Arbegona and Bona zuria districts of Sidama zone in the Southern Nations region of Ethiopia are agro-ecologically suitable for apple production. However, getting proper planting materials is a challenge as neither government nor private apple nurseries are available in the area. Some few farmers have apple trees that were brought from Chencha , Gamo Gofa Zone, which is more than 400 kms away. Due to the limited knowledge and experience on nursery management and production techniques, it has not been possible to set up an apple nursery at Arbegona and Bona zuria districts thus far.
In the past few months, the LIVES project joined with the Arbegona and Bona Zuria district offices of agriculture to initiate a farmer-based apple nursery management and supply intervention. To carry out the intervention, three households were selected to develop their own apple nurseries with technical support from LIVES and the offices of agriculture. Selection criteria of the households included: their interests to work in an apple nursery, previous engagement in apple production, access to irrigation, access to transportation and markets and their innovativeness.
A two day experience-sharing tour to Chencha area was organized for the selected households. Chencha is the best-known place in Ethiopia for apple production and nursery management. The group visited both private and communal apple nursery management and supply systems, observing land preparation, planting techniques, watering, layering and stooling of the root stocks, grafting, pruning, agronomic management and marketing systems.
From the tour, the group realized that apple nursery management and production requires specialized skills and intensive care. A fellow farmer in Chencha explained the importance of continuous engagement to the group: ‘you should say good morning, good afternoon and good evening to your apple orchards to get the optimum benefit’.
At the end of the tour, the group reflected on the potential of their respective districts for apple production. They have seen the impact of apples in transforming households from subsistence to semi-commercial farming in Chencha and they are motivated to do the same in their own districts. All the group members bought planting materials with their own money and brought them back to their home.
Immediately after their return, group members prepared nursery sites and planted root stock; they will continue to get coaching and support from the LIVES project and the district offices of agriculture.
As a further follow up, three extension staff from the respective districts will attend a training of trainers on apple nursery management and production in January 2014.
With the necessary skills and knowledge, the various actors hope they can disseminate apple production in Sidama zone through continuous capacity development of the service providers, knowledge management and coaching of individual households engaged in apple nursery management and production.
Contributed by Birhanu Biazin (Regional Expert, SNNPR), Yoseph Mekasha (Regional Coordinator, SNNPR) and Tesfaye Shewage (Zonal coordinator, Sidama)