A Corn Named “Lutheran”

Date posted: Wednesday 30 October 2019

This post includes excerpts of an article from Lutheran World Federation, contributed by Sophie Gebreyes, LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia. Photo credit: LWF/ Yitbarek FREW

You may read the full account at: www.lutheranworld.org/news/corn-named-lutheran.



“'Lutheran’ changed my life,” says Amare Mulaw. The Ethiopian farmer is not referring to the Christian denomination, at least not directly. He speaks about the benefits of a new crop variety introduced by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The new crop is part of a development project which supports small-scale farmers in Amhara province who are dealing  with climate change. For farmers like Mulaw, wealth lies in the soil. They spend their lives hoping for rain and a good harvest.


In the past years, however, rain has not come often enough, sometimes not at all. LWF started working in Mulaw’s community in 2016, as a response to the El Niño-induced drought. The response had various components: natural resource conservation activities through cash-for-work helped to prevent erosion while providing financial aid to the farmers, whose harvest had failed. The most vulnerable were supported with direct cash payments as well as seed distribution including corn, lentils and teff, a local grain which is very popular and used to make injera-bread.


In 2019 when the project ended, LWF made sure the short-term emergency aid was transformed into a long-lasting development program to the communities who keep struggling with extreme droughts. Today, farmers are growing and benefitting from the seeds that were distributed in 2016.


In 2015, LWF had introduced new and improved corn and lentil varieties, which soon became very popular. The corn is popularly known as “Lutheran” and has become a staple in this region where people use to farm teff. It is also more popular than the corn variety used before, which is called “Raya.”


Amare Mulaw is a model farmer successfully growing ‘Lutheran’. "For the first time, I was able to earn almost ETB 9,000 (310 USD) from the sale of Lutheran grown on 0.12 and a half hectare of land,” he says. He has now tripled his income from just one crop.


Enthusiastically, he explains why he prefers the new grain. “To start with, it has a superior taste. Secondly, the corn stalk holds three large cobs whereas the Raya only holds one or two small ones maximum. Furthermore, due to the leafiness and thickness of the cob cover, it does not get attacked by birds and pests. I now get 6 ETB (20 cents) for one cob whereas before I used to get half the amount.”


According to Amare, the demand for Lutheran is very high, but he and the other farmers only have enough production to satisfy demand in Erffa and the nearby Gragn Amba village. His next plan—with the support of LWF— is the multiplication of the grain so that it reaches more farmers at little or no cost. In the long run, this would not only mean an economic benefit to the farmers. “Lutheran” is an improved variety of a local corn type, higher in protein and more drought resistant. Through seed multiplication, LWF helps farmers preserve that diversity and sustainable agricultural practices in a market increasingly under pressure from high yielding varieties and use of chemical fertilizers.


“My life has changed,” the farmer says. With the increased income, he now plans to buy a bajaj, Amharic for tuk-tuk, a ubiquitous and affordable mode of transportation in these parts. He has already made improvements to his house and is sending his children to school.


Vernita Kennen
Incarnation Lutheran, Shoreview