ADDIS ABABA, The lush wheat land that stretches from the rural township of Kulumsa (Assela) deep into the southeastern part of the country comprises what is dubbed the Arsi/Bale wheat belt of Ethiopia. The sea of wheat farms along the belt are dotted with barley and teff fields and stretch as far as the eyes can see.
Over the years, the region gave the best wheat yield in the country, although overall production levels were not always the same. Just few years ago, the wheat lands of Arsi/Bale were dominated by smallholder subsistence farmers cropping on fragmented farm land. Wheat, in spite of its unique suitableness to the area, was planted alongside other crops. Today, through two agricultural programs supported by the World Bank, things are changing.
A monotonous wheat farmland now defines almost the entire belt. Signs of farm technologies and mechanization are visible, as well as a hint of commercialization across the Arsi/Bale wheat lands. The yield per hectare according to agricultural workers in the region has tripled in the past three years. In fact, in some places like Sinana woreda, also inside the belt, the yield has shot from around 1.8 to 5.0 tons per hectare