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Ethiopian agritech partners with farmers to meet EU targets in fight against deforestation


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The European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) aims to ensure that products imported into the EU do not contribute to deforestation. It is essential that Ethiopian and African farmers comply quickly with this regulation in order to maintain access to the EU market, which is vital for their economic stability and growth.

“If farmers and producers do not comply with the EUDR, they risk losing orders from EU buyers, resulting in significant economic losses,” said Gregory Sampson, Solutions Architect at the United Nations International Trade Centre (ITC). “So far, there is no indication of an extension or flexibility of the 30 December 2024 deadline, so swift action is essential,” he added.

ITC provides technical assistance, capacity building and training to help countries comply with EUDR regulations, supporting both farmers and producers, as well as government and industry bodies.

But meeting EUDR requirements by the end of 2024 is a major challenge, particularly for Ethiopian coffee exporters, as many stakeholders are unaware of the upcoming regulations.

In response, Orbit Innovation Hub in Addis Ababa, in partnership with the Netherlands ITC Trust Fund V Ethiopia Tech project, organized a symposium dedicated to exploring the potential of agricultural technology to improve access to markets and finance.

Around 140 representatives from the technology sector, local and international NGOs, governments, banks, farmers and exporters attended the symposium to learn the importance of adopting traceability systems, understand the regulatory requirements and the need for collaboration between stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation.

“Events such as the symposium in Ethiopia are critical because they provide a platform for knowledge sharing, networking and exchanging best practices related to EUDR compliance,” said Sampson.

“We are facing a very short timeframe and one thing we understood from the discussions is that knowledge is very limited,” added Saminas Seyfu, Orbit’s director of communication and community development. “Although agriculture and coffee are our backbone, there is no clear strategy on how to address the EU changes.”

The European Union is Ethiopia’s largest single market. With 70% of the country’s population living in rural areas and 85% of agricultural production coming from smallholder farmers, reliable access to markets such as the EU can boost productivity, increase incomes and strengthen the country’s food security.

But although smallholder farmers play a vital role in Ethiopia, they often face significant challenges in developing sustainable practices and accessing markets due to limited infrastructure, knowledge, information and resources.

Seyfu believes that agritech can offer these producers a way to overcome these barriers and use technology to reach international standards. Tech companies at the symposium suggested creating a matchmaking platform for agribusinesses to find tech companies to collaborate with, and at least one tech startup has already started discussions with a coffee exporter about a new solution for traceability standards.

“There are many complicated issues, some of them are cultural, others have to do with digital literacy and collaboration between the companies involved. Everyone, from financial institutions and customs authorities, exporter certification providers and port inspectors, must understand what EUDR means. The EU is our biggest market; this is something we cannot ignore,” said Seyfu.

Early EUDR compliance will boost confidence among EU buyers. Many of them may start to divert their orders and seek coffee from other countries that are EUDR-ready, Sampson said.

There has been growing demand for ITC support to provide further assistance and training to ensure comprehensive compliance, and ITC is currently developing the Free Trade Portal on Deforestation, an online platform that will help smallholders around the world comply with EUDR requirements and connect them with international buyers.

“Commitment from the government, the private sector and business associations will be critical, and leveraging technology in agriculture is the best way forward,” Seyfu said. “We need to invest in this as farming is a way of life for most Ethiopian families. From the household to the nation, agriculture is everything.”

“It is not just about Ethiopia,” he added. “We also need to involve the African Union and make this an agenda for the entire continent. Ethiopia can lead the way.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the International Trade Centre.

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