Agricultural experts urged the Ethiopian government to support the establishment of more farmers’ associations and creation of an enabling environment for international companies to import and produce improved seeds in the country.
The experts who spoke to The Reporter on the sidelines of a workshop on the five-year Veggies 4 Planet and People project said that the majority of rural households in Ethiopia are involved in small-scale farming with a size of less than two hectares being cultivated usually in a form of subsistence farming.
In this regard, farmers need to be empowered to form their organizations to be able to work together and to know that they can negotiate well with traders and other stakeholders, agricultural expert and country director for World vegetable center, Ralph Roothaert (Ph.D.) told The Reporter.
Funded by the IKEA Foundation, Veggies 4 Planet and People project works to improve the income of youth and women through sustainable organic agricultural practices in the vegetable business.
Roothaert noted the prevalence of poverty among farmers in rural areas that is hindering Ethiopia’s agricultural productivity. The director suggested transforming the lives of farmers from subsistent farming to scaling up their productivity through skills development training.
Similarly, plant health scientist, Wubetu Bihon (Ph.D.) highlighted the absence of companies that can provide improved seeds and agricultural inputs comprising of environmentally friendly pesticides to Ethiopian farmers.
According to him, despite the limited availability of improved cereal seeds in some local shops, getting companies that are aware of the content, quality, and substance and chemical compositions of the vegetable crops is very challenging.
“I have seen a lot international seed breeding and producing companies in Kenya, but there are no environmentally friendly chemical providers in Ethiopia,” said Wubetu.
This is because of the lack of an encouraging government, both for international and local companies to provide improved seed, Wubhetu said. He added that even the available seed providers are traders who have no clue about seed variety and content.
Due to the fact that Ethiopian farmers are unable to produce diversified and sufficient amounts of vegetable agricultural products, it is affecting the vegetable consumption of the public.
With the aim at promoting an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, so that sufficient quantities become part of the daily diet in all countries, World Health Organization recommended a daily intake of at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables. However, data show that many Ethiopians take less than 200 grams of fruits a day.
The project targets 1,600 farmers in Ethiopia and the current first phase of the project in the Shewa Zone of the Oromia region targets farmers in Wolisso, Welmera, and Ejere districts benefiting atleast 900 households.