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Food Heroes: Ethiopian avocado farmer’s ‘transformational’ crop

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Some 300,000 farmers cultivate avocadoes in the Sidama and SNNPR regions of Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian farmer has been talking about how avocados have transformed the lives of not just his family but also of people living in his community.

Bogale Borena set up an avocado nursery in Yirgalem in the south of Ethiopia, and has been so successful with the venture that he was named as one of 17 Food Heroes by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Agency.

Food Heroes are recognized for their commitment to provide food for their communities and beyond.

He spoke to the UN ahead of World Food Day, marked annually on 16 October.

“My name is Bogale Borena and I am a 50 year old father of six. I recently set up an avocado nursery with the capacity to produce 40,000 grafted seedlings, which I can sell to some of the 300,000 avocado farmers who cultivate the crop in the Sidama and SNNPR regions of Ethiopia. I now employ 14 young people in the nursery.

I was motivated to grow avocados when a new avocado oil processing plant was established within the Integrated Agro Industries Park (IAIP) near my village.

The park employs 490 local people and is the first park of its kind in my region. It works closely with smallholder growers to ensure an adequate supply of avocadoes.

The Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO) provided technical assistance with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture with the aim of developing a value chain scheme, which includes improving productivity and the quality of commercial avocado varieties.

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It also promotes sustainable farming practices for local smallholders.

Food Heroes: Ethiopian avocado farmer’s ‘transformational’ crop

FAO Food Hero Bogale Borena is aiming to cultivate 100,000 avocado seedlings a year.

Through careful avocado nursery management, the use of grafting tools and polyethene bags, I have increased production from 15,000 seedlings in 2020 to 40,000 in 2021.

It takes less than a year to grow and sell seedlings, and around three to four years for the plants to yield fruits, so the pay off for me has been immediate.

I was initially selling seedlings locally for 50 birr ($1) a piece. My projected potential annual earnings are now 2 million birrs (around $44,000). Next year, in 2022, I intend to more than double my production to 100,000 seedlings.  

By growing grafted avocado seedlings, I have boosted my income and transformed my family’s life.

As a result, I can plan to improve my house, buy a truck to transport fruits and other agricultural items, and establish a flour mill in my village. This will serve the local community and create employment opportunities for local youth. 

I think my nursery is a good example of how inclusive agricultural value chains can boost youth employment and farmers’ incomes, contributing to the eradication of poverty”. 

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