Agro-BIG News

More money in farmers’ pockets after the establishment of a formal seed system

Nigus Alie is an onion farmer living in Fogera woreda, an area dominated by green rice fields during the rainy season and onion fields during the irrigation season, often referred to as the off season.

In these highlands of Amhara, Ethiopia, Nigus has for the first time been able to produce certified onion seed because of Agro-BIG support. This quality produce has been linked to the market via Nigus’ preferred cooperative, Fogera Seed Multiplication and Marketing Cooperative.

Producing certified onion seed on this scale has never before been done in Ethiopia. Onion remains an important crop for smallholders and has huge potential in improving the national food supply and bringing economic benefits to its producers.

Until now, however, there has not been a system in place which would allow farmers to plant certified onion seed.

Why is a certified seed system needed?

Currently huge yield gaps exist in onion production in Ethiopia. According to research, onion yields up to 30-40 tons per hectare can be harvested in optimal conditions. However, in Ethiopia harvested yields have stagnated at 16-20 tons and even less per hectare.

This is partly attributed to lack of better yielding modern cultivars and the use of poor quality propagation material by producers. Onion producers rely entirely on low yielding local seed which often carries disease and pests.

Getting started

In its first year of operation, Agro-BIG programme has provided support to both the producers and supporting government agencies. The regional plant quarantine and the seed laboratories provided the required inspection and services to the onion seed producers.

The pioneer certified local red onion variety goes by the name Bombay red. Nigus Alie, for example, produced Bombay red on a total of 1.5 hectares and managed to sell his quality produce to his fellow farmers with a profitable price.

Establishing the formal onion seed system has already produced multiple benefits to the development of the onion sector and the local farmers.

The pilot with Bombay red variety can potentially be extended to other types of onion varieties which offer attractive prices in the market.

field day onion seed
habtamu seed grower