By Yigzaw Dessalegn and Teshome Derso
Tadele Gobeze is a young entrepreneur who is engaged in the supply of fruit seedlings in Mecha District of the Amhara Region. In 2010, he established a fruit nursery with an initial capital of ETB 1,300 (USD 65). The nursery is established on 2000m2 of leased land.
Unlike field crop, fruit crops were recently introduced in the northwestern part of Ethiopia. But the demand for fruit crops has steadily grown due to urbanization. To help supply more fruits to meet this demand, the regional government of Amhara has established a number of public fruit nursery sites and has also encouraged private fruit seedling suppliers.
Tadele said he started the business by producing and retailing budded sweet oranges, non-grafted mango and avocado seedlings, coffee, eucalyptus and other trees. But the price of tree seedlings is lower compared to fruit crop seedlings. Similarly, the price of grafted fruit seedlings is about 3-6 times higher than the price of non-grafted fruit seedlings. Despite this fact, most private and public fruit nursery sites supply non-grafted fruit seedlings mainly because of a lack of skilled fruit grafting personnel and lack of mother trees of improved varieties for scions.
The Livestock and Irrigated Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project identified shortage in the supply of grafted fruit seedling as a major problem in fruit value chain development in Mecha and it moved to establish private seedling suppliers in collaboration with the Mecha District Office of Agriculture.
LIVES is currently supporting Tadele and other private seedling suppliers with practical training on fruit grafting techniques and mentoring services. The project provided 18 grafted seedlings of improved varieties of mango and avocado to establish mother trees in Tadele’s nursery site. He was also provided with 4000 scion twigs of improved mango and avocado varieties for immediate use and the project also introduced scion twig marketing practice to the community. A study tour of the different fruit propagation methods at Melkasa Research Centre and Picolo public fruit nursery site in the district was also recently organized by the project.
In 2014, Tadele started supplying grafted mango and avocado seedlings besides budded sweet orange seedlings for farmers in his neighbourhood. He supplied 3,600 budded sweet orange, 1,000 grafted mango and 500 grafted avocado seedlings. He sold sweet orange for ETB 30/seedling, mango for ETB 40/seedling and avocado for ETB 35 /seedling, and generated ETB 160,100 (USD 7,600). This year he expanded his grafting activity, and supplied more than 12,000 grafted mango and avocado seedlings. In addition, he supplies sweet orange, guava, gravelia, gesho, eucalyptus, and coffee seedlings, and expects to earn about ETB 300,000 – 400,000 (USD 15,000 – 16,000). Currently, his capital has reached ETB 300,000 (USD 15,000).
Tadele’s experience depicts the feasibility of grafted fruit seedling supply business to employ educated but jobless rural and urban youths. After observing Tadele’s success, fresh university graduates got inspired, and started grafted fruit seedling supply. However, access to a reliable market, land, capital, scion and irrigation water remain a challenge. But despite these challenges Tadele`s vision is to expand and modernize his fruit seedling supply business.