Features

Boosting East African exports with Indian investments and expertise

22 December 2016
ITC News

By facilitating Indian investment in East Africa’s agricultural sector and the transfer of know-how and technology ITC is helping farmers manage crop-threatening disease, diversify to higher-value crops

and raise production

Traditionally, ginger has been the major spice export from Ethiopia. It exported over US$24 million worth of ginger in 2011 with numerous farmers dedicating their efforts to ginger production. However, following the outbreak of bacterial wilt, a plant disease that devastates ginger, the production of ginger plummeted in 2012.

Bacterial wilt is estimated to have destroyed 80% of Ethiopia’s ginger crop. Total production of fresh ginger dropped from over 750 thousand tons in 2012 to 127 thousand tons in 2014. Exports dropped to just US$4 million. Farmers were discouraged from cultivating ginger to arrest the spread of the disease. Incomes dropped significantly and up to 80,000 livelihoods were threatened.

However, it is possible to maintain a good yield despite bacterial wilt. In order to do so particular agronomic practices need to be followed. India – the world’s largest producer of ginger – has considerable expertise in its cultivation and in the management of diseases.

Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA), a project funded by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Department for International Development and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC), conducted a survey led by plant pathologists and spice production experts from India to determine the spread of ginger diseases in Ethiopia. Based on the findings, SITA organized a training tour to the south of India where Ethiopian farmers and agricultural researchers observed and were trained on best practices for ginger cultivation. These agronomic practices are being replicated on demonstration farms in Ethiopia with training and support from SITA. They then go into operation on the local level.

For example, Getachew Mamo of Nati Coffee & Spices is reintroducing ginger on his farm after a five-year halt. Getachew traveled over 2,000 kilometers to obtain ginger rhizome in order to participate.

‘Ginger is a very valued crop for us,’ he explains. ‘Not only for us as a company – many farmers around us used to depend on it. If we manage to bring it back to production, many households will benefit.’

In the coming years, based on the success of this pilot, the model can be expanded to promote the adoption of these practices throughout the country.

Meanwhile in Rwanda two demonstration farms, covering a total of four hectares, are also being developed to support the country’s mission to introduce high-value cash crops such as ginger to increase farm incomes. If successful, the demonstration farms could be scaled up to 1,000 hectares benefiting about 3,000 farmers by 2020.

DIVERSIFICATION

SITA is also supporting the introduction of new, high-value chili varieties in Rwanda through a pilot project implemented in partnership with Akay Flavours & Aromatics, an Indian spices extraction company. Through the pilot, Rwanda is diversifying from bird’s-eye chili to premium quality chili varieties.

‘We observed that bird’s-eye chili grows very well in Rwanda, but the demand for this variety is limited and the economic feasibility is very low,’ said Shibu Anandarajan of Akay Flavours. ‘We intend to introduce different varieties of chilies with high demand in the international markets, offering better yields and returns to the farmers.’

The pilot approach was designed following a techno-commercial feasibility study for the production of these spices and due consultations with Rwandan government authorities. Akay Flavours provided seeds for six new chili varieties that were distributed to seven commercial farmers in different locations in Rwanda, covering around four hectares. Akay Flavours agreed to buy the entire harvest at prevailing market prices.

‘This pilot gives us fresh hope to continue chili farming,’ said Giscard Tuysishime, a farmer participating in the pilot. ‘We had cultivated bird’s eye chili in 2014 but the yield was poor. The trial seeds received as part of the pilot look very promising and are growing vigorously.’

In partnership with Rwanda’s National Agriculture Export Development Board, SITA is providing agronomic support to the pilot farms and closely monitoring their progress. The team organized a two-day training session to instruct farmers on the preparation of nurseries and on transplanting the nurseries to the main fields. It later visited the farms to ensure this was effectively carried out. The farmers have also been provided with a technical note detailing all agronomic practices that need to be followed.

The farmers expect to harvest a minimum of 20 tons of dried chili by March 2017. If the yields and quality of produce meet market standards, Akay Flavours will work with select farmers and increase the extent to over 250 hectares. This can produce almost 1,000 tons of dried chili annually, with a current market value of US$2 million. Akay Flavours is eventually looking at setting up processing facilities in Rwanda.