Ethiopia has very diverse soil types and agro-climatic conditions. In some parts of the country, the agro-ecology oscillates in a short distance. This agro-ecological diversity is both a challenge and an opportunity for crop production. It enables people to produce crop types adaptable to tropical, subtropical and temperate climatic conditions throughout the year without using plant growth structures. On the other hand, it demands adaptable varieties for each agro-ecology, and systems to multiply and supply planting materials of improved varieties to farmers. It also requires that farmers get advice on appropriate varieties for specific farm soil types.
The Government of Ethiopia has established several agricultural research centers, higher learning institutes, and assigned agricultural extension workers in different parts of the country to tap opportunities as well as to solve problems associated with agroecological diversity. These institutions are striving to develop high yielding and adaptable improved varieties of different crop species for different agro-ecologies. Recently, private companies are also involved in variety development activities.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the research system of the country released or recommended 306 varieties of cereal crops, 169 varieties of pulse crops, 77 varieties of oil crops, 133 varieties of vegetable crops, 19 varieties of condiments and medicinal plants, 28 varieties of fruit crops, 19 varieties of forage crops, 19 varieties of fiber crops, and 37 varieties of stimulant crops up to 2012. In total, 807 improved varieties of different crop species adaptable to different agro-ecologies of the country are released or recommended. These improved varieties can only boost crop production if their seed or planting material is simultaneously multiplied and made available to farmers and if farmers plant these varieties in their recommended agro-ecology.
In Amhara region the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) regional project team made a quick assessment of the vegetable seed supply system at Bahir Dar and Gondar towns. The assessment shows that farmers obtain vegetable seeds mainly from private seed retailers. As depicted in the table below, the planting material of most released varieties is not multiplied and made available in local markets. On the other hand, most varieties supplied by vegetable seed retailers are not listed in the crop variety register book of the country. These varieties may be either obsolete or may not be yet evaluated and recommended for production. This clearly indicates that there is a rift between vegetable crops variety development and seed supply in the country.
As the table shows, many of the vegetables widely used by local consumers as well as those which have huge export potential do not have released varieties. Some of the vegetable crops have only one recommended variety for production, regardless of the diverse agro-ecology and production season. On top of this, customers’ preference is diverse. For example, pungent and red-coloured onions are preferred for sauce preparation but mild and white onions are preferred as fresh vegetable; dark red pepper varieties are preferred as spice but mild and big pod sized peppers are preferred to serve as green pod; big sized head cabbage is preferred for hotels while medium sized head cabbage varieties are preferred for household use. Public and private research institutions are expected to fill this gap.
Varieties released/recommended/ for production
Varieties supplied by seed retailers
|1||Tomato||25||STH-808, STH-805, ARP tomato d2, Rainbow, Galilea, Bridget 40, Anna F1, Eden F1, Topspin F1, Barnum, Shanty, Irma, Chali, Cochoro, Miya, Lakku, Sirinka-I, Mersa, Woyno, Bishola, Fetane, Metadel, Eshete, Melka Shola, and Melka Salsa||3||Roma VF, Marglobe, & Shanty|
|2||Onion||12||Rosy, Caramelo F1, Sweet Caroline, Red passion F1, Sivan, Jamber F1, Red king, Nafis, Neptune, Nasik Red, Adama red, & Melkam||3||Adama red, Red Bombay & Neptune|
|3||Pepper||11||Melka Shote, Melka Awaze, Oda Haro, Melka Zala, Capsi, Spicy, SCH-925F1, Supreme, Serenade, Melka Dima, Melka Eshete||1||Mareko fana|
|4||Cabbage||6||K 500, Oxylus F1, Victoria F1, Thomas F1, Rotonda F1 & Lucky F1||1||Copenhagen market|
|5||Shallot||4||Minjar, Yhera, Negele & Huruta||0||–|
|6||Garlic||4||Kuriftu, Qoricho, Bishoftu Netch & Tseday||0||–|
|8||Lettuce||1||Tesfa Maya||1||Paris Island green|
|10||Swiss chard||0||–||1||Fordhook Giant|
|12||Beet root||0||–||1||Detriot red|
Nowadays, the demand for vegetable seed is steadily increasing with the expansion of irrigation infrastructure in different parts of the country. However, most of the vegetable seeds traded in the country are imported and expensive. For example, the seed price of an open pollinated tomato variety is 2300 birr/kg. Despite this, smallholders as well as investors are not widely engaged in tomato seed production. This is mainly attributed to lack of knowledge and skills on tomato seed production and processing.
A next step for the LIVES project and its relevant stakeholders is to organize short term training on vegetable seed production and processing techniques.
Contributed by LIVES regional team, Amhara