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Tapping the agri-sector to reap benefits, success stories from flourishing farms

Ethiopia has been stated as a country with a huge potential when it comes to fruits and vegetables in addition to other agricultural products. Experts opined that despite there being an occurrence of huge changes in the sectors growth over the years, there lie’s a huge untapped potential waiting to be reaped. In his latest appearance in parliament, PM Abiy Ahmed likewise echoed the huge potential of the country as he explained that the country covered a quarter of its food supply through import.
The PM further pointed out that the country not only has the potential to fully feed itself, but also have surplus that may be used for export. “How come we import mango?” he rhetorically asked.
The top leader has taken different initiatives to boost agricultural productivity and fruit tree development through the ‘green legacy’ initiative, a greenery campaign that includes planting of fruit trees throughout the country.
Besides that the government is pushing investors to engage on agricultural investment to the local and export market.
Of that, the avocado and other fruit development is hoped to be one of the major export earnings of Ethiopia that is not only carried out by smallholder farmers but also huge investments like mechanized farming located at southern Ethiopia.
The Dagne agricultural facility located about 70 km southwest of Hawassa town, has poured in huge investments to produce agricultural products like improved seeds, dry season wheat, and different type of fruit trees.
Dagne Daba, who developed four adjacent farms located at the western Bilate River bank and northeastern edge of Abaya Lake, Welayta Zone of SNNP, said since he secured the farm, which was partly owned by Genale Agro-industry, on foreclosure from Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, has started the clearing and plantation activities of millions of fruit trees and other cereal production.
He told media that he decided to engage on agricultural investment besides his other businesses, by citing his inspiration, “I am engaged in export business like coffee and also logistics activities, but on my pilgrimage to Israel I got a chance to visit an orange and mandarin farm in arid areas, which drew me to this investment.”
“I was very impressed on my visit and that inspired me to be involved on such kind of investments in my country,” he recalled what sparked his initiative.
“Ethiopia has favorable climatic conditions and fertile land, which I believe is better than Israel, so I was very eager to be involved on farming,” he says, adding, “the country has potentials like land, experts and other relevant condition to conduct modern agriculture.”
He said that currently the farm which mainly is cultivated on the Abaya and Bilate area is about 2,500 hectares. So far the farm is covered by 1million trees of avocado, 1.5 million banana tree plantation, 500,000 papaya trees, ten thousand orange trees, and other plantations.
He said that most of them have been planted in less than a year ago, since the possession of the farmland is only a year old.
In the coming year we expect the avocado trees to bear high quality fruits for local and export markets.
In the beginning the investor imported about 20,000 orange stems from Uganda for cultivation, “but now the small tree from Upper Awash, the only mechanized Valencia varieties of orange plantation in Ethiopia, has been bought and is being transported to the farm to be planted.”
The total orange plantation will be 100,000 in the coming few months and is expected to mature and bear fruit in two years time.
The papaya that is already providing fruit will be harvested for the coming four years and a single stem shall produce four quintal per annum.
“So far the papaya harvest that is being supplied to the local market is covering the cost for labour,” the investor said.
“We hope that the tree plantation in general will provide massive harvest in the coming season,” Dagne confidently stressed, adding that the government should focus on eliminating the middlemen, who do not have any value addition on the production cycle or market linkages.
“We shall provide agricultural commodities at affordable prices, meanwhile middlemen get involved to double the price which is not fair,” he expressed his concern.
“I am sure the papaya plantation shall cover half of Ethiopia’s demand, similarly the banana cultivation has a potential to stabilize the local market with fair price if the illegal market actors involvement is avoided,” he said, adding, “I think when the harvest season comes in next month, every day up to 20 trucks shall transport the bananas, which is a new type of plantation that shall meet the export market.”
He said that a single tree can produce on average 80 kilos of banana fruit.
The plantation invested huge amount of money to access different type of seedlings; for instance the farm imported the ‘Grand Nain’ banana seeds variety from Israel by itself and it provided for seedlings to a company located at Bishoftu town to cultivate the plant and provide the plant at the cost of 75 birr per seedling, but the cost was not inclusive of transportation and other related expenses.
Similarly the farm spent 200 birr for each avocado variety seedling, “some portion of the seedlings have consumed up to 350 birr.”
The farm has also different fruits like pomegranate and sugarcane, “we have 2,000 pomegranate tree that shall reap produce in the coming few months.”
“We will expand the fruit plantation in the coming years once the existing trees provide the needed seed varieties,” Dagne says, adding, “In the past, we have invested huge amounts to get the improved seedling but that is now in our hand for expansion.”
Besides fruit production, the farm has also been engaged on production of cereals that have been exported in the preceding harvest season and cultivated and provided wheat seeds for the seed distributors.
Currently, the farm is engaged on improved maize and beans seed production that will be distributed for farmers in the coming harvest period.
According to the investor, the improved maize seed might cover at least ten percent of farmers demand for the upcoming harvest season.
“Different type of improved maize seeds including Shone-pioneer variety is cultivated on over a thousand hectare in Abaya farm and 400 hectare at Bilate and will be provided for Ethiopian Seed Enterprise and other partners,” he explained.
“We use irrigation production rather than rain feeding scheme. I estimate the farm would produce up to 50,000 quintal of improved maize seeds,” he elaborated.
In the past dry season the farm has cultivated improved wheat seeds for SNNP Seed Enterprise, “which is now distributed for farmers for this farming season.”
Through apiculture agricultural activity the farm has over 500 beehive boxes that will produce honey for local and international market.
To smooth the agricultural activity in the dry season the farm has drilled six water wells and additional six will be followed.
The farm is also preparing about three huge water pools in different location of the plantation as a reserve for emergency, “the reserve shall be an alternative if power outage or generators malfunctioning occurs.”
There are six main group leaders in different corners of the farm and under the leaders about 3,000 labourers are involved on the day to day agricultural activity. Besides that 20 senior agricultural experts are fully assigned for follow up on the cultivation activities.
“To be honest, we did not estimate the total cost that the farm has so far consumed; for instance the well drilling consumed over 200 million but it needs additional expense like electric transmission lines, transformers and other costs to pump the water,” he explained the costs incurred to develop the farm.
He cited another example that the cost for banana tree support, which keeps the plant from falling in the fruit making period, cost about 16 million birr.
“We want to see small size recreation centre and training facility at the plantation,” Dagne also said, which will enhance the farmers and workers capacity.
At the heart of the farm there is a hot spring which the owner designed to make it a destination for interested visitors, to not only visit the plantation but also enjoy the hot water while at it.
Dagne expressed his delightedness to see that his activity attracting other big investors to follow same path at similar locations, and hopes that this would have a huge ripple effect in not only feeding the country but also providing for export and generating the much needed foreign currency for the country.


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