Some 5 years ago Ato Berhanu Mulu – the Kalu District fruit and vegetable subject matter specialist, initiated an Association for the production and sale of tropical fruit seedlings – mango, avocado and citrus. Over the years, membership increased from 25 to 53 and most members are young man – only 2 female members.
After initial training on raising rootstock, grafting techniques and nursery management, each member started their own nursery. Members also established mother trees of grafted varieties to ensure a sustainable future supply of scions – a goal which has been realized for the initial members of the association.
The association sells seedlings on behalf of its members to NGOs, investors, the Office of Agriculture (OoA) and private farmers. Potential buyers are interested in the seedlings from the Association because the OoA issues letters certifying authenticity of the seedlings. Orders received by the Association are verified against seedling production records of individual members to determine who can contribute to the required amount of a specific species/variety. Once seedlings have been purchased, each member is paid by the association based on the number of seedlings delivered.
In conversation with LIVES staff, association members plan to explore some of the following options:
- Experience shows that fruit seedling production is an activity which can easily be practiced by women and hence the Association can actively seek the involvement of (young) women.
- Many of the members planted grafted seedlings on their own land and harvesting of improved fruits has already started. The Association may facilitate the sale of improved fruits to “niche customers” in the regional and national market.
- Mobile phone payment technologies (M-Birr) could be tested to transfer funds from the Association to individual members for seedlings and fruits sold. It was noted that most members use mobile phones and have accounts with ACSI, one of the MFI organizations piloting the M-Birr system
Contributed by Dirk Hoekstra, Berhanu Mulu and Mesfin Tefera