OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Leapfrog towards climate-neutral integrated agriculture and forestry systems in Oromia, Ethiopia

A territorial approach with forestry and agricultural cooperatives at the heart of economic development, driven by a cross-cultural alliance

Photo of Luc Groot
1 3

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Farmer Co-op or Farmer Business Organization

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

1. Agriterra Ethiopia 2. Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC) 3. Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture 4. Oromia Bureau of Agriculture 5. Oromia regional cooperative promotion agency 6. Farmer Cooperative Union in Oromia region and affiliated cooperatives in the 4 selected zones, representing 500.000 farmers. 7. The Finnish Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Jimma, Bale, Arsi and West Arsi zones, part of Oromia region, covering a total area of 98,155km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Agriterra and Agriterra Ethiopia have been working in this area since 2012 on cooperative development and agro-industrialisation. There is a conducive environment for forestry development and to implement SMART agriculture. Cooperatives become increasingly demanding for quality and volumes of agricultural input. This opens possibilities for Agriterra and the partners to deliver on sustainable business models for agricultural extension. As it is indicted in the below map, these provinces have a good potential and need for forestry development. This region is the first resource endowment from all other regions of the country, especially in forestry and smart agriculture works. We have been capacitating agricultural cooperative unions in some the above zones. Furthermore, the area has a high population growth. Which means that in the near future there will be a large group of youngsters who need to have a sustainable income. The cooperatives in our vision could be a source of employment and the technology needed for intense and SMART agriculture could attract youngsters to agriculture. This way they are more likely to remain in the rural areas. Within the Oromia region the selected areas are also among the safest areas to work. This is important for the selection since stability is crucial in developing a sustainable solution.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Oromia is a region of great diversity. The landscape is mind-blowing and exists of high and rocky mountain ranges, deep river valleys, and rolling savannahs. The region is gifted with varied and agreeable climatic conditions and other precious natural resource bases. In the selected areas agriculture is influenced by a wide range of climatic, topography and socio-economic diversities. Moreover, the majority of its population depend on subsistence agriculture. Afan Oromo is the official language while Amharic and other local languages are widely spoken in the selected areas. English is used in schools and international business communication. Agriculture, services and industry are the major economic activities within Oromia region. Chuko, barley conserved with butter, is traditional food of Oromia region in Ethiopia. It is traditionally made by women from barley powder mixed with a sufficient amount of distilled butter, along with ginger, onion, salt and spices. Agriculture, services and industry are the major economic activities within Oromia region accounting for a respective share of 56%, 33% and 11% of the regional economy. Oromia has fertile soils and diverse agro-ecology that makes it ideal for agriculture. Crop production, livestock and forestry account for respectively 49%, 14% and 4% within the sector. The selected areas in Oromia region are part of the major coffee growing areas of Ethiopia. The area is well endowed with natural resources contributing significantly to the national economy of the country. Major crops grown, other than coffee, are maize, teff, sorghum, barley, pulses (beans and peas), root crops (enset-false banana and potato) and fruits. Teff and honey production are another sources of cash after coffee. Enset is a strategic crop substantially contributing to the food security of the zone. Most importantly Oromia region and the specific zones chosen are crucial for carbon sequestration purposes and biodiversity in Africa. Many years attempts have been made to protect forests better and though people care a lot for wildlife and nature, economic reasons drive local people to degrade forests and live from the forest. Consequently the area is very rural and only smaller urban areas are to be found in these regions.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In the Oromia region and areas chosen for this territorial vision 2050 major challenges are occurring. Oromia has seen a growing tendency of inhabitants using the precious forests in the zones of Bale, West Arsi, Arsi and Jimma for increasing the agricultural land for food production, cut trees for fuel consumption to cook and for animal grazing and poaching. This practices are a reflection of the fact that Africa has the highest per capita levels of the world for black carbon emissions, the most damaging air pollutant, contributing almost 17% to overall black carbon emissions. Unless the remaining forest areas in Oromia are protected by investing in planted forests, agroforestry and agricultural productivity, competing land use methods and the need for wood will gradually consume forests, leading to the wiping out of thousands of more species and releasing enough greenhouse gas emissions to exceed the 1.5°C and 2°C warming targets enshrined in the Paris Agreement. This would even happen when emissions from all other human activities were entirely eliminated. Other indirect causes for deforestation in the Oromia region are poor law enforcement. At the same time climate change in Oromia is affecting the farmers’ productivity and income which is stagnating or decreasing, which is leading to more deforestation activities to cope with decreasing yields on their production areas. Droughts are longer pressing yields down and rain fall is more short-term but more severe at the same time leading to temporary floods which is also devastating for crops to be able to grow. So, agricultural productivity in Oromian rural areas is severely affected by climate variability which elevates the vulnerability of rural households to food insecurity. Projections indicate that aggregate yields of traditional crops in smallholder rain-fed systems are likely to show a decrease of ≈10% by 2050. Oromian farmers are disproportionally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as a result of poverty, marginalization and reliance on natural resources and their livelihoods are frequently threatened by weather extremes. The contribution of farmers in Oromia to environmental damage and climate change, makes action particularly urgent due to the projected population increased from 112 million in 2019 to 172 million in 2050 in Ethiopia and the fact that the Oromia region produces almost 50% of the food in Ethiopia. Oromian farmers will have to feed themselves and a growing population and they will naturally do this in the traditional way which means more deforestation because of the need for more land. In addition, consumption of animal-based foods is projected to rise 68% between 2010 –2050. This increased demand for a more animal-based diet will require many times more feed and land inputs and emit far more GHG emissions per food calorie generated than plant-based foods.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The combination of population growth, objectives to meet nutritional requirements, biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation is fuelling the need for more efficient agricultural techniques. In Oromia, any movement away from traditional very low productive slash-and-burn agriculture is progress. The collaborating organisations have determined their focus will be on intensive agricultural production in the Oromia region, which both increases output using the same area of land and gives room for forest protection and reforestation in developing countries where intensification will reduce forest felling. Together we will be able to stop this road to misery. The Ethiopian, Finnish, Dutch and Danish expertise and experience can be leveraged to support the agricultural sector in the Oromia region, to make the transition to more sustainable agriculture and stopping the deforestation. Current sustainable intensification and precision agriculture technologies and innovations as well as those yet to be developed offer great potential to support Oromia with climate change adaptation and mitigation and increase farmers’ incomes at the same time preventing further deforestation. This needs to go hand-in-hand to make sure the whole food system is transferred in the region. Farmers and cooperatives in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands are among the world in climate action in agriculture and forestry. In fact, the Netherlands produces food five times more efficiently than the average of the European Union. Danish and Dutch farmers have carbon efficient technology solutions and know-how to offer and are eager to co-create technological adaptations and innovations with farmers and cooperatives in Oromia. Finnish farmers have a long history in forest conservation and inclusive business models in which farmers develop new earning models of maintaining forests and planting new trees. In Ethiopia Agriterra has a local team with long-standing expertise on the agricultural and cooperative sector. It has access to the 500.000 farmers organized in cooperative unions in the projected zones of work. To be able to provide the incentives needed and make sure all actors in the region align to work on a new climate clever model in Oromia involvement of Ethiopian stakeholders is crucial. Agriterra Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture have a long-standing relationship which will make it possible to balances the interests and needs between biodiversity, climate, economic livelihoods, technology and agriculture. This will realize a territorial model in which agricultural productivity is boosted while stopping deforestation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the Oromia region in which agro-forestry and agricultural cooperatives are playing a central role. This will be a measurable model by using modern day GIS systems and other technologies brought in by the European partners to track productivity gains and precision farming needs.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Oromia Region is endowed with huge forests which will have stabilized in 2050 in comparison with 2020. The people living in the regions have seen a growing GDP per capita towards a level of over 4000 dollar. This is a consequence of an economic transformation combining growth of a thriving certified agro-forestry industry, agricultural sector and large forest conservation areas. Oromia will be the leading region in Africa in combining carbon sequestration capacity, agricultural and food industry growth, and a main exporter of carbon credits. In agriculture, the coffee sector has developed in an important sector for the Ethiopian economy by focusing on specialty markets leading to high margins for farmers producing the products and their cooperatives. At the same time the livestock sector has thrived based on more efficient produced feed in the region, leading to higher incomes for farmers. Although in 2050 the farming sector has decreased in terms of percentage of people working in agriculture, the food processing, feed, mechanisation and input industry has thrived. This growth has been realized with carbon-neutral effects because of modern day water, energy and waste management systems used. The industry mentioned is still owned by cooperatives and its members, leading to wealth creation in the region for the local people.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In 2050 Oromia cooperatives will be the backbone of society by having become extension agricultural and agro-forestry hubs for sustainable intensification of agricultural production and forest management. They have established strong relationships with key stakeholders in this region and have also a good relationship reputation in the country. Expertise from Dutch, Finnish and Danish farmers, their cooperatives and agricultural advisory services, sourced via Agriterra, will in 2050 be used for farmers and cooperatives in the Oromia region. The collaborating organisations’ vision has led to sustainable intensification in Oromia which demonstrates that there is an economically sustainable path to climate-neutral food production. Oromian cooperatives work in 2050 with with IT tools, feed efficiency, genetics, plant breeding and manure management, resulting in an average doubling of yields per hectare, combined with a lower GHG emissions footprint per kilogram of product as the agro-industrialisation has happened with energy reducing, waste management and water use reducing solutions. In the run-up to 2050 the Ethiopian government, supported by the Dutch, Finnish and Danish bilateral support have invested heavily in research, farmer-led businesses and adequate policy design. Oromia region has taken a leading role towards inventing a new sustainable agricultural model, which could contribute to agricultural change in other regions. This has led to upscaling of family farms while creating new employment opportunities in the production, processing, technological and services industry surrounding agriculture. People working in farming has decreased to In 2050 agricultural technology and knowledge is used by Oromian cooperatives and their members which is also used in western societies. Drones, precision farming, nutrient management and soil scanning are used on a daily basis in the fields. This has been an accumulation of experience and expertise, as well as the top-notch research and development capacity of Ethiopian, Danish, Finnish and Dutch farmers. Extension services systems have been modernized and disseminate the best technological solutions, farm practices and climate-efficient inputs to agricultural family farmers in the Oromia regions. This has stopped Oromian farmers, specifically in the four zones, from further forest degradation. Sustainable intensification can be a means to deliver on Oromian objectives, and the approach can be informed by advancements in other sectors and provides an opportunity to transition towards greener economies. In 2050 in Oromia existing arable land will be partly utilized to grow more crops more frequently by shifting from annual crops to perennial crops. Perennial crops, like certain wheats and coffee, are productive, healthy for soils and highly efficient for CO2 storage and photosynthesis. Another approach used in Oromia is professionalized agroforestry cooperatives and members to increase incomes, the interaction of agriculture and trees, including the agricultural use of trees, and approach which embraces agroecology, applying ecological principles to agriculture, polyculture systems, growing multiple crops on the same land, and protects biodiversity loss. This shift in crops and earning models, led by its strong cooperative sector, has optimized the sustainable intensification of food production, while optimising the sector's contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration, including through afforestation. Besides the fact that agroforestry is subsidised in his vision by the Netherlands to offset the carbon emissions in the country, he approach has also led to growth and jobs in this sector in Oromia, while also respecting food security, resilience, and environmental sustainability. In Oromia in 2050, sustainable intensive agricultural production has moved farmers out of subsistence agriculture and into higher income jobs in the manufacturing and service industry and to employment in reforestation and infrastructure works for road, electricity and broadband communications. In the local economies in Oromia agriculture-based livelihoods, farm and rural non-farm employment continues to play an important role. But, the wealthier agricultural sector has invested in the last 30 years in adding value to produce, has better possibilities of creating job opportunities that opened up with economic growth and rural transformation. Besides a combination of resource-efficiency and increasing yields, more efficient agroforestry and forestry land use practices have developed in 2050 using a combination of technologies. These include the use of satellites for imaging the biomass, preparing forest management plans, forest certification and audits, assessing carbon sequestration, thinning and pruning decision making and the use of virtual tools for modelling and planning agroforestry activities and analysing the profitability of agroforestry farming. Besides the new business models developed by the forestry cooperatives in Oromia, the Ethiopian government has enforced the deforestation laws by closer cooperation and better monitoring tools, provided by their Finnish counterparts, and this has led to stabilization of the forestry areas in Oromia. In the forestry sector, certification schemes (e.g., FSC and PEFC) or carbon sequestration schemes are now use to add value to production. The challenge for farmers is the third-party audit, which in remote rural areas can increase the verification and auditing costs to a level that is not economically feasible. However, the transactions costs have been reduced in Oromia to a feasible level with satellite detection, drones, applications to calculate biomass or tree density and using blockchain or other data systems that limit possibilities of altering the data. Management and control is shared between government, the forestry cooperatives and individual members to provide enough financial incentives for individual farmers to manage the forests in a sustainable way. Farm data has become vital in Oromia as a means of implementing precision agriculture techniques. This includes using GPS, drone and satellite (e.g., Copernicus Programme) data for reconnaissance of the land and remote sensing services to map fields, determine the amount and timing of inputs (e.g., nutrients), identify pests and diseases and determine when to cultivate crops. Once the farm data is gathered, mechanisation of farms for activities such as nutrient application and crop cultivation can increase efficiency and yields and reduce input costs for farmers. This is coordinated and provided as a service by the cooperatives. Some of the technologies being used are autosteer tractors, variable rate and section control spreaders and crop monitoring systems linked to online applications to enable planning for the following season. This has led to a much better life for Oromian farmers in 2050 in which the heavy burden of working on the land has been taken of them. Besides the update and gained progress because of technological solution update by Oromian farmers through their cooperatives in 2050, public-private efforts and joint investments have led to added value for agricultural products. The use of precision agriculture on the supply side of the value chain (e.g., farmers, collectives), value has been added through improved farming practices which resulted in more efficient operations and reduced operating costs (e.g., inputs, labour), higher yields, more consistent products (e.g., shape, size, quantity). And also through processed products themselves rather than outsourcing this step of the value chain to actors outside Oromia. On the demand side of the value chain, buyers demand more quantities of consistent, high-quality, safe and sustainable products, which motivates farmers to improve their farming practices. These changes support the development of new skills and contribute to upward mobility in employment, increased and more consistent incomes year on year and improved food security for families and communities in Oromia. In short, a lot of different interventions and new ways of work have to be implemented. This will be anchored in a territorial model managed by the Oromian government with the cooperative business model as key economic driver in the agricultural and forestry sector. This sector is well-established in Ethiopia with significant support by the government. The agro-forestry and agricultural cooperatives drive the economic development by combining increased efficiency in the production and processing of agricultural products with long-term thinking and anchoring sustainability in their work. Cooperatives are farmer-led entities in which the people (members) manage, own, and benefit the company. This is a model which has proven itself in North-western Europe as the most sustainable model in the agricultural sector. Besides cooperatives are extension hubs which disseminate best practices, services and new technologies to individual farmers. This increases the autonomy of members to improve their individual farms and produce for the market, live up to the quality criteria by the cooperatives and be able to adapt to climate change. This vision wants to translate and combine our joint knowledge on development, climate and food into an integrated and territorial approach for Oromia region together with the local stakeholders. The WRI sustainable food future model 2050 is attached and is the leading inspiration for this vision in Oromia to establish a cross-continental community to exchange best practices and implement modern-day solutions in this region.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
  • Twitter

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Constanza Castano

Hello again!

The following link may be of interest to continue refining your 2050 Vision. Here you will find the invitation to an upcoming Future-casting Webinar, and a recording of our recent Systems Thinking Webinar:

This is the moment when you can connect with other Visionary teams, provide feedback and get inspired by other submissions.

Warm regards,