Written by Birhanu Biazin, Tesfaye Dubale, Yoseph Mekasha
Better harvesting techniques and post-harvest handling processes introduced by the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project have improved smallholder mango production in the Gamo Gofa zone of southern Ethiopia.
Mango is the second most important fruit crop in the country after banana. The Gamo Gofa zone in southern region is an important mango producing region in Ethiopia and a key supplier of the fruit to the national market. Mango farming is expanding rapidly in the region.
Traditionally, many farmers have relied on shaking mango trees, thrashing the branches and using scissors or hooks to cut the fruits as the main mango harvesting techniques. But these methods damage or bruise both the mature and immature mango fruits.
LIVES introduced mango harvesting tool to more than 50 smallholder producers in the zone. It is a metallic fruit picker with nylon box attached to a long wooden pole that enables to reach the fruits. While the metallic fruit picker could be designed and produced by village workshops, the wooden poles are prepared by the smallholder mango producers themselves.
Smallholder farmers education on the importance of harvesting only mature and healthy mangoes based on fruit maturity indices, such as shape and color, is helping farmers get higher quality fruits that fetch better market prices.
As part of this initiative, the project has also trained, and is working with, extension workers and zonal and district agricultural officers in sensitizing the community to adopt better production techniques such as using improved mango varieties and optimum spacing of mango trees for optimal growth and easier harvesting.
As a long term strategy, LIVES is also leading a farmer-based grafted seedlings supply system to avail improved trees to farmers. The ‘top-working’ technique is being used to produce improved and shorter mango trees that produce uniformly sized fruits of superior quality and are easier (lessen chance of fruit damage) during harvest compared to cross-pollinated cultivars currently used by many farmers.
To ensure farmers increase their incomes and improve mango marketing systems within and outside the zone, the LIVES project has partnered with organizations such as marketing and cooperatives offices at district and zonal levels, Gamogofa fruits and vegetables cooperatives union and local traders.
With contributions from Kahsay Berhe