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Ethiopia: the cradle of barley

In the fields around the central Ethiopian town of Sebeta, home of Meta Abo Brewery, an exciting barley development programme is underway. If it succeeds, it could help improve the lives of thousands of small-scale farmers.

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The high land around Sebeta is very suitable for growing barley, an essential ingredient for our beer business and a potential cash crop that could make a significant difference to the lives of farmers and to the local economy. In partnership with farmers, the Ethiopian Government's Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), Oromia Bureau of Agriculture, and Technoserve, we are developing a scalable farming project that aims to be commercially viable, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive.

The project is based on building close relationships with farmers and farmers' co-operatives, and could eventually reach thousands of smallholders. Last year, 764 smallholder farmers took part in a pilot involving training and technical assistance, finance, and the sharing of sustainable cultivation practices. It is the first project of its kind in Ethiopia, and early signs are that it has the potential to tap a great source of ingredients.

After one year, the project yielded 225 tonnes of good quality barley, and we are confident that we can significantly improve the collective performance of all the project's partners as we build on what we have learnt from the pilot.

We have underlined our commitment to the project with a Letter of Intent, signed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the project is in line with the commitment of the G8 to support agricultural development in Ethiopia, and the growth and transformation plan of the Ethiopian Government.