Participatory research brings high-yielding crop varieties to farmers

Resource poor farmers in marginal environments have few options in crop production and lack access to new technologies. Farmer knowledge of, and access to, improved varieties is low in these areas.

Participatory variety selection is an effective method to increase the farmer adoption of improved crop varieties. First, genetic variability is produced by professional breeders. The selection of improved varieties is then conducted jointly through crop experiments involving both farmers and scientists. Then, the best selections are used by farmers and, hopefully, disseminated on a wider scale.

Participatory variety selection increased productivity of cereal and legume crops and raised incomes for farmers in Ethiopia. The research, carried out in 2010 - 2012, helped farmers in the Gumara-Maksegnit watershed benefit from improved crop varieties that offer higher yields, drought tolerance, and disease/pest resistance. The new varieties were developed by Ethiopia’s national agricultural research system and ICARDA.

Farmers worked with researchers to select the following improved cereal and legume crop varieties:
• 'Tay', 'Jiru', and 'Alidoro' of bread wheat;
• 'Estayish', 'Misrach', and 'Shediho' of food barley;
• 'Degaga’, ‘Moti', and 'Walkie' of faba bean; and
• 'Arerti' and 'Habru' of chickpea.

The project team also focused on popularizing three key crop varieties – 'Tay' for bread wheat, 'Estayish' for food barley, and 'Degaga' for faba bean – for broader adoption in the region. To facilitate wider dissemination of the varieties, the research project established a farmer-to-farmer seed exchange scheme.

Through ICARDA’s participatory research project, many farmers adopted the new varieties of cereals and legumes, and increased their crop productivity by 27–56%. Farmers who grew 'Tay', 'Estayish', and 'Degaga' earned a marginal net benefit of ETB 4397.5, ETB 3835, and ETB 1717, respectively.

To find out more about participatory variety selection in Gumara-Maksegnit watershed, Ethiopia, please contact Dr. Wondimu Bayu, the National Project Coordinator, +251 913812515 or email

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