The Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences has a wide representation of development projects in Ethiopia under the auspices of the Czech Development Agency. However, in cooperation with Mendel University in Brno, we primarily solve two projects implemented in the vicinity of the cities of Arba Minch and Awassa. These are "Implementation of a Fruit Value Chain for Improved Nutrition and Efficient Production in Arba Minch Zuria" and "Protection of Awassa Lake through Sustainable Management of Surrounding Area".
The Arba Minch Zuria woreda is an important fruit-growing region, characterized mainly by the production of banana, papaya, and mango, which stands for up to 10% of the local household income. The whole area already accounts for about 10-15% of the total fruit production in Ethiopia. Despite this, the average year fruit consumption is only 7 kg per capita. However, the growing potential of Arba Minch Zuria woreda is far from being fulfilled. With its sufficient rainfall and favourable climate, the area provides unprecedented opportunities for the cultivation of various fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, local farmers face large post-harvest losses (up to a quarter of the mango production) and sell most of their products immediately in a fresh raw form. The diversification of cultivated species and varieties, appropriate sustainable agricultural practices together with the possibilities of storing/selling processed products could thus significantly help in the development of the woreda as well as contribute to the overall improvement of eating habits throughout Ethiopia.
The Awassa lake and its surroundings have been under the pressure of soil erosion, landscape pollution, and unsustainable soil management, resulting in overall environmental damage and landscape degradation for a long time. Deforestation and intensive grazing in the surrounding mountains resulted in a common occurrence of landslides, which are endangering the lives of local communities while clogging the lake at the same time. The aim of the Awassa project is therefore to build functional protection for the lake, rehabilitate degraded areas through afforestation and anti-erosion measures, revitalize urban parks, and introduce innovations for sustainable agriculture.
In the peak of the mango season in Arba Minch, we focused mainly on monitoring the newly established fruit nurseries and mother plant orchards, devising the concept of pilot production plantations, and arranging the cooperation with the University of Arba Minch, whose involvement we would like to expand beyond the current project activities. We have also established a connection with the Melkassa Research Center, which should supply our nurseries with seedlings of improved mango and avocado varieties as well as with new fruit species, which we plan to implement into the production. But not everything went on smoothly, an unpleasant surprise was prepared by a pest Aulacaspis tubercularis, the cause of mango white scale, which started to attack all the mango orchards in the area. Hopefully, with the help of the local university, we will be able to get the situation under control!
Whereas in Awassa, everything seemed to be functioning without major complications, except for a bit of administration perplexity, but this simply must be taken into account while working in Africa. As a part of the CZU project activities, we focused on the planned establishment of demonstration agroforestry plots based on a combination of food crops, mainly vegetables and bananas, with bamboo, which will serve as a buffer zone. Furthermore, in cooperation with local assistants, we are preparing farmers’ training on the diversification of cultivated crops in home gardens.
Another trip to Ethiopia, focused mainly on fruit processing and post-harvest handling, is planned for July. Please, keep your fingers crossed for us, so that we can leave, despite the uncertain situation in the Czech Republic and the world!
Author: Ing. Anna Maňourová, a Ph.D. student at Department of Crop Sciences and Agroforestry.