Seeding for a win-win - Leul Habte ABDI, SNV Ethiopia
Blog by Leul Habte Abdi, Young Expert at SNV Ethiopia
SNV Ethiopia is currently implementing a three-year project called Gender and Youth Empowerment in Horticulture Markets (GYEM). The project is being implemented since 2016 in two regions of the country, Oromia & South, in partnership with farmer cooperative unions and local administrations.
As a local Young Expert in YEP Programmes, I have the opportunity of working with youth groups organized in various businesses, designed to solve different challenges faced by horticulture farmers in addition to generating income for the group. Among these businesses is onion seed multiplication. In collaboration with an expert from an agricultural research centre, the project supports the youth groups from inception until delivery. Although Ethiopia has suitable agro-climatic conditions for the production of seed, supply lags behind the huge and growing demand. The market is fragmented and it is extremely challenging for farmers to source quality seeds of known origin. Individuals involved in seed production lack best-practice techniques and skills, and there are no standards governing the production and marketing of onion seeds. Undoubtedly, this has been affecting the production of onions both in terms of quality and quantity.
To solve this problem, GYEM is working with four onion seed multiplication and marketing groups. The groups receive a continued technical assistance over the production process. Being a Young Expert, I have a unique opportunity of directly supporting these youth groups to produce and offer quality, accessible and affordable seeds for horticulture farmers. I was also involved in preparing a business plan for onion seeds production.
As a test run, we planted onion seeds of two varieties, Nafisand Bombay Redto determine which might suit for the agro-climatic conditions of the area. In ¼ hectare of land, our best performing group produced 29 quintals (2.9 tonnes) of onion bulbs and were able to sell them for ETB 23,200. They reinvested part of their sales for purchasing inputs for seed production.
At the moment, the groups have already started the seed production cycle which has 2 distinct phases, producing the mother onion bulbs and producing seeds out of the bulbs. There is no strong market mechanism to bridge the gap between demand and supply of seeds, so farmers have long been forced to buy low-quality seeds from individual growers. When the youth groups, organized by our project, actually start commercializing the onion seeds, they have a strong competitive advantage of offering high-quality seeds, produced, stored and packaged with best-practice techniques. The origin and variety of seeds is known and would have definite expected production volumes. We are also planning to collaborate with farmer cooperatives, district agricultural (irrigation) development bureaus and unions to promote the youth groups to forge a more sustainable relationship that bears fruit for all. We will also support the youth groups to be certified by agricultural research institutes and to reach and serve wider communities.
I recently completed a masterclass with YEP Programmes - Stakeholder Analysis - and plan to use the lessons in dealing with the various parties involved in youth employment creation in the target areas. It is always a learning experience for me to engage with the youth groups, support them in developing their soft-skills (basic business skills), understanding what they face each day, what their challenges are and co-exploring the solutions with them. In supporting the youth groups and creating an employment and income-generation opportunity for them, we are also solving one of the most pressing challenge faced by onion farmers, the lack of supply of quality seeds: nurturing a win-win situation for a better future.