By Hikma Sultan, business advisor Ethiopia
Zengena Irrigation Users Marketing Cooperative Union in Ethiopia started its operation in 2005. During its establishment, the union had 21 primary cooperative members, 6651 smallholder member farmers and 478,000 ETB in capital. Currently, the number of primary cooperative members is 29 and the number of member farmers is 8175. The union capital amounts to around 4,346,876.90 million ETB. The union mainly purchases malt barley (grain & seed) and vegetables from its members. It also supplies agricultural inputs such as improved grain and vegetable seeds, urea and DAP (both inorganic fertilizers) and consumer goods to the members.
Since Agriterra‘s main intervention area for this union is vegetable and potato, this year a potato production training was delivered. The first training was delivered to a cooperative agency, 5 woreda cooperative agency leads, 4 cooperatives and Agri office experts, model farmers and union agronomists, using Adet research institute. This institute has extensive working experience in potato production activity. They deliver training in collaboration with different NGOs and they test new potato seed varieties. They also supply Grade 1 and Grade 0 seed potatoes to model farmers to be cultivated into G2-G4 seed potatoes. They do a follow-up on the seeds they give to farmers and they advise farmers on every detail of potato production. This training covered the seed to post-harvest methods of potato farming.
After the Training of Trainers, the agronomist and marketing expert of the union visited a seed supplying cooperative in another area to use as a seed supplier in the future.
The training was cascaded to180 farmers from 4 different cooperatives. The farmers were selected based on last year’s production and the size of land they use for potato production. After the training, a demand for seed was collected. During the demand collection, farmers raised the challenge of output marketing.
As a next step, Agriterra will work on market linkage for inputs, loans for individual farmers and market destinations for their products. Hikma Sultan, business advisor Ethiopia: "Despite having knowledge of farming, smallholder farmers in Ethiopia's potato sector tend to implement it infrequently due to the attention they put to it. Reminding them of the best practices is always a fine decision and linking them up with a trainer from a research institute will also help them stay informed on new systems and technologies."