SITA brings best practices in turmeric post-harvest handling to rural Ethiopia

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By Aman Goel

SITA’s efforts in supporting Ethiopian farmers revitalize turmeric production in the country are beginning to bear fruit. Ethiopia is expecting to produce over 10,000 tonnes of (dry) turmeric  this year, worth more than US$10 million in foreign exchange. While this is still small, turmeric – considered “Yellow Gold” for its high value and medicinal benefits – is today seen as a potential commercial crop, especially as thousands of Ethiopian spices farmers are struggling to revive the failing ginger production, their main crop, following an outbreak of bacterial wilt.  Even as SITA is simultaneously working with these farmers on reviving ginger production, growing turmeric has indeed become a lifeline for thousands of farmers.

In continuing efforts to improve turmeric production in Ethiopia, SITA organised a four-day training of trainers (ToT), including field training of farmers, on best practices in post-harvest handling in Mizan Teferi, nearly five hours drive from Jimma. The training, held from 16-18 October ahead of the harvest season, was a refresher to  the first ToT held at the Tepi Spices Research Centre, Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research, from 8-10 March 2017.

A group of 25 field trainers including extension officers, local government representatives, agronomists and processors from the private sector participated in this ToT pilot programme.  In line with SITA’s training strategy, the ToT will help field trainers deliver training on best post-harvest practices to smallholder farmers, through a cascading training system.

The ToT sessions are designed to reinforce trainers’ knowledge on post-harvest practices for turmeric – cleaning, boiling and drying – so they can then demonstrate the practices to smallholder farmers, many with low literacy levels. A new training methodology is also being piloted using illustrative books, posters and question books in the local language, Amharic. The post-harvest practices are shown through pictures in a story format. The trainers were also provided a question booklet with objective questions for testing the knowledge of farmers.

During the programme, the trainers’ group was split into four teams, with each team visiting a select group of smallholder turmeric farmers to deliver training in what is called the “farmer field schools”. As part of the field school, each group of farmers was asked a set of true of false questions on the critical post-harvest processes. Then, the trainers would explain why a process must or must not be followed. For instance, to the statement, “You can boil mother rhizome and finger together,” most farmers responded “true,” only to be told that the mother rhizome and finger have different boiling rates and cooking them together leads to over boiling of the mother rhizome. This ultimately impacts the quality and price of their turmeric, the trainers explained.

Following the question and answer session, the farmers were taken through the entire post-harvest process explained in posters. The informative session saw farmers gain key insights on some of the basic things that many have been doing wrong.

‘The field training has clarified several myths and essential facts about post-harvest practices, which will help us address the challenges in producing quality turmeric,’ one farmer said.

Organised at the community level using a methodology developed specifically for this programme, the field sessions ensure that the trainers are actively involved in training more farmers.

‘The ToT was very useful; the training material is very comprehensive and uses illustrations to train farmers with little or no basic education,’ commented an extension officer.

The trainers group then returned to the classroom, having learned new practices as well as training skills to train farmers in implementing them. The field trainers, who were presented training certificates, have also agreed to a training contract under which they have committed to train more than 1000 smallholder farmers, on a voluntary basis, over the next two months.

Information may easily travel between Geneva and Addis Ababa but it is difficult to take it from a rural European farmer to an Ethiopian farmer in MizanTeferi.  A lot of value can be created by making this rather simple information accessible to the farmers. Innovative channels need to be adopted – in SITA’s case it is using the trainers and developing content that is easily understandable and interesting.

The ToT and field training will be successful if farmers implement these practices. This will enable higher price realisation at farm level as well as for the stakeholders up the value chain. To facilitate a common understanding on appropriate positioning of the high quality Ethiopian turmeric and pricing strategies in the global market, SITA will organise a round table with farmers, traders and exporters.

Relevant businesses should now look out for emerging opportunities in high quality Ethiopian turmeric.



Voices of SITA
Voices of SITA
This blog provides a window into the SITA project. Through stories from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, this blog showcases the project’s progress and impact.