Agriculture Business Development Science and Technology

Ethiopia using digital tools for enhanced food security

Towards food security in Ethiopia

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is promoting the adoption of smart agriculture in Ethiopia in a bid to address the complexities involved in agricultural processes using technology in pursuit of attaining food security as espoused in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Speaking to Spiked Online Media on the sidelines of the National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPS) and the Regional Agriculture Investment Plans (RAIPS) high-level dialogue meeting that was held in Dakar, Senegal, last week, Getachew Feye, a researcher with CGIAR who is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said technologies such as the use of robots and drones are making headway in increasing agricultural production and productivity and were better tools for ensuring food security on the African continent.

“We are witnessing a huge improvement in efforts towards achieving food security through the use of smart agriculture using technologies to improve production and productivity. If the use of technologies and big data cascades to other African countries, the continent will attain food security because it has productive land and enough human resources capital to ensure maximum agricultural productivity,” Feye said.

Below, Spiked Online Mediaspotlights a case study of the use of technologies to advance food security in Ethiopia:

Digitalization of agriculture for livelihoods, nutrition and health: accelerating progress from COVID-19 lessons

CGIAR Covid-19 Hub Project in Ethiopia


The Covid-19 hub project in Ethiopia has been implemented by CGIAR and national partners with a financial support from A4NH and the CG system. The project was designed based on an in-depth analysis of the demands of the government of Ethiopia in its efforts to respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and supply of technologies from the CGIAR and NARs sides. The demand and supply analysis exercises indicated disruptions in the seeds systems and the misinformation in consumption of vegetables, meat and dairy products as the potential areas of intervention. As a result, a research activity entitled “Digitalization of agriculture for livelihoods, nutrition and health: accelerating progress from COVID-19 lessons” was designed in partnership with national partners. The project engaged the national partners since the very inception of the project activities up to delivery of outputs. As a result, the outputs of the project were taken up by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI).

The Covid-19 hub project has succeeded in mapping the seed systems, identifying challenges related to nutrition and health messaging and developed the intended digital platforms for seed systems and nutrition and health messaging digital platforms. The nutrition messaging digital platform is already validated and handed over to EPHI and will be used for dissemination the food based dietary guidelines. The seed system is also validated at national level and there is a plan to build the capacity of stakeholders for piloting of the system.


Objectives of the project

  1. Assessing extent of disruptions and mapping seed supply bottle necks.
  2. Develop a digital app and mechanism to support production, processing, and distribution of seeds.
  3. Explore challenges related to misinformation on desired food consumption patterns, food safety; identify potential benefits that could be leveraged.
  4. Design positive food safety, nutrition and consumption messaging for the digital platform linking production to consumption.
  1. Make recommendations on adoption process more widely to promote progress on agriculture, nutrition and health in the long-term, contributing to attainment of SDG2 and country goals.


Project activities

The project was designed to have three major activities implemented in three technical workstreams and one coordination workstream. The following are the workstreams and their leading institutions:

Workstream 1: Coordination and consultation – This involves hosting consultations, organizing meetings, communication with partners and reporting and developing communication products. The lead institution for the coordination workstream is ILRI.

Workstream 2: Assessment and mapping of seed systems. Understanding the nature of input supply disruptions, and its impact on the seed systems, mapping seed systems, and identifying critical functional points for digital solutions (1 staple (wheat) and 1 vegetable (onion). The lead institution for this workstream was ICARDA.

Workstream 3: Consumption, food safety, nutrition, and health messaging. This involves exploring government and partners messaging on consumption, nutrition, and food safety during the pandemic, understanding misinformation challenges on diets at the start of the pandemic against consumption of vegetables and animal source foods. This workstream was also mandated with developing targeted messages: food safety, consumption patterns, nutrition, and selected WASH aspects to be included in the digital app. IFPRI was leading this workstream.

Workstream 4: Digitalization: This workstream was engaged in digitalization of Seed Systems, Nutrition and Health Messaging systems. The outputs of this workstream are expected to contribute lessons for the Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy implementation, and the COVID-19 MoA response process.  ALLIANCE Bioversity and CIAT was leading this workstream.


Project outputs

  1. Conducted seed systems mapping, reviewed the previous works on digitalization of seed systems and developed more comprehensive and consolidated seed systems digital platform for all crops. Despite the initial plan to consider two crops (wheat and onion) because of the time and financial constraints, the problem on the ground compelled us to consider all crops.
  2. The seed systems digital platform is already taken up by Ministry of Agriculture to be used as a national seed systems digital platform. The system will track:
  • seed demand assessment,
  • variety registration,
  • production of early generation seeds,
  • seed certification and production of certified seeds,
  • seed imports, and distribution/marketing,
  • seed balance sheet.
  1. Identified Key nutrition, food safety, and WASH messaging areas and developed a digital platform for nutrition and health messaging.

 Project outcomes

  1. The seed digital platform will provide digital solutions to the challenges in the Ethiopian seed systems through provision of:
  • Efficient tool for aggregation of seed demand
  • Efficient certification services to seed producers
  • Information to smallholder farmers on the type and quantity of seed available with different actors across different geographic locations
  • Evidence for policy decision on the production, distribution, and use of seeds
  • Feedback for research and regulatory purposes.
  1. The platform is expected to provide sustainable solutions to the challenges of the Ethiopian seed system. The outcomes will help to enhance seed availability and support food and nutrition security in Ethiopia.
  2. The Nutrition and WASH Messaging platform disseminates:
  • Refined messages on animal source products including meat and dairy: proper use of animal source foods as mechanisms of Covid immunity boosting, treatment and recovery from Covid 19 infection
  • Messages related to fruit and vegetable consumption: as part of a healthy and nutritious diet for boosting immunity and for recovery purposes.
  • Messages on home-made immunity boosting food ingredients like garden cress seeds, ginger, garlic, cloves etc.
  • Messages on social distancing with more clarity on the proper distance measurement supported by audiovisual descriptions
  1. Contributed to lessons for the Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy implementation and GOE responses to Covid-19 pandemic
  2. Contributed to the implementation of the Ethiopia Food Systems Transformation Pathway.


Way forward

As indicated above MOA and EPHI have taken up the two digital platforms. The nutrition messaging digital platform has been already validated and handed over to the EPHI. The seed systems digital platform is also validated at the national level. The validation workshop created a very good opportunity to get feedback from different stakeholders and improve the digital platform. In order to pilot the platform before implementation at the national level, we are planning to conduct training of stakeholders that will be engaged in the piloting process and management of the digital platform at the Ministry of Agriculture. Resources are already secured to do the training. The training and piloting will be carried out jointly with MOA. In terms of institutionalization, we need to ensure proper implementation of the following activities:

  1. For the seed systems digital platform
    • Testing the digital platform: this involves training the beneficiaries on the features of the digital platform and enabling them to do the data entry. This will be done in selected sites in Oromia regional state.
    • Training and capacity building: this is training MOA staff and other relevant stakeholders on running and maintenance of the system at the Ministry.
    • Piloting: The digital platform will be implemented in selected pilot areas and with stakeholders in these areas.
    • Implemented at the national level


Table: List of partners and their contributions

CGIAR partnersCountry partnersContributions
–   Alliance Bioversity-CIAT (Lead)–   Icog Labs

–   Addis Ababa University

–   Explore impacts on input supplies

–   Digitalization of messaging

–   ICARDA (Lead)–   Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)

–   Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA)

–   Integrated Seed Sector Development Program in Ethiopia (ISSD)

–   Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)

–   Map the seed supply system and explore impacts and bottlenecks

–   Digitalization of messaging

–   IFPRI/ESSP–   Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI)

–   Seqota Declaration PDU

–   Explore government messaging on consumption, nutrition, and food safety during the pandemic

–   Development of related messaging

–   ILRI (Lead)–   EIAR, EPHI, MoA–   Overall coordination





About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende