Tomato is one of the most important irrigated vegetables in Seka Chekorsa District of Jimma zone, Oromia. According to an April 2013 report by the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project, tomato is the third largest irrigated vegetable in the district, preceded only by potato and cabbage. Land under potato production is about 1375ha while that of cabbage and potato are 2438ha & 5277ha, respectively. Most tomato farming in Seka Chekorsa relies on use of local cultivars and traditional production practices.
Tomato staking is one of the practices that, if improved, could help smallholder farmers in Jimma improve the crop’s production. Staking is the process of supporting tomato plants with a wooden or metallic rods or mesh wire so that they take up less space and the fruits don’t weigh down the plant close to the ground risking damage from dirt, disease and infestation by insects or rot. Staking also makes harvesting easier but it needs to be done systematically to save time and make it resource efficient.
Traditionally, farmers in Seka Chekorsa, stake their tomato plants in two rows leaving a wide space in between rows. The farmers find this approach tedious and laborious particularly during peak seasons. For this reason, some tomato producers do not stake their plants resulting in damage and loss.
Cognizant of this fact, in November 2014, the LIVES project organized a tailor-made study tour and training for farmers in the project intervention districts to the Holeta Agricultural Research Centre and to five farmers involved in high-value vegetable crops farming in Holeta and Meki towns. Farmers from LIVES intervention households and extension staff from two of the project’s intervention zones in Oromia (Jimma and West Shoa) took part in this event. The objective of the training and study tour was to give participants opportunity to learn and experience the processes of improving irrigated vegetable production using improved techniques of tomato, onion and potato production. Nine farmers and seven extension experts from Jimma zone attended this event.
Post-training progress showed that two farmers from Seka Chekorsa District applied knowledge from this training in their irrigation schemes. These farmers, Kalifa A/Sambi (from Ushane Koche peasant association (PA)) and Tadesse Teshome (from Alaga PA), took pictures and recorded videos during the study tour using their smartphones. Upon returning to their districts, they reported to the district Irrigation Development Authority (IDA), which upon learning of the new-found best practice from the farmers, organized a one day district-wide farmers’ conference where the two farmers shared their experiences with 282 other farmers.
Using the smartphone pictures and videos from the training and their newly-gained knowledge as a reference, Kalifa and Tadesse staked their tomato plants that had been planted prior to the training event. Nearby farmers observed their new approach and started using this new method as well. The district administration office and IDA then invited journalists to the two farmers’ fields to document the best practice that was now being used by more farmers.
Tadesse realized that he could use the extra space gained by staking his tomato plants differently to plant cabbages. He also intercropped khat with cabbage, green pepper and tomato for optimal use of his land. This is a new practice in the Jimma area where farmers mostly farm coffee and khat.
Tadesse has been praised by the district administration and the IDA for intercropping of khat with irrigated vegetables. The local authorities are now seeking to promote the best practices of these farmers to wider areas in collaboration with the zonal LIVES office by organizing field days for farmers.
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