Experimenting with New Crops and New Nutrition

Today’s report comes from our friends at GrowEastAfrica in Ethiopia. One of our deeper partnerships, we try to understand what’s working for them, what’s not working, and how we can support their cooperative’s growth and goals. This means not only learning how vegetables fit into their work, but also learning about how the other parts of their program fit into their broader aims.

GEA cooperative farmers showing red quinoa.

Vegetables: Cabbage, Peppers, and Tomatoes

If you have been following GrowEastAfrica (GEA) through our reports, you’ll know the tremendous work that has gone into preparing and learning about their fields. Thanks to their planning and preparation, including negotiating cooperation with the surrounding community, their plots are irrigated and doing great. The cabbage doesn’t have any disease or pest issues, and the soil is perfect for the crop. The peppers are also growing well, though some of the plants appear weak.

“Things are growing wonderfully; it helps people to have fun. The cabbage harvest was not large enough to sell, but does provide food for the family. Our plan after the season is to expand land for peppers and [cabbages].” — Yohannes

GEA cooperative farmers at harvest.

Teff & Quinoa

Teff is an important traditional grain crop for this region. Injera, a flatbread typically made from teff flour, is the national dish of Ethiopia. The plants are labor-intensive due to the work involved in removing weeds and collecting the grain. Because machines are not available in this area, the harvested plants have to be threshed by hand. A photo of their recent harvest, double the size of the prior season’s harvest, is attached to this report. As a traditional crop, teff is more easily sold at market. Money from this crop will be reinvested back into the cooperative.

One of GEA’s aims has been to add new crops that complement and fill out the nutrition available from a traditional diet. Vegetables play a large role in providing new sources of nutrition, and quinoa has been introduced as a grain alternative to teff. Market crops are important to economic growth, and having an alternative relieves the tension of deciding whether to eat or sell a crop.

Stringing staked tomato plants for support.

What’s Next?

The next planting season is October through December, which leads into the dry season. Because farmers will rely on irrigation to water their crops, they are working with a local extension officer (an expert agricultural consultant) to learn about new drought-resistant crops that might do well during this season. We’re looking forward to learning what they decide for the next season, and we will report on their work in a future report.

For now, thank you for your support of this project and GrowEastAfrica. Gardens and farms really can provide a foundation for hope.

Sweet Blossom Gifts and the SPI Team

Teff harvest, twice the size of last season’s.

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