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March 29, 2007

Mixed reactions to German-funded apple project in Ethiopia

As part of its SUN - Sustainable Utilization of Natural Resources for Improved Food Security - a program that promotes apples in the highlands of Ethiopia, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) imported 83,500 seedlings from Spain on March 22. "We will start distributing to the 36 woredas and from there, to nurseries and more than 7,000 farmer households," said Ilona Gruenewald of SUN.

The apple project aims to make use of the potential for fruit production in the highlands of Ethiopia. GTZ has taken the initiative of supporting and facilitating the promotion of apples since 1998. The import of the seedlings is part of the overall support to promote integrated natural resource management.

So far under the program 103 extension staff and 7,550 farmers from 3,775 households have been trained in apple production. Training topics include orchard establishment; orchard, disease and pest, and production management. Small holder farm-households are the target groups supported with the main objective of contributing to improvement in the income of the
farmers and overall living conditions. Highland fruits are also contributing to the improvement in diet and health of the benefiting households, as well as to better management of land resources through integration of soil and water conservation activities.

"Generally, plantation adaptation and growth performance is encouraging, with more than a 95% survival rate. Farmers were able to successfully establish and manage plantations. Yields as high as 40 kg per tree were obtained from some trees. The size of the fruits, taste, and color are very good," according to a statement.

An Ethiopian commentator took a circumspect attitude to the project. "I hope the necessary study has been conducted to make sure that the Spanish apple will not be a threat to some other native plant that Ethiopia heavily relies on such as coffee, or other plants native to the south," wrote Cheru on a popular Ethiopian blog. "Other than that, I am curious as to why apple was chosen over any number of other things that can be useful to Ethiopia, such as improving the variety of the native banana, peaches, and so on. We imported the eucalyptus tree that decimated lots of the native trees and dried all our marsh lands; we will wait and see what the Spanish apple will affect."

Gennet asked, "Why apples? What was the criteria to choose that? I really don't understand the whole thing. It just doesn't make sense. Or is the money for the development from Spain and they insisted on Spanish apples? Apart from that, Europe is so full of it's own and imported apples, so after some people who can afford the price in Addis have bought, what will happen with the rest? Exporting? Impossible, the EU subsidy policy doesn't allow that. Maybe more explanation from the GTZ will be fruitful," concluded Gennet.


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