Adapting to Climate Change Through Improved Crop Varieties

We support breeding programs to produce adaptive varieties

Plant breeding expert at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) inspecting varieties
Photo:  © GIZ/Mulugeta Gebrekidan, 2020

Climate change is a big challenge for the efforts to improve agricultural productivity and food security. Farmers are in need of well-performing seeds and crop varieties to cope with this threat to their survival. Governments are trying to come up with the best and most efficient solutions.

Ethiopia’s current situation is no different. Despite its inefficiencies, agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, contributing the lion’s share to the country’s GDP.

The sector is characterized by small-scale subsistence farming and low productivity due to several natural, social and economic factors. Climate change is adding pressure on the agricultural sector which is already performing below its potential.

In recent years, global warming and reduced rainfall caused by climate change along with population pressure are increasing the risk of drought. For 2022, drought is forecast to disrupt the lives of more than 10 million people in Ethiopia.

This calls for an innovative technique of climate change mitigation

One of those techniques is to give due emphasis to the production of improved varieties that are better adapted to moisture stress.

While drought is threatening livelihoods, excessive rain also poses a serious challenge to farmers in the Ethiopian highlands. There waterlogging occurs more frequently in the past years leading to a significant loss in wheat and barley yields.

The Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Productivity in Ethiopia (SSAP) project, financed by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, is working with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research to ensure breeding programs that consider climate change as a critical factor for the production and release of new varieties. This includes:

  • Training of breeding experts
  • Analyzing the trends of climate change and adaptation
  • Providing material and financial support
  • Supporting variety trials in different parts of Ethiopia which take into account their environmental characteristics,
  • Organizing of experience-sharing platforms

A variety trial field highly affected by water logging caused by heavy rainfall
Photo:  © GIZ/Leulsenaye Damen, 2021

In Ethiopia, not only the lowlands but also the highlands — known for their relatively higher agricultural production — are affected by climate change.

Considering the big impact, the barley and faba bean breeding programs of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), supported by SSAP, are getting better at practicing variety trials in various regions — taking the unique characteristics of the locations into account.

Farmers are also taking part in the development of varieties by sharing their experiences and assessing new varieties. This procedure enables the breeding program to leave underperforming varieties behind considering their adaptation to environmental changes.

The learning process

The project has learned that coping with climate change through improved seeds is a process. There’s knowledge in the agricultural community, especially with farmers, that can be very useful for the struggle to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The ongoing strives to survive demand the participation of both international and local actors. Most importantly, it is important to note that taking climate change and adaptation into consideration is essential for the fruitful implementation of projects.


Andrea Ruediger,
The article was submitted by Leulsenaye Damena (

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