Propagating sustainable business across boarders

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(Photo: Anteneh Aklilu)

Veggies 4 Planet and People is funded by the IKEA Foundation to improve the income of youth and women through sustainable practices in the vegetable business. The project has been funded 6 million euros over 5 years in Ethiopia and Kenya. The program focuses on helping the women and youth farmers by linking them around big cities such as Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Kisumu. The project plans to connect the producers around urban cities, creating short linkages and supply chains to increase efficiency between growers and consumers; improve information flow; and boost trust between consumers and producers. Many consumers worry about the vegetables being grown with besmirched irrigated water or consuming pesticide residues that remain still after they’ve made their purchase. These fears deter the consumption of vegetables. The short supply chains allow consumers to know how their vegetables are grown and reassure them of their quality and safety.
The project targets 4000 youth and women in Ethiopia and Kenya with 1600 farmers in Ethiopia. The producers will be organized into what the project names “Vegetable Business Networks” which differ from the usual farmer groups as they consist of input suppliers, traders, processors, and retailers in a single network. There will be 80 of these networks in Ethiopia, organized as 1 or 2 networks per woreda. The project is targeting 9 million euros in increased profit annually.
The two major implementing partners currently involved in this project are the World Vegetable Center and SNV Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). The World Vegetable Center has overall coordination control of the program and will also be providing cutting-edge regenerative agricultural technologies in terms of integrated pest management, soil management, and water use. These technologies will also further serve to process and extend the shelf life of the vegetables. SNV’s main task is to fill the gaps in the value chain of the vegetable business networks. The pilot project has already succeeded immensely leading to the donation of 20 more million euros by the Dutch government. SNV will also be focusing on building the vegetable business networks and their capacity. All the partners involved in this project have set out to help educate the farmers on how to use better technologies where the vegetable can be grown in safe and profitable ways.
The program perfectly aligns with current government policies with the appointment of a new state horticultural ministry which shows the government’s growing interest in the sector. Horticulture provides huge opportunities in export which in turn brings in foreign currency. It also immensely affects the local market for the better. The government is enabling the use of irrigation infrastructure and water sources closer to the vegetable farmers. These are challenges that the project needs addressing directly by the government and the government has not disappointed so far. Dereje Asamew,the representative on behalf of the Ministry of Agricultural Inputs and Output Marketing Sector, stated that the government has already created a road map concerning the horticultural sector for the next decade. The government is also planning to construct cold chain stores for the preservation of the product and to assimilate the produce with the agro-industry as a regular contributor. The other goal the government is putting its hopes on is the provision of various seeds for farmers through this project.
The project is planned to expand in the Shewa zone, Wolisso, Welmera and Ejera districts. These areas consist of farmers who have been trained and qualified by a previous initiative. The farmers have the basic skills of growing vegetables and the usage of sustainable agricultural practices. After the development of more improved technologies, the program is set to expand to other areas including the rift valley such as Batu (Zeway), Koka, and Hawassa. The project aims to break that cycle and show them alternative ways of growing vegetables using fewer pesticides and more sustainable substitutes.
The most common product is tomato processed into a paste or can be packed dried like red pepper. Leafy vegetables can similarly be dried and reconstituted by soaking in water or cooking. These methods are already practiced in Ethiopia in traditional ways and the project aims to adapt this and modernize the process. The project has recipes particularly prepared for vegetables that it plans to promote through social media and the aid of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture.
This project aims on giving the youth jobs that are in their interests and aspirations which is quite a modern way of offering opportunities. Social media will be serving as the source of information so more farmers could learn continuously. The sustainability of the project not only depends on people’s sustainability but also on planet sustainability. Regenerative agriculture technologies will increase soil health through building organic matter. Pest and disease management without chemicals and using biopesticides and natural pesticides that are easily available and can be personally produced at low cost will ensure the longevity of the improved horticultural practices.