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Diversifying income with certifiable seeds

Ethiopia-story-3.jpgElbind Woanze, 25, lives with her husband and six children in Gessess Kebele in Dibate district. Elbind and her fellow Farmers Field School (FFS) members have long been reliant on physically impure seeds, growing whatever is available nearby. For years, her sesame productivity remained poor because of low seed quality despite her efforts to manage the crop well.  Elbind and her crop FFS group members had long experience of sesame production in the area but they were not aware of differences in seed quality.

In order to initiate certified seed multiplication among FFS farmers, lessons were taken from the successful integration of the approach as applied in CPAR’S BSG-FSEG project also carried out in Dibate. That project effectively collaborated with district offices, Pawe Research Centre, CPAR and farmers to achieve significant gains in certified seed multiplication. Through Women-led food security and nutrition project, 14 crop FFS group participants (8 females) underwent certified seed production training at the start of the project year. All 14 farmers were first trained on improved seed multiplication techniques such as the appropriate isolation distance from other seed types, crop protection, harvesting, cleaning and marketing. They were also supported with starting crop seeds such as finger millet, sesame and haricot-bean by the project sourced from a nearby research centre. By the end of the training each participant had produced seeds based on the recommended practices and received support twice from researchers who provided in field supervision. Seed samples from each multiplier of finger millet, sesame and haricot-bean seeds were collected and supplied for germination and purity test at Agricultural Research Centre (Pawe). After the Centre’s evaluation, all seeds produced by participant farmers were successfully approved and farmers have received certification to market their seeds. These seeds can now be sold at a guaranteed minimum price and when demand is high, which it often is because of shortages of improved seed in the area, farmers can negotiate even higher prices for their seeds.

Elbind is among the group of farmers pursuing seed multiplication who successfully had her sesame seed certified. She produced 200kg of certified seeds starting with just 3.5 kg of seeds. She saved 7kg for the next growing season and she sold the remaining 193kg at a price of 40 ETB for 1kg ($2USD/kg). In total, Elbind earned 7720 ETB ($386 USD) from her first time practicing certified seed multiplication. Elbind described her experience, “I had never given much thought to certified seed. I had no idea it could bring such remarkable earnings. Previously, I had to sell some of my sesame at the field even before it was matured. For this I would get a very low price, not even enough to fully cover my household expenses. But now I am proud, I have never earned such an income before. I feel it is almost too great for my needs. I will save in case of hard times and keep practicing seed multiplication.” When asked for her thoughts about the certification, Elbind explained, “Certification encouraged my ongoing efforts because now I am gaining recognition for my quality seeds. I have something to work for!”

All participants learned a great deal in the certification process and are eager to expand their efforts to be more involved in certified seed multiplication as an alternative source of income to enhance their livelihoods. “Now the project showed us use full avenues to pursue, and certified seed multiplication will become more profitable when we are engaged fully. It is a great opportunity to diversify our income and through these earnings, we will be able to earn enough to support our families,” said one other FFS participant.