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The Ministry of Science and Technology for the first time awarded three agricultural research centers for their achievements in producing
high-yield and disease-resistant seed varieties. The winners were presented with prize cups, medals, financial awards and certificates of recognition for shouldering even more responsibility to push forward the limits of national agricultural productivity.
“Any kind of recognition for one’s achievements propels you towards further achievement. Through this national recognition we are also implicitly shouldering additional responsibility to further push for higher levels of achievement,” Taye Kufa (Dr), the National Coffee, Tea and Spices Coordinator, told Capital.
The winners are the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), the Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC), and the Mechara Agricultural Research Center (MARC). DZARC was awarded for its research on a Teff species named Kuncho, while the award for JARC is for 11 different specialty coffee species that can be produced in different agro-ecological zones of the country. The third is MARC, which was recognized for its research on a wheat species called Kulumsa. JARC belongs to the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute and MARC to the Oromiya Agricultural Research Institute.
JARC’S findings on the coffee species are the culmination of more than 20 years of research and engagement according to Taye, and of the 11 species JARC came up with, 4 species can be produced in Hararge, 4 in Wellega and Kelem Wellega, and 3 in Sidama and Yirga Chefe..
“The varieties we came up with have better yield, disease resistance capacity and maintain the natural flavor of the respective area’s species of coffee. The species currently in the hands of farmers are not very productive and easily susceptible to disease,” he added.
There are four ways in which coffee is produced in Ethiopia: forests (8-10 percent), semi-forests (30-35 percent), gardens (50-55 percent) and plantations (5-8 percent). It is estimated that Ethiopia grows coffee on 700,000 hectares of land, producing 350,000 tons per year, with an average national yield of 6.5 quintals per hectare. This level of productivity is too low compared to the 12 quintals per hectare produced in neighbouring Kenya and the 19 quintals produced in Asia. Nearly half of the total production is consumed domestically, while the remaining goes to export. More than 30 percent of all the exported coffee in the country is shipped to Germany. More than 15 million Ethiopians sustain their livelihoods by growing coffee.
“We used to produce coffee varieties in bulk and disseminate them throughout the country. However, now we are distributing location specific species. In order to come up with speciality coffee varieties for the respective coffee growing areas of the country,” said Tadesse Eshetu, Coffee Project Coordinator of JARC, while explaining his center’s achievements over the years, to a visiting team of German Embassy diplomats and journalists two weeks ago.
Deforestation, climate change, the replacement of the coffee shrub with Khat, and weak linkages among stakeholders are factors identified as threatening the improvement of coffee production, according to Tadesse. However, he sees diverse coffee species and vast potential areas in the eight regions of the country as opportunities to expand coffee plantations. Except for the Afar region, coffee grows in most parts of the Ethiopian regional states.
Established in 1967, JARC lies on over 83 hectares of land in the Oromiya Regional State, 350 kilometers southwest of Addis Ababa. The center has released 37 improved coffee species so far.