The Africa RISING project in the Ethiopian highlands has introduced and validated various interventions (technologies) to benefit smallholder farmers. High value fruit trees, such as improved avocado and apple varieties are some of the technologies that the project has tested at its four sites in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre / ICRAF.
Avocado is mainly grown in the Southern Nation, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR). Many farmers in southern Ethiopia are familiar with and have been growing local avocado varieties.
However, these require a long gestation period to set fruits. The local varieties are also tall and therefore not easy for farmers to harvest, a process that requires much labour and time.Sometimes farmers wait 6-7 years after planting and even then end up with trees that do not set fruits.
Responding to these challenges, Africa RISING accessed grafted seedlings of five improved Avocado varieties (Hass A type, red 30, Naval, Ethinger and Fruite) from Butajira horticultural nursery (central Ethiopia) and distributed these for evaluation to a group of Africa RISING farmers at the Lemo site (Photo 1). Farmers planted the improved varieties in 2014 with strong support from the project. Subsequently, they purchased further grafted seedlings from the nursery in 2015. The improved varieties introduced by Africa RISING are setting fruits within 1-2 years. They are short, making harvesting very easy, and they are productive.
The demand for improved varieties is increasing rapidly. The grafted seedlings from Butajira helped to demonstrate the potential of improved varieties and management, but do not offer a sustainable solution for scaling within and beyond the Africa RISING sites. Some sort of local seedling production will be required.
This has been recognized by some of the avocado farmers. For example, Mr. Tefera Anito from the Africa RISING research Kebele in Jawe has planted improved avocado varieties in addition to participating in the evaluation of five other Africa RISING technologies. His desire to expand his improved avocado production led him to try to graft seedlings himself (Photo 2). He did this by purchasing ripened fruits of local varieties and used these to produce seedlings that could serve as root stocks.
He then used improved plants introduced by Africa RISING as a sources of scions. Mr Anito’s attempts were ultimately unsuccessful due to the gaps in his knowledge of the steps required for successful grafting (Photo 3).
Nonetheless, his ingenuity is inspiring and he and a number of his neighbours are now requesting capacity development support to help them graft their own seedlings using local root stocks.
This is support that Africa RISING will be able to provide during its second phase and we look forward to seeing a blossoming seedling supply enterprise for these innovative farmers.
Written by Kindu Mekonnen, Peter Thorne and Workneh Dubale