A co-operation between the Ethiopian institute Orda and the Norwegian Forestry Group (NFG) has resulted in the establishment of a small research and development centre that includes operative functions. The lab outside Bahir Dahr in Ethiopia is now producing a small volume of plants that are completely free of disease.
The establishment of the centre has taken time (7-8 years) due to several layers of bureaucracy in determining where the lab would be established and whom would be involved in the research centre, which includes buildings, a greenhouse and diverse infrastructure, e.g. roads, gate, etc. The centre is established using State funds, financial assistance from Orda and some external aid.
Initially plant production has been carried out using standard tree nursery production practices while a specialised entity for vegetative propagation was being established. The building for vegetative propagation is now in place and a small volume of plant material is being produced using cloning with quality improvement for each generation of clones for bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Chilean blueberries, avocadoes, apples and bamboo.
Professor and Lab Technician Melabu Adrmas informed that the goal of the vegetative program is to provide rural Ethiopia with high quality, healthy planting material over the long-term. The Professor conducted a tour of the lab emphasising that the process for vegetative propagation requires a sterile environment, specialised equipment and highly qualified lab assistants. The final product was stored in small glass holders, each containing a small healthy plant that would soon be planted out. There were 13 (14) persons working at the centre including University researchers, the technical staff and administrative personnel.
Outside the production centre is a greenhouse that is filled with plants that are earlier generations. The plants are given care prior to being set out in the Ethiopian agricultural landscape that has rich soils, but with very difficult climate challenges. The planting material must therefore contain all the nutrients needed to get a good start. In time, the lab aims to provide a variety of planting materials that are adapted to the local climate as it changes.
The lab has provided planting materials for the past 3 years, but month 2018 was the first planting season with proper production. These plants have been very useful for those farmers who have been supplied with new planting materials. Orda is working with developing a customer base, now that planting material is coming online. In time the sale of planting material is expected to give a profit. The current buyers are State institutions, farmer co-operatives, NGOs, farmers and private investors. Acting Director at Orda, Tesaka Miskie, believes that the market will slowly grow and become stronger.