Agro-BIG News

Improving farmers’ income through community based rice seed production and marketing – the power of clustering

 

Rice production in Fogera is a recent phenomenon but has been rapidly expanding over the last few years. Currently rice is grown in 27 rural kebeles covering 16,000 ha of land and engaging almost 22 000 households. Despite the rapid expansion, production has been constrained by lack of access to quality seeds that can tolerate diseases and cold weather conditions.

Agro BIG is involved in rice value chain development by promoting community based rice seed multiplication and marketing in five kebeles in Fogera. This means embracing 173 farmers through clustering.

The meaning of clustering

Purpose of clustering is to organize farmers with common interest to produce quality rice seeds which have no contamination with other rice varieties. The idea is to involve farmer’s adjacent field plots into genetically pure seed production that meets the quality requirements. Clustering helps to reach a number of farmers at a time and provide extension and advisory services. It is crucial in maintaining isolation distance to other varieties which enables quality control and finally certification of the seeds by the Plant Quarantine Authority. Above all, simultaneously with addressing the problem of the shortage of improved rice seed supply in the area, this initiative is creating income generating possibilities for the farmers.

Support

Both technical and material support has been rendered to clusters, each consisting 10 - 20 farmers. Clusters have been trained on agronomic practices including row planting, variety selection, weeding and fertilizer application. 45 quintals of Edget variety rice seed has been provided and 15 rotary weeders have been procured and supplied for demonstration.

Quarantine experts have conducted periodic field inspections. As feedback, farmers have been advised to maintain isolation distance between different varieties as well as get rid of unwanted varieties noxious weeds. After timely harvest, farmers are expected to store their rice seed in a common storage facility to ease sample collection by the Quarantine Authority for laboratory testing for genetic purity.

Farmers benefit form clustering

Mr Yehuala Asnakew and Ms Yetemegne Beze are happily waiting to start harvest. This year they have witnessed better crop performance with the new Edget variety they have been engaged with this cropping season.

Before, farmers bought X-Jigna variety from a nearby local market. The seeds were grown in remote kebeles and the seed source was not easily traceable. Additionally they have realized that the quality of X-Jigna is deteriorating; it is affected by disease and the yield is declining.

Through awareness created by the Woreda Office of Agriculture (WoA) and Agro BIG support, Mr Yehuala and Ms Yetemegne joined the cluster and are now happy to devote their time, labor and land for rice seed multiplication. After receiving 20 kg of seeds each, they attended three days training on good agronomy practices. So far they have observed no damage by diseases and wilting of crop leaves. Additionally, they have noticed immediate positive effect in crop performance with water circulation compared to the former practice of water logging.

Both farmers underline that working in cluster is helpful. They are waiting for good results and are willing to supply the produce through a cooperative. The expectation is to double the price from a quintal of rice seed.

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