The Amhara region of Ethiopia produces many cool season vegetables: Cabbages, carrots, beetroot, Swiss chard and lettuce are widely grown and supplied to local markets throughout the year. However, cauliflower, the most expensive cool season vegetable is not well-known to smallholder or commercial farmers in the region.
In Bahir Dar, cauliflower, like cabbage, is eaten roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or raw. Both crops require similar agro-ecology. Yet, the price for one cauliflower in the Bahir Dar open market is about 50 birr while the price of the same size cabbage is 5 birr.
Considering the financial benefits that a farmer may get by producing cauliflower, LIVES regional experts set out to introduce and demonstrate cauliflower production with irrigation in North Gondar zone. The team selected nine farmer fields as demonstration sites and bought ‘seed of snow ball’-a popular cauliflower variety from Harvest General Trading. The first seeds were sown in November 2013 and in March 2014, snow white cauliflower curds are flourishing in the farmers’ fields.
From this promising start, the regional team is now setting out to organize a field day for farmers, extension experts, vegetable traders, input suppliers, big hotel managers, and decision makers to scale up this practice. Since the product is new, the team is working on linking producers with hotels to market the current produce. As the vegetable is a relatively new product in the region, and not widely produced in the country as a whole, greater work remains to scale up and find sustainable markets.
So far, there is no technical knowledge available on agronomic practices, pest and disease management, best suitable varieties and production practices of the crop in Ethiopia. The farmers and development agents involved in the demonstration activity have learned ‘by doing’ but they need further training and skills for deeper knowledge.
To support the field days, the regional team will produce a cauliflower production guide in Amharic and bring more reference materials and guidelines from the national research institute and other places to the district and zonal knowledge centers. Since it is an unexplored area, it may also be useful to have some researchers examine planting dates, spacing, fertilizer rates, pest management practices, and adaptable varieties for the region. Another important fact to act on is market linkage and promotion on cauliflower use in household and hotel kitchens.
Contributed by LIVES regional team, Amhara