A new faba bean variety replenishes soils and raises hope in Ethiopia
Farmers in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia are among the largest faba bean producers, but have all but lost hope in the crop. Ethiopian faba bean production was abandoned for over a decade due to low productivity as a result of disease and natural resource degradation. Farmers by dropping the crop from farming systems, were forced to fallow the land in order to maintain soil fertility for barley production.
However, in North Shewa, farming communities see hope in the latest faba bean crop demonstrated at a field day organized by the Debre Birhan Agricultural Research Center (DBARC) and ICARDA in close cooperation with the Bureau of Agriculture and Administration in November.
Under a USAID-supported malt barley and faba bean project implemented by ICARDA and in partnership with DBARC, a new faba bean variety has been introduced both to resurrect the crop and initiate community seed production and expand production. A faba bean variety Walki (high yielding, disease resistant and waterlogging tolerant) was introduced based on farmer preferences following a participatory selection process conducted by the Africa Rising project implemented by ICARDA and DBARC.
“Once our village was a major producer of faba bean, but we lost hope,” said Yeshewalul Tilaye and his fellow farmers at Chichet village of Tarma Ber. “Today we are very much excited to see a faba bean crop with such wonderful performance. We have seen it with our own eyes and come to believe that there is hope for growing faba bean once again in our farms.”
Participating farmers praised the effort of DBARC and ICARDA and the support of USAID and requested that the program to expand to ensure access to seed and adopt the technology. North Shewa farmers are now convinced that bringing back faba bean to the production system will not only improve food and nutritional security, but break the cycle of fallowing, which will be enabling them to improve crop production and productivity by ameliorating soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.
At Andit Tid Station, faba bean seed production was initiated with 23 farmers in two clusters. Seed production fields were inspected and approved by the regional seed certification agency. Cooperatives have agreed to put aside the necessary budget to buy seed and distribute to other farmers. At Woinber, the BoA has agreed to follow suit where seed is further increased during the off-season and distributed for the main cropping season.
The Head of BoA and District Administration from both districts vowed to support the effort to further expand the crop and ensure that farmers get the necessary support in producing faba bean and provide complimentary packages necessary for faba bean production, such as biofertilizers and fungicide for gall disease control.
ICARDA and DBARC teams have provided necessary information about the new faba bean variety and the associated agronomic packages for its production. Teams have provided concepts for community seed production and will ensure a sustainable source of quality seed. Activities will continue to be linked to malt barley scaling-up activities in the 2016 cropping season.