Malt Barley Farmers Access Inputs Through the Farm Service Center

Ethiopia is one of the major producers of barley in Sub-Saharan Africa. But farmers have low yields due to lack of access to quality inputs. STARS, a program of ICCO Cooperation, works  in Ethiopia with microfinance organizations (MFIs) and Farm Service Centers to change that. Read here how that works.

Malt Barley Farmers Access Inputs Through the Farm Service Center

Ethiopia has an ever growing malt beverage sector. The crop is highly resilient under conditions of water-scarcity, drought, and extreme temperatures, thereby helping farmers adapt to climate change.

Knowledge and Inputs

Yet, despite the advantages, conventional varieties tend to be low-yielding – achieving yields of only 2 tons per hectare and susceptible to pests and disease. Farmers face an inadequate availability and use of inputs such as improved seeds, chemicals, fertilizers. They also lack basic knowledge of malt barley production practices, including agronomic practices, soil management, protection against insect pests and diseases, and postharvest practices. Due to these challenges, the current production only meets 35 percent of domestic demand and breweries are reliant on imported barley.

To help farmers boost their production, STARS partnered with six MFIs to develop more knowledge on how the barley value chain works, and how to best adapt loans to the needs of farmers.

“Since STARS started to train us, we are able to better advise farmers. The result? More farmers have been able to find their way towards us,” explains Mr. Bokke, manager of the MFI Wasasa at the Sagure branch. “STARS also linked us to the Farm Service Center in our village, who now sells high-quality barley seeds and agro-chemicals to farmers,” he adds.

Better Extension Services

STARS provided us with 200 extra clients this year,” Haile Gebriel, Operations Manager of the Farm Services Center in Sagure explains. The center is currently developing more fee-based extension services to support farmers to increase the quality of their barley production.

“The quality increase will help the farmers to get linked to the malt factories and breweries in this region,” Haile adds. “We already work with Heineken, who has several breweries in Ethiopia. They are in constant need of high-quality malt barley. Through our center, we can easily link farmers.”

Daba is a father of ten. He has been a farmer for many years in Sagure.

“Before I planted malt barley, I had a shortage of income. I planted beans, peas and wheat, but that was often not enough. The MFI in our village provided me with a loan and linked me to the Farm Service Center, so this year I was able to get access to high-quality seeds and agro-chemicals. I planted ½ hectare. And the crops look good this year, I expect to be able to reimburse my loan in only three installments,” he explains confidently. With the profit Daba makes, he would like to buy extra land. “I’d like to plant more malt barley next year.”


The Strengthening African Rural Smallholders (STARS) program is a five-year program (2017-2021) implemented by ICCO Cooperation in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. Through a market systems development approach it focuses on improving access to finance and markets for 210,000 smallholders in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.


Author Christien van den Brink
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