In her district Bahafta Meresa, a widow, leads a session on growing potato, sharing insights and lessons with many farmers, both male and female. Bahafta works with Africa RISING and is well-known for trying out many varieties of potato.
She says “I started working with Africa RISING project in 2013. At a meeting organized at our kebele, I expressed interest to participate in wheat and potato, potato participatory varietal selection (PVS) and faba bean and potato community based seed multiplication (CBSM). It has always been experts who select model farmers to take part in any research or development initiatives. However, Africa RISING has a different approach whereby the research ideas and criteria were presented to the farmers and the farmers themselves decide where and when to participate by taking into account interests, resources and capabilities”.
Bahafta has tested different varieties of potato on her farm under rain-fed conditions. Three improved varieties of potato – Belete, Gudene and Jalene – were tested in comparison with the local potato variety giving marketable yields of 51, 47, 44 and 13 tons/ha tuber respectively. The benefit she saw from improved potato production includes increased yield, quality and early maturity.
This year, she harvested 1600 kg of improved potato from 0.3 hectare of land, earning about 6000 birr from the sale of potato tubers for seed. She explains “The land size I own is only 0.3 ha and with the previous production practice I was unable to feed my family. However, because of the improved potato production practice I am much better off in feeding my family and making additional investment”.
From this income, Bahafta is able to pay a loan for a motorized water pump and bought agricultural inputs that increase the productivity of her small plot of land. Owning the motorized pump enabled her to produce twice a year by pumping water from a distant shallow hand-dug well.
Potato is also an important food security crop. The food-scarce months are usually August to September, when most crops will still be green in the field. However, potato is ready during this period which covers the food gap of households.
Previously, farmers in the area hdepended on cereals, but now potato has helped to diversify their dietary food consumption. Bahafta says that “potato can be considered as a lazy-man food at it requires less labour and energy to cook. The labour required for potato production is high compared to other cereal crops particularly to women but the benefits exceed the costs.”
Having seen the benefits and experiences of potato production from farmers like Bahafta, many other farmers are adopting potato production. Apart from becoming a learning ground for the community, Bahafta’s plot is now being used as a source of improved potato seed for community members.
Story by: Harnet Abrha (Researcher at Alamata Agricultural Research Center) and Gebrehiwot Hailemariam (CIP representative in the site)