SME: Adding more to the soil in Ethiopia

The present scenario in Ethiopia demands that smallholder farmers be supplied with alternative options for soil fertility management and sustainable farming. It requires these farms to use compost in sufficient amount. With an endeavor to provide solutions, Soil and More Ethiopia (SME) has initiated an intervention to help farmers with the right compost. SME is a Joint venture between the Dutch Soil & More International and Farm Organic International Private Limited Company in Ethiopia. Owned by Mr. Hussen Ahmed, the company promotes organic sustainable farming. 

SME is developing a composting site near Ziway town located in the province of Oromia regional state. The rose farmers here have a huge problem with their (green) waste. The green waste generated by these farmers causes many environmental problems. SME encourages controlled microbial composting systems for (smallholder) farmers as a preventive measure or in response to plant health problems associated with soil borne issues. Soil health is vital to ensuring sustainable farming with low or no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. In order to increase and retain soil fertility, it is important that smallholder farmers apply good compost along with sound rotations. SME’s composting project is playing a positive role in this regard.

Besides promoting environmental protection, it would also ensure food security, and sustainable development for the inhabitants, not to mention its impact in engaging smallholder farmers in climate smart agriculture. SME has contracted rose farmers in the area to bring their waste to the composting facility to be properly processed. The rose farmers even pay a small fee to SME to dump their green waste.  The project, therefore, is expected to bring dual benefit to the flower farms in terms of receiving their waste and to introduce and supply high quality compost to (smallholder) farmers and even to the flower farmers themselves. On the other hand, as commercially processed compost is still a relatively new initiative in the country, collaboration of various stakeholders is needed to create awareness among smallholder farmers by organizing trainings and providing sample compost for trial.

With ICCO Investment’s loan support, SME will invest in new machinery and facilities to produce compost that will enable especially smallholder farmers to save significantly on the irrigation requirements resulting in creation of an estimated 60 jobs. The machine is important for both quality control as well as ensuring production efficiency. Currently, SME has the capacity to produce a total of 1200MT compost per month. But, when the screening machine and turner are put in place, the monthly production capacity will increase to 3,000MT, which is enough to produce the annual projected production volume of 30,000MT. SME is currently screening the compost using human labor. With the machinery mechanisms in place, the compost will enhance further productivity and efficiency of the estimated 1500 smallholder farmers, rose farmers, and others who will use the compost.

“ICCO Investments will monitor the implementation of the business plan.  We will connect with partners working in the economic field and with Agri Pro focus that can relate smallholder farmers to SME and support the program. We will also link the business up with institutions that would offer micro finance packages to smallholder farmers, enabling them to buy compost,” said Rob van den Bogart, Investments Manager & Financial Analyst, ICCO Investments, while explaining ICCO Investment’s role in the entire process.

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