so concentrated in these regions that acute poverty and malnutrition now predominate. The food scientists’ response to the chronic nutrition problem has often been subsidized by bio-fortification with nutrition supplements or more recently cultivars with higher nutrient levels. Where much of the population is in this inadequate nutrition category as in the highland of Ethiopia, the supplements are neither financially feasible nor sustainable. The cultivars can provide a few critical nutrients but are not a comprehensive solution. To improve nutrition, it is necessary to increase income so that an increased quality and quantitative diet can be obtained. Here, a strategy to introduce Striga resistant sorghum varieties, inorganic fertilizers, tied ridges and inventory credit in the Qobo valley of Ethiopia is evaluated. Using the behavioralist criteria defined by the farmers as constraints, a mathematical programming model is built to analyze the effects of different potential combinations of technologies and supporting agricultural policies on the household nutritional gaps and on farmers’ incomes. Striga resistance alone has little effect unless combined with fertilization, water harvesting and an improved credit program. The credit program improvement involves the substitution of inventory credit for the existing input credits that are repayable at harvest. Inventory credit enables the farmer to take advantage of the seasonal price variation and repay after the prices have recovered from the usual price collapse at harvest. An integrated approach, involving the combined technologies of water harvesting, fertilization and Striga resistance along with inventory credit increases farm household income by 31% and eliminates under-nutrition except in extreme drought years (10% probability), during which public assistance will be still needed. Both the treatment of the nutritional deficits and the decision making criteria defined by farmers are expected to be useful techniques in other developing country technology analysis as well.