42-year old Bilew is a farmer who lives in the Fogera district of Shaga kebele, Ethiopia, in a village called "Guaya-midere". He is married with 4 children and owns 1.5 ha of land which he inherited from his family. He has been cultivating rice since 1999 and in addition to his own land, Bilew sometimes leases 0.25-0.5 ha of land for cultivation of crops like rice, rough pea, sunflower, chick peas, and teff.
Bilew had been losing income as a result of harvest management problems, especially premature harvesting and improper drying. After a few years, Bilew became more familiar with rice crops and, to a certain extent, learned how to reduce loss. However, in the last five years, soil depletion has significantly affected his and neighbouring farmers' land productivity.
In 2012, Bilew was selected as a target farmer for MEDA's Ethiopians Driving Growth through Entrepreneurship and Trade program (EDGET). He was elected as a group leader in the program, and soon received his first agronomy training. The training included theoretical and practical aspects of best agronomic practices, and took place at the onset of plowing season.
Bilew was able to apply the learned skills and knowledge immediately. After the training he plowed his land four times and sowed his field with pre-germinated seed. In time for mid-season, he received training on weeding and pure seed production. With close technical support from project staff, he managed his field productively and shared his experiences with about 60 farmers and extension workers within the kebele, inspiring other farmers to follow suit.
As a result of adopting new rice cultivation methods, Bilew reported increased production in his rice field and significant reduction in weed infestation. Previously, it had taken Bilew 28 days to finish the weeding, whereas this year it only took 16 days. This was largely due to the seed soaking and row planting skills he had acquired. In addition, his rice yield almost doubled from the previous year. Of the total harvest, Bilew will save some of the best grain for seed.
Bilew is satisfied with his achievements that have resulted from taking risks through adopting new agronomic technologies. He feels privileged to be participating in the project and is motivated by the results. He has plans to expand these technologies, engaging in rice production intensively for the coming years in hope of increased income and improved livelihood.