ethopiaExtension in Ethiopia has gone through radical policy shift in the past 50 years, from feudalism to Marxism to a free market system (Kassa 2005). Currently, extension is mostly provided by the public sector, operating in a decentralized manner where extension is implemented at the woreda (district) level. The public sector is the single most important player, especially in terms of inputs, at the local level for smallholders. The private sector and NGOs (known to have many innovative and participatory approaches), while becoming increasingly important, are often left out of extension initiatives. In Ethiopia, limited extension is conducted by NGOs and the private sector, usually working through the woreda-level BOARDs (Davis et al. 2009).


A Brief History of Public Extension Policies, Resources and Advisory Activities in Ethiopia

Recognizing the agriculture sector and institutions that support it such as extension, as key to poverty reduction, the government of Ethiopia began an unprecedented public investment in the agriculture sector in 1992 (Maputo Declaration). To channel government efforts towards achieving its goal of poverty reduction, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MOARD) has developed a document outlining rural development policies, strategies, and instruments. The basic direction of the agricultural development includes the proper use of all available resources such as land, other physical resources and human labor, and the establishment of linkages with other ministries and institutions relevant for extension. A core part of the government’s investment in agriculture is the public agricultural extension system, and the MOARD has aligned donor support with plans to scale activities in the sector to meet the resource gaps identified. The decentralized extension system comprises the MOARD as key institution responsible for developing and refining the overall national agricultural and rural development strategies and policies for the country; major government ministries concerned with or affecting agricultural and rural development; several agencies beneath the MOARD; and regional, woreda (district level), and kebele (lowest administrative level) institutions.

The government commitment to developing the largest agricultural extension system in Sub-Saharan Africa starts with the development of human capital to deliver agricultural extension advices and services to farmers. It is estimated that 8,500 Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) have been established at the kebele level with roughly 2,500 of them reported fully functional (MOARD 2009A). In addition, it was reported that about 45,000 Development Agents (DAs) currently on duty at kebele level include about 12 to 22 percent women depending on the region. The number of frontline extension personnel is expected to increase to roughly 60,000 when all FTCs have been established and are fully functional. As of 2008, about 63,000 DAs have graduated from the ATVETs with 12 percent of them being female (MOARD 2009).

Extension Providers

 Major Institutions Providing Extension/advisory Services in the Country

Public Sector

Major government ministries, agencies, research and education institutions play an important role in today’s extension system in Ethiopia. These institutions provide extension services through various departments and institutes listed below:

Public Extension Institutions

  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MOARD)
    • Agricultural Marketing and Inputs Sector
    • Natural Resources Sector
    • Agricultural Development Sector
      • Agricultural Extension Department
      • Training and Vocational Education Department
  • Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Ministry of Capacity Building
  • Ministry  of Education
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Transport and Communication
  • Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
  • Food Security Coordination Bureau (FSCB)
  • Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA)

Public Research and Education Institutions

  • Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR)
  • Regional Agricultural Research Institute (RARI)
  • Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI
  • Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute (EEPRI)
  • Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET)Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension (SAFE)

The semi autonomous EIAR coordinates the decentralized agricultural research activities at federal and regional research centers, and through higher education institutions.

  • Regional Level
    • Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development (BOARD)
  • Woreda Level (District Level)
    • Office of Agriculture and Rural Development (OOARD)
  • Kebele Level
    • Farmer Training Centers (FTC)

Private Sector Firms

The private sector is known to contribute to agricultural production through organized markets and channels for seed, fertilizers and other farm inputs to farmers. In Ethiopia, the overwhelming presence of the government in all areas of agriculture has limited private sector expansion in previous years. The limited supply of farm inputs underscores the need for an increased participation of other companies to alleviate this constraint. The government has put in place policies favorable to private sector development, and domestic and foreign firms, small-scale rural entrepreneur, traders, transporters, and industry associations are emerging as a potentially important force in the country. However, there are still a number of barriers that limit private sector involvement. For example, it is difficult for new market entrants to build a distribution network that can compete with that of the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE).   

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Ethiopia has a long tradition of informal community-based organizations that operate at the local level and offer mutual socio-economic support to their members. Formal civil society – that is, organizations with legal personality – did not exist until the 1973-74 and 1984-1985 famines when many more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) emerged with a focus on relief and humanitarian services. The number of NGOs increase substantially after the downfall of the Derg regime in 1991, and most recently the Government adopted the Proclamation to Provide for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies(CSP), the country’s first comprehensive law governing the registration and regulation of NGOs. NGOs are becoming an important feature of Ethiopia’s agricultural innovation system, and many are now investing heavily in sustained agriculture and rural development. They operate at all levels: national, regional, zonal, woreda, and kebele. In many rural areas, they collaborate with agricultural bureaus or agricultural offices at the woreda level.

Farmer Based Organizations and Cooperatives

Farmer cooperatives in Ethiopia do not provide extension services directly to their members; rather, they are a major source of both agricultural inputs and farm credits. They also provide grain marketing services and supply consumer good to members at prices that compete with local traders (Davis et al., 2009). Some cooperatives are involved in seed multiplication and distribution, training of members in para-veterinary services and distribution of veterinary medicines. Although the view among cooperative leaders is that these supposedly farmer-driven organizations are not free to set their own agendas since it is the government that sets the parameters within which cooperative programs operate (Mogues et al. 2009), these cooperatives have played a significant role in improving members’ welfare. A list of some farmer based organizations and cooperatives in Ethiopia are:

  • AFCU – ADAMS Farmers Cooperative Union
  • BBFCU – Buno Bedele Farmers Cooperative Union
  • DAFCU – Dilla Alleltu Farmers Cooperative Union
  • Ethiopia Learning Alliance
  • FFARM – Facilitating Farmers Access to Remunerative Markets
  • SCFCU – Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union
  • SDCU – Sellale Dairy Cooperative Union
  • Zenbaba – Zenbaba Bees’ Products Development and Marketing Cooperative Union

Programmatic Components of the Ethiopian Extension System

The four major components of the Ethiopian extension system put in place by the government as part of a five year plan (2005-2006) for accelerated and sustained development to end poverty include the following:

  • Participatory Demonstration and Training Extension System (PADETES). The system was introduced by the government in 1995 to provide a small amount of inputs through packages provided directly to farm households. Some 35 to 40 percent of farm households are reached and served through the system with a low number of visits by public DAs
  • Farmer Training Centers (FTCs). Roughly 8,500 FTCs have been built at the kebele level. These centers are staffed with Development Agents (DAs) and are responsible for providing extension activities in rural areas
  • Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education. In 2000, the government invested in agricultural and technical vocational education and training (ATVET) centers to train DAs charged with carrying out agricultural extension activities with farm households. By the close of 2008, the program had trained over 63,000 DAs at the diploma level.
  • Institutional Coordination. The rapid expansion of the extension system has brought with it an administrative model to support an extensive set of responsibilities, adapting to 32 agro-ecological zones and to support a DA corps of over 60,000.

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Ethopia. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.

Enabling Environment

Enabling (or Disabling) Environment

The country-wide enabling environment in which extension operates is critical to extension efforts. Various aspects of the enabling environment may include seed, fertilizers and other inputs, water management, credit systems, as well as farmer producer groups. Other critical elements such as market enablers (transport, markets, value chains), and economy-wide enablers (government policy, infrastructure, strong institutions) could benefit extension if properly aligned. Despite Ethiopia natural endowment in resources (e.g. water) and the many government efforts to improve social welfare of it people, many constraints to extension and agricultural production in general are assessed, leading to the conclusion that the enabling environment requires strengthening, particularly in the areas of seed, market access, and credit, if extension is to achieve its full potential impact. The government of Ethiopia has taken steps to ensure that the country’s overall agriculture system, policies, and business environment are working in line with extension approaches for greatest impact. Two specific programs that are designed to strengthen the country’s enabling environment are the World Bank Agricultural Growth Program and the Food Security Program. These programs are seeking to analyze constraints within the country-wide enabling environment systems such as seeds, soil health, water management, credits, and market access, and will look to strengthen these systems with targeted investments.

There are opportunities for bringing NGO and private-sector expertise into the implementation of extension services, and encouraging knowledge sharing and collaboration between all groups that are already active in the field. Linkages in other sectors need to be explored, and collaboration between extension and public health for example could reap synergies and ultimately serve the Ethiopian public more effectively. 


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension

Information and Communication Technologies are communication methods that are expanding rapidly in many countries like China and India. Many Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries have lagged somewhat behind due to their lack of basic ICT infrastructures. However, this situation is now rapidly changing in Ethiopia and many other SSA countries with increasing opportunities to harness the ICTs to expand the impact of extension and address other rural development issues. Mobile services and the use of computers and internet in extension for information delivery are revolutionizing extension services delivery in countries like Ghana. For example, the 2009 World Bank statistics report indicate that in 2009, 4.9 percent of the population in Ethiopia own and operated a mobile phone compared to 63.4 % in Ghana. With regard to the use of computers and access to internet, only 0.5 percent of the population in Ethiopia had access to internet compare to 5.4 percent in Ghana. Although older extension approaches like Farmer Field School (FFS) are still use in many places, Ethiopia could gain more by developing a foundation framework for ICT infrastructure to build upon to strengthen the delivery of extension services.      

The field-extension service has a strong foundation of FTCs and trained Development Agents (DAs) already in place in the field. Roughly 8,500 FTCs have been created throughout Ethiopia, and about 63,000 DAs have been trained in total. DAs and woreda staff have technical skills and are generally trained as specialist. Extension agents and other agriculture staff receive training through the 25 agricultural, technical, and vocational education and training colleges in Ethiopia like the Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET). However, there are major “soft “skill gaps for Das and SMSs in the FTC and woreda, and their ability to serve farmers is limited given a lack of practical skills. Therefore, DAs need training in a number of dimensions: broader technology skills applicable to their local area, “soft skills” that enable them to work with different types of farmers and to catalyze the development of farmer groups, and business/ entrepreneurial skills that help to run the FTCs as revenue centers and to demonstrate economic thinking to the customers. Additional training of DAs and SMSs in specific ICT and extension training skills such as use of computers with internet access is needed.



Statistical Indicators                                                                                               

Ethiopia                                                                                                                      Year

Agricultural land (sq km)



Agricultural land (% of land area)



Arable land (hectares)



Arable land (% of land area)



Arable land (hectares per person)



Fertilizer consumption (per ha of arable land)



Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)



Food production index (1999-2001 = 100)



Food exports (% of merchandise exports)



Food imports (% of merchandise imports)



GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)



Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)*



Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)



Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)



Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)



Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)









Internet users (per 100 people)









Population, total



Population density (people per sq. km of land area)



Rural population



Rural population (% of total population)



Agricultural population* 



Agricultural population (% of total population)*



Total economically active population in Agriculture*



Total economically active population in Agriculture (in % of total economically active population)*



Female economically active population in Agriculture (% of total active in agriculture)*



Source: The World Bank, *Food and Agriculture Organization FAO



Davis, K; B. Swanson, and D. Amudavi. 2009. Review and Recommendations for Strengthening the Agricultural Extension System in Ethiopia. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Kassa, H. 2005. Historical Development and Current Challenges of Agricultural Extension with Particular Emphasis on Ethiopia. Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA)/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute (EEPRI) Working Paper No. 2/05. Addis Ababa: EEA/EEPRI

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MOARD), Department of Agricultural Technical and Vocational Training and Education. 2009. Data on ATVET Colleges Graduates. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: MOARD. 

Mogues, Tewodaj; Cohen, Marc J.; Birner, Regina; Lemma, Mamusha; Randriamamonjy, Josee; Tadesse, Fanaye; Paulos, Zelekawork. 2009. Agricultural extension in Ethiopia through a gender and governance lens. ESSP-II Discussion Paper 7. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (Discussion paper)

ICNL (The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law). 2011. NGO Law Monitor - Ethiopia. Retrieved November 30, from:

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