Horticultural Livelihoods, Innovation and Food safety in Ethiopia

My husband had always refused to allow me to work out of the house. But after receiving training, that changed. I now run my own business

This project increased the involvement of smallholders in innovative and viable horticulture production systems in Ethiopia.



The Horticultural Livelihoods, Innovation and Food safety in Ethiopia (Horti-LIFE) project aimed to Increase rural income and jobs and reduce malnutrition, by building the capacities of extension services to improve the production, productivity and food safety in the horticultural sector in a gender balanced and nutrition sensitive way. The project was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Regional Bureaus of Agriculture in six regions across Ethiopia.

Horti-LIFE promoted Farmers’ Field Schools, while supporting Agricultural TVETs to provide more practical and participatory training, and rural SMEs to improve their commercial service provision to smallholders. The latter refers to agro-dealers, seed multipliers, nurseries and banks/MFIs. Three directorates in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) were supported at policy level: horticulture, extension and plant protection.

In Phase I (2016-2019) the project worked in a 12 districts; reaching 35,000 smallholders. Phase II (2019-2023) expanded to 80 districts and 115.000 farmers. Four universities, nine ATVTEs, 99 rural SMEs and three banks were supported.

A survey in 2021 showed that FFS members have 34% higher yields and 43% higher incomes compared to non-members. This is statistically significant. A huge synergy between FFS membership and the impact of hybrid seed was observed. When none-FFS members use hybrid seeds they get a 40% higher yield. FFS members doing the same get 91% higher yield. So FFS membership translates in an additional yield of 10 MT/ha or 2.000 USD/ha.

In 2022 the MoA institutionalised the FFS approach. FFS guidelines were developed, and Horti-LIFE designed a Capacity Building program for all levels of MoA. In 2023 a MoU was signed, in which MoA commits to establish 2.400 FFSs annually by 2029.

Healthy food is a second priority for Horti-LIFE. It starts with training FFS members on IPM and responsible pesticide use. Selected farmers become Spray Service Providers (SSP); spraying the fields of their peers against payment. MoA is supported to formalise the position of SSPs and to draft new regulations allowing for the use of biologicals. Nutritional awareness campaigns focused on the need for women and children to eat fruits and vegetable, are organised in schools and community places (markets; mosques; churches).

Results from Horti-LIFE Phase I & II

  • 150,000 farmers reached

  • 34% increase in yields

  • 43% increase in earnings

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