Africa’s Largest Chickpea Producer Must Improve Quality in order to Compete on World Market
In Ethiopia, chickpea is typically harvested by uprooting the entire plant. Pulling out the roots deprives soils of nitrogen-fixing benefits. Collected, farmers allow the plant to air dry and then thresh piles of chickpea on the ground using animals; the week-long process is arduous and the chickpeas suffer losses in both quality and quantity.
Ethiopia is Africa’s leading producer of chickpea and the sixth largest in the world. One of the most popular dishes—shiro—is made from chickpea. Still, a lack of financial capital and technological know-how has kept the chickpea value chain from realizing its full potential.
In February 2015, Million Meskele made history when he harvested 75 hectares with a combine harvester. Million owns the Bale Green farm located in the Oromia Region in Southeastern Ethiopia and his combine is a result of a matching-grants partnership with AGP-Agribusiness Market Development—USAID financed program intent on increasing the competitiveness of the chickpea value chain. In the chickpea sector, it was the first mechanized harvest in Ethiopia.
After several days, Million harvested, threshed and winnowed 125 metric tons of chickpea. Area farmers came and witnessed so they too could understand the benefits and opportunities of the new farm machinery. As Ethiopia’s chickpea farmers increase production, new technologies such as combines and cleaning machinery are necessary in order to meet export quality standards. A combine can increase Bale Green’s chickpea harvest by approximately 15% compared to a manual harvest.
“This has been a great contribution to Bale Green and represents a turning point in the development of the chickpea agricultural sector. We will serve as a model for others trying to expand into mechanized farming,” explains Million Meskele, owner of Bale Green.
AGP-AMDe uses an integrated value chain approach to increase production and marketing all along the chickpea value chain. This season, Bale Green planted ACOS (50 ha) and Ararti (25 ha) in order to multiply seed for other Ethiopian chickpea farmers. AGP-AMDe supports Bale Green to attain a seed business license in order to distribute seed to area farmers. Next planting season, more than 1000 farmers could benefit through Bale Green’s seed multiplication activities.
Bale Green’s combine is a product of a matching grants partnership with AGP-AMDe, which matched Bale Green’s investment of $55,000 USD.
AGP-AMDe strengthens the chickpea value chain through training in agronomic practices, post-harvest handling, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and farmer field days conducted on chickpea farms.