Written by Yigzaw Dessalegn and Worku Teka
Amhara region has a diverse agro-ecology with altitudes ranging from 500 to 4620 metres, huge surface water resources and different soil types. This type of environment is conducive to growing both tropical and temperate fruit crops. However, according to a Central Statics Authority (2014) report, fruit crops account for only 0.09% of the total cultivated land in the region. To tap into this unexploited potential, the Livestock and irrigation value chains for Ethiopian smallholders (LIVES) project planned some activities towards the fruit value chain development. Preparing a geographic information system (GIS)-supported suitability map for the production of major fruit crops and sharing the outcome with partners was the first project activity. The second step involved organizing a training for farmers and experts on fruit production and propagation practices. In addition, the project introduced and demonstrated improved varieties and recommended management practices of major fruit crops (apple, avocado, banana and mango) in North Gondar, South Wollo and West Gojjam zones.
Lay Armacheho District was one of the potential districts identified through the suitability map for banana production in North Gondar zone. The LIVES project introduced and demonstrated the performance of an improved banana variety (Dwarf Cavendish) with recommended management practices on the farms of 10 intervention households in Musie Bamb Kebele in the district. Each intervention household received 75 suckers from the project, which also regularly provided coaching on irrigation, soil nutrient management and sucker management. The banana suckers came from Metema District where banana was introduced a few years ago by the IPMS project. Woretaw Abuhaye is a farmer in one of the intervention households targeted for this trial. He planted the suckers on 5 December 2013 at a spacing of 3m x 3m, irrigated them at three-day interval during the dry season, and applied compost. The banana plant started flowering 10 months later on 27 September 2014 and was ready for harvest on five months from flowering on 24 February 2015. The number of banana fingers per bunch ranged from 160 to 200 and each banana fruit was sold at a price of ETB 2.00 (USD 0.097) in the local market. Woretaw is earning ETB 320-400/bunch sold. So far, he has harvested and sold over 20 banana bunches from the banana suckers initially planted. Secondary suckers also started setting fruit. Observing this economic benefit, Woretaw started expanding his banana orchard. Similarly, his neighbors started banana production by purchasing suckers from him at a price of ETB 15-20/sucker and they showed interest in working with him on a greater scale by renting land as well. ‘Having observed this development, the Office of Agriculture in Lay Armacheho District purchased about 6,000 banana suckers and introduced it in five peasant associations (PAs) in the district,’ says Assefa Zeleke, the district horticulture expert in Lay Armacheho. As a result of these and other efforts, banana production is expanding in the district and the all-rounded efforts by farmers and district Office of Agriculture are helping in scaling out/up of best technologies. The next LIVES project interventions in the district will be to introduce and demonstrate better banana varieties and train traders on banana ripening techniques.