SEMERA, ETHIOPIA — A $94 million project financed through a public-private partnership has been initiated to transform Ethiopia from a wheat importer to a self-sufficient producer and exporter by supporting 500,000 smallholder farmers.

The goal of the Climate Resilient Wheat Value Chain Development (CREW) Project, launched in May, is to support farmers in the Ethiopian states of Afar, Amhara and Somali to increase wheat productivity from 3 to 4 tonnes per hectare, harvesting an additional 1.62 million tonnes of the staple grain.

The CREW Project also will support expansion of irrigation into the lowlands of Afar and Somali regions. It is expected to benefit 2.3 million people, 50% of them women, by increasing household incomes, creating jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, and strengthening food and nutrition security for the East African nation of 123 million.

The African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group, is providing a grant of $54 million. The Netherlands will contribute a grant of $20 million, while fertilizer company OCP-Africa and the government of Ethiopia will each provide grants of $10 million. 

Additionally, the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) will extend a grant of $300,000 for the project as part of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program initiative (AAAP). AAAP is integrating climate risk assessment and digital adaptation solutions into the wheat value chain, supporting capacity building through deployment of digital climate advisory services and co-designing digital adaptation solutions in a wheat farmer registration system.

The CREW Project has two main components. The first focuses on improving wheat farming using climate-friendly methods through the development of better seeds, improving soil health, rehabilitating and building irrigation systems and access roads, and enhancing private sector-led sustainable farm mechanization.

The second component entails the expansion of post-harvest and market infrastructure and enabling access to agri-finance through innovative mechanisms.

The launch took place in Semera, Afar Regional State, where Minister of Agriculture Dr. Girma Amente emphasized the importance of agriculture for the Ethiopian economy, which contributes over one-third of GDP and employs 65% of the population. He said that wheat is a priority crop in the government’s Agricultural Development Plan and noted that “the CREW project is aligned with over 80% of the objectives of Ethiopia’s Ten-Year Development Plan, the overarching development agenda for the country.”

Dr. Abdul Kamara, deputy director general for East Africa, African Development Bank Group, said the CREW Project will complement the bank’s current investments of about $1.2 billion in Ethiopia, across the key sectors of energy, transport, agriculture, water and sanitation, and economic governance. 

“It is designed to scale up and sustain the impressive results of the Wheat Revolution in Ethiopia,” Kamara said. “Following the successful and nationwide deployment of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, irrigated wheat areas rapidly expanded, and wheat yields increased on average from 2 to 4 tonnes per hectare. The bank is proud to be a leading financier in these critical areas seeking to accelerate Ethiopia’s economic transformation and development.”