ICL, a global manufacturer of products based on minerals that fulfill essential needs of the world's growing population in the agriculture, processed food and engineered materials markets, announced that it launched a Potash for Growth program in Ethiopia. The program is designed to unlock the potential of agriculture in Ethiopia by promoting balanced fertilization among Ethiopia's small and private farmers in order to increase their agricultural productivity and economic benefits from farming.

While Ethiopia has experienced strong agricultural growth over the past several years, the country remains challenged to significantly increase its crop yields and food security. Low fertilizer use, soil erosion, coupled with other traditional practices, result in severe nutrient depletion, widespread decline of soil fertility and low crop yields. The Potash for Growth program launched by ICL, in collaboration with its Ethiopian partners, includes a range of activities to increase awareness by Ethiopian farmers of the benefits of potassium fertilizers.

The program's activities include:

Potash demonstration plotsand outreach to farmers: During 2014, over 600 potash demonstration plots were developed on farms in the states of Tigray, Amhara, Oromiya and Southern regions to demonstrate that potassium fertilizers increase yields of major Ethiopian crops, such as teff, wheat, barley and sorghum. Several hundred additional plots will be established on farmers' fields and farmer training centers during 2015. Field days for farmers will also be organized at these demonstration plots.

Soil fertility mapping: Potash for Growth also supports a nation-wide soil fertility mapping program that is being conducted by the Ethiopian Agriculture Transformation Agency in collaboration with the country's Ministry of Agriculture and its regional partners. The mapping will enable Potash for Growth to recommend the most appropriate fertilizer applications at the district and PA (Peasant Association or Kebele) levels.

Researchand validation: In collaboration with Ethiopia's national universities, ICL's Potash for Growth program supports research by graduate students in the areas of potassium in soil and plants in Ethiopia in order to increase knowledge of balanced fertilization on various crops and to assist in developing specialists in plant nutrition.

ICL launched a similar Potash for Life project in India last year, creating nearly 600 demonstration sites in nine Indian states to demonstrate the benefits of balanced fertilizer use. After only one farming season, the three-year project has already achieved major progress in providing farmers with science-based evidence of the benefits of using potash fertilizers in Indian agriculture, as well as the profitability of using potash, which has been tested on more than 20 various crops.

Commenting on the Potash for Growth program, Stefan Borgas, President & CEO of ICL, said, "We are honored to play a role in Ethiopia's rapidly growing agricultural sector by contributing our broad expertise in helping farmers to optimize their agricultural output, as well as our financial support, to enable Ethiopian government agencies to boost the country's agricultural productivity. We believe that the Potash for Growth program will yield substantial benefits for the Ethiopian farming community, and, in the long-run, for food security in Ethiopia. By partnering with Ethiopia's Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Bureaus of Agriculture and the ATA, we hope to demonstrate the vital role of balanced fertilization in creating sustainable food production in Ethiopia."