Vegetable producers increase incomes by six-fold with PRIME support
Ato Abdurahman Hassen, a resident of Genale Kebele, in Guji Zone Oromia Region, was born to a pastoralist family and followed in his parents’ footsteps. For Abdurahman, the pastoralist life in the old days was a good one. He had more than 30 cattle. Pasture and water were abundant. There was plenty of milk and no one worried to make ends meet. In the last 20 years, however, Abdurahman has witnessed dramatic changes in the lives of pastoralists. Land has degraded and the number of livestock has decreased, resulting in the deterioration of pastoralists’ quality of life. The root cause of these changes has been the decrease in rainfall and precipitation. In response to the changing climate and way of life, Abdurahman started to grow some crops such as corn, sorghum and teff.
In 2007, Abdurahman decided to settle in the small town of Genale. He sold some of his cattle and bought 1000 hectares of irrigable land for 10,000 birr (USD 500) and started to grow vegetables, mainly tomatoes, onions, pepper and cabbage. Soon after, Abdurahman acquired another hectare of irrigable land from the Genale Kebele. The income he earned from his vegetables improved his life tremendously but crop diseases and lack of markets are the two major setbacks of his vegetable farming. The zonal and district Pastoralist Offices supported him with technical advice and seed provision. The market access problem, however, would continue. Farmers sold a kilo of tomato only for 50 cents of a birr (USD .025). There were times when they would even throw away their vegetables due to lack of buyers. “In 2010,” says Abdurahman, “I went to Negelle [capital town of Guji] to sell tomatoes; sadly, I couldn’t get enough buyers for them. I had to dump them in the market place. To add insult to injury, I was busted by Municipality guards and fined 70 birr (USD 3.5)”.
After an international NGO that was helping agro pastoralists with the production and marketing of vegetables left, the community had no one to turn to. When they found out about PRIME, they approached the project to help them with seeds, transportation services, and crates. To their surprise, PRIME offered instead only to facilitate the vegetable market system to benefit the growers and all other actors in the value chain. The farmers were at first unsure of this approach but decided to give it a try regardless. As promised, PRIME identified three dealers and put them in touch with farmers. Soon, farmers started communication with the traders and business started. “In no time, our business turned around,” says Abdurahman. “The price of our vegetables skyrocketed beyond our imagination.” A crate of tomato (50kg), which earned them only 50 birr (USD 2.5) before the market facilitation, rose to a 100 birr (USD 5), a 100 percent increase.
Encouraged by the results, PRIME facilitated a one-day Vegetable Market Linkage Forum in Negelle in June 2014 with a view to streamlining the vegetable market system by improving linkages among value chain actors. “That forum was a game changer,” says Abdurahman. The forum brought growers, traders, cooperatives, government representatives and other stakeholders together to thrash out vegetable market issues. Traders and growers exchanged contact information. Soon, a number of traders came to the sub-district from as far away as Jijiga, Moyale, Dire Dawa, Shashemene and even from Shakiso. The price of a crate of tomato went up from 100 to 300 birr (USD 15). As a result of this intervention, Abdurahman’s annual income from vegetables increased from 10,000 to 60,000 birr (USD 500 to 3,000).
Vegetables are critical crops in ensuring the food and nutrition security of pastoralists and building their resilience. The horticulture sub-sector in the pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, however, has a number of setbacks that need immediate attention, one of which is market linkages. In recognition of the volatility of the vegetable market system, PRIME worked with government Pastoralist Offices and other stakeholders to improve the market systems in Guji Zone of Oromia, and implemented several interventions to stimulate the production of vegetables, benefiting 565 agro-pastoralist vegetable producers and other actors in the value chain by increasing their annual income from their farming, and creating job opportunities.