Tef Ethiopia

Crops of focus: Tef 
Countries of focus: Ethiopia

Tef (Eragrostis tef) is the most important cereal crop in the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia, about 6.5 million smallholder farming households grow tef on three million hectares. Tef provides the staple food for about 70 million people. An essential component of Ethiopians’ and Eritreans’ diet, its flour is processed into injera, a spongy bread eaten at almost every meal. Despite its great local importance, tef has so far largely been neglected by the international research community. In addition, its seed and grain value-chains are not well structured and are poorly developed. 

We have been investing in tef R&D since 2006, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and Switzerland’s University of Bern (UniBern). Our work has mainly focused on breeding new varieties with traits that improve smallholders’ yields. Top priority has been given to the development of drought resistance and “semi-dwarf” characteristics. This variety has shorter stalks to prevent the crop from lodging (falling over) and it allows the plant to withstand extreme weathers. Our Tef project also works on seed-related technologies (seed pelleting to facilitate mechanized planting, seed treatment, plant growth hormones, etc.). 

The Ethiopian authorities have recently released several new varieties. These have come either from the EIAR/UniBern collaboration or the EIAR’s own breeding program. In order to reach a large numbers of farmers, new varieties need to be multiplied and distributed by local seed companies. The tef varieties are all open-pollinated varieties (OPVs). The value of such seeds is low and the OPV market remains insecure. This is not very attractive to private seed companies, so they are thus understandably keener to invest in more lucrative commercial crops and hybrid seeds.  

As a technology transfer facilitator, Seeds2B is therefore supporting Ethiopian seed companies in accessing, promoting and selling new tef varieties. Private companies form an essential bridge between research institutions and farmers. 



  • Create market-demanded varieties through targeted crosses for different purposes (drought tolerance, lodging tolerance, yield, etc.), register and disseminate them to smallholder farmers through seed companies and lead farmers; 
  • Strengthen seed system actors, facilitate partnerships across the seed and grain value-chains, identify and address gaps on critical topics such as Early Generation Seeds availability and quality; 
  • Assess and promote (if proved performing and relevant to smallholder farmers) technologies to modernize and secure their tef production practices; 
  • Capacity building for targeted actors: seed companies, seed out-growers, seed certification agents, etc. 



  • 7 new improved varieties created; 
  • 11 recently released varieties (< 10 years old) demonstrated to farmers and multiplied by seed companies; 
  • > 1,600 tons of seeds produced by seed companies, ≈ 50% being Early Generation Seeds (EGS); 
  • > 50,000 ha covered with these seeds (estimated 100,000 farmers reached);
  • 10 training sessions organized, involving more than 400 tef seed out-growers.