Authors: Melkamu Alemayehu, Enyew Adgo, Gashw Tilahun and Hirut Assaye
The main goal of Bahir Dar Food System Lab is to increase the production and productivity of different food stuffs including fish, legumes and vegetables in areas around Bahir Dar city including Koga Irrigation Scheme by introducing innovations to producers, and consciously promoting the utilization of such food stuffs in the project areas. We will help to tackle the widespread prevalence of stunting and food wasting in the region and beyond by creating access and utilization of such food items.
Visioning healthy communities and increased exports
In Bahir Dar Food System Lab we aspire to achieve communities, especially women and children, free from nutrition-related health hazards in North-Western part of Ethiopia and beyond.
Given the suitability of the area for the production of different nutritious food products, diversified and affordable nutritious food production and marketing system will not only be available in the project areas but Bahir Dar could also be a major exporter of food items to the surrounding regions and countries.
In order to achieve our vision, we are engaging with different actors including producers (urban and pre-urban), extension experts and agents, policy and decision makers, farmer’s service cooperatives, distributors and retailers, consumers, private firms and NGOs. We have already communicated with few households and extension agents.
Huge potential in the production of tomato
Tomato is an important cash crop produced by smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. The country has huge potential for the production of tomato. However, the production and productivity of the crop in the country is very low compared to other countries. Lack of high yielder variety, inappropriate agronomic practices and damages caused by various diseases and insect pests are, among other things, major constraints of tomato production in Ethiopia.
Especially in humid- and sub-humid areas of the country, tomatoes are not produced during the rainy season; mainly due to high incidence of late blight (Phytophthora infestans (Mont) de Bary). The direct contact of plants with rain drops, coupled with other predisposing factors such as favorable temperatures and high relative humidity make the environment suitable for the development and spread of late blight, which restrict the production of tomato in such areas. Thus tomato is cultivated mainly during the dry season (November to March) using irrigation water. This makes the supply of tomato to the local market during the rainy season (July to November) very limited, leading to price escalation.
Rain-shelter technology to be piloted
Rain-shelter technology for the production of tomato and other vegetable crops in humid and sub-humid climates is implemented in different countries of the world including Africa as alternative production system. The technology reduces the predisposition of tomato plants against late blight and other similar diseases as indicated by the results of various researches¹. Moreover, all varieties of tomato do not perform uniformly under rain-shelter technology (plastic-covered rain shelter). Therefore, best performed tomato varieties should be first identified for the successful production of tomato during rainy season under cover.
In this regard, Bahir Dar Food System Lab will establish a pilot research at Koga Irrigation Scheme (about 45 km from Bahir Dar city) where best performed tomato variety/ies under plastic-covered rain shelter is/are selected. During piloting selected farmers will be also directly involved in the production of tomatoes to evoke their interest in the new technology. Moreover, field days will be organized to introduce and promote the technology to farmers, development agents, agriculture officers and other relevant stakeholders. After selection of suitable tomato variety and standardizing the technology, we will invite and motivate other farmers to participate in the scaling up of shelter-technology for the production of tomato in and around the area.
Fish seed production in irrigation water reservoir
Quality seed is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable and successful aquaculture development, be it small-scale or commercial farming. The adoption of the latest technologies of fish seed production, for instance, through cross breeding² increases fish production so as to meet the protein demand of the growing population. It also improves the socioeconomic conditions of the rural people in the area where water supply is available. Therefore, Bahir Dar Food System Lab will be piloting fish seed production in night reservoirs of Koga Irrigation Scheme during the rainy season where the water is not used for crop production as a source of irrigation. Fish seeds will be then distributed to fish farmers which are in need of quality fish seeds.
Sustaining legume production
The production of leguminous crops like Faba bean and soybean in Amahara Region is declining from year to year, which is mostly associated with soil acidity and fertility degradation. In this regard, our Food System Lab will pilot selected soil amendment technologies like liming and rhizobium inoculation to amend the acidity and fertility status of soil at Koga Irrigation Scheme. Furthermore, Lupine is more and more occupying cultivated lands and break crops to restore soil fertility. The crop is however still marginalized and little is known about its positive impacts. Therefore, the mechanisms behind the acid tolerance nature of lupine and its impacts on soil fertility will be researched in our pilot study.
¹Srinivasan, R. (2011). Vegetable production under protective structures. Asian Journal of Science and Technology, CGIAR SP-IPM Innovative Solutions for Crop Protection, Technical Innovation
¹Wani, K.P., Singh, P.K., Amin, A., Mushtaq, F. and Dar, Z.A. (2011). Protected cultivation of tomato, capsicum and cucumber under Kashmir valley conditions. Asian Journal of Science and Technology 1(4): 056-061
¹Melkamu Alemayehu and Getachew Alemayehu (2017): Study on alternative technologies for the production of tomato during the rainy season in sub-humid climate of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Ethiop. J. Sci. & Technol. 10(1) 1- 16. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/ejst.v10i1.1
²Gashaw Tilahun, Kiran Dube, C.S. Chtruvedi, Bindhi Kumar (2016). Assessment of reproductive performance, growth and survival of hybrids of African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Indian catfish (Clarias batrachus) compared to their parental lines crosses.Turkish Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 16: 123-133. DOI: 10.4194/1303-2712-v16_1_13