One of the main goals of Food System Lab in Bahir Dar (FSL-BD), Ethiopia, is improving the nutrition and incomes of smallholder farmers around Bahir Dar city by involving them in the production of nutritious and profitable crops like avocado. A typical day at the FSL-BD includes activities focusing on promotion of avocado production by smallholder farmers at Koga Irrigation Scheme, North Macha district.
Authors: Melkamu Alemayehu, Enyew Adgo, Hirut Assaye, Gashaw Tilahun
Koga Irrigation Scheme is located about 45 km apart from Dahir Dar city; the capital city of Amhara National Regional State, Northwester, Ethiopia. In collaboration with Bureau of Agriculture, the FSL-BD selected volunteer farmers and development agents who wanted to participate in the training and production of avocado.
Trainings for enhanced knowledge and skill
Avocado production in Amhara region in general and at Koga Irrigation Scheme in particular is a new business for smallholder farmers and even for development agent. Therefore, providing both theoretical and practical trainings (Fig. 1 , 2 and 3) were necessary to equip the farmers and development agents with required knowledge and skills for successful production of the crop. Accordingly, the FSL-BD in collaboration with the agriculture office of the district provided trainings on the establishment and management of avocado orchard for selected farmers and development agents. The trainings consisted of the nutritional importance of avocado and agronomic and management practices including site selection, nursery management, land preparation and planting, cultivation, soil fertility management, irrigation, harvesting and postharvest handling.
Farmers prepared the orchard site traditionally using oxen as they have done for other crops for years. They also prepared and used compost (organic fertilizer) as source of nutrients and for soil structure improvement. Using the knowledge and skills acquired from the trainings, farmers together with their family prepared avocado planting holes with the depth, width and length of 60 x 60 x 60 cm, respectively. The planting holes were spaced by 6.0 m between rows and 4.0 m between plants within rows.
The FSL-BD provided the required number of grafted and improved varieties (2100 trees) to farmers (12 in number) where Hass and Ettinger varieties in the ratio of 8:1, respectively, were used (Fig. 4). About 5 hectars of farmers’ land was planted with avocado trees. The varieties were raised in the governmental nursery (Wetet Abay Horticulture Training Centre) at North Mecha district. Farmers planted their avocado trees in the first week of July (July 5, 2021) as reliable rainfall is necessary for successful establishment of the trees.
FSL-BD in collaboration with the office of agriculture organized a field day during the planting of avocado trees where farmers, development agents, regional, zonal and district governmental officials participated (Fig. 5). This field day was a good opportunity for FSL-BD to promote the HFA project to wider ranges of stakeholders.
Supplementing farmer’s livelihood during the lag time
One of the complications for farmers to participate in avocado production is the lag time between planting and the first reliable harvest of the trees, which is 3-4 years. Moreover, due to the small size of the tree during the early stage of development, most of the land is out of production, which impacts their income and livelihood. Therefore farmers produced compatible crops on the empty area during early stage of avocado trees to compensate the lost income and enhance livelihood (Fig. 6). The established avocado trees are periodically visited and evaluated by members of the FSL-BD and the staff of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences of Bahir Dar University.