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date: 20 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Smallholder grain production provides a livelihood for the majority of Ethiopians and generates the bulk of the country’s crop output. The sector has been undergoing considerable change in recent years (particularly since 2003). Its total output and productivity have grown at a brisk pace, though starting from a low base. These changes are correlated with greater intensification through the adoption of chemical fertilizers, improved seeds, and other better farm management practices. Public investments in extension, education, health, roads, and telecommunications have promoted this intensification. These changes strongly suggest that smallholder farming is in transition. Nevertheless, it is yet to transform into a modern, highly productive, and commercialized sector. In short, both backward and forward production linkages of the smallholder grain sub-sector are still weak. The sector has significant potential, however. Moreover, rising incomes and accelerating urbanization and industrialization will create huge opportunities. On the other hand, the difficulty of the task is compounded by climate change, water scarcity, environmental degradation, and fast (though decelerating) population growth. Sustainable accommodation of these challenges requires greater specialization and substantial resource reallocation at the farm level and across agro-ecologies, combined with appropriate technological and institutional innovations.

Keywords: smallholder farmers, crop production, productivity, intensification, heterogeneity, transition.

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