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Ethiopia works on ‘own’ apple with PUM’s help
The Ethiopian apple is on the rise. Kifle, a passionate entrepreneur from Addis Ababa, annually produces around 10,000 seeds from a combination of three apple varieties. He then sells them to farmers in the region. The technical advice of PUM expert Antoon Andela plays a key role in this.
Just outside of Addis Ababa, Kifle is driving his all-terrain vehicle up a slope. After a difficult drive through the busy traffic of the Ethiopian metropolis, the transition to a natural environment with clean air is pleasant. Via a winding road, he descends among the pin trees to a green valley, where the asphalt makes way for a sandy road. In the middle of the Oromia valley lies the Ethiopian entrepreneur’s farm, where about a dozen Frisian cows are grazing freely among the apple trees.
Kifle is an apple farmer. Actually, he produces healthy apple seeds that are suitable for the Ethiopian soil and the climate in the central region of the country. He then sells the seeds to colleagues. There are two large greenhouses in his yard where he grows three apple varieties together with 15 employees. Kifle - who has studied forestry - then merges those species into one spot, from which he obtains the seeds for his “Ethiopian apple”. Since its inception in 2007, the company has grown considerably. In the meantime, it has been supplying apple seeds to around 4,000 fruit growers around the Ethiopian capital.
Originally, the apple is imported, and it is not a well-known type of fruit for Ethiopian farmers. Because of his ambition to change this and to bring a high-quality homegrown apple to the market, Kifle enlisted PUM’s help a few years ago. Antoon Andela, an expert in this field, got on a plane to take the enthusiastic apple farmer’s company to a higher level through technical advice.
‘With Antoon’s advice, the quality of the plants has improved considerably, so that we grow stronger and healthier seeds’
“Antoon has taught us a lot about taking care of the plants and still advises me by e-mail sometimes,” Kifle explains as he walks into his greenhouse with a cutting from an apple tree. Together with an employee, he demonstrates how the various apple varieties are combined into one young tree. “With Antoon’s advice, the quality of the plants has improved considerably, so that we grow stronger and healthier seeds,” the Ethiopian continues, carefully connecting his latest acquisition to a stick. “I also keep a close eye on the quality of the soil, because according to Antoon, a nutrient-rich soil is essential for apple production.” To limit the decline of his hectare of land, he therefore places other plants that protect the soil from exhaustion between his apple trees.
Finally, the Ethiopian farmer emphasizes that he has also learned a lot during a working visit to the Netherlands. “The Dutch farmers’ production process is extremely efficient, and based on their advice, I have considerably improved my own apple cultivation.” With technical help from PUM and colleagues in the Netherlands, he says he has gotten his farm on the right track. Now he focuses on the farmers in the region. He wants to share his success with them by transferring to them the knowledge he has gathered over the years. “We will work with 20 different districts to reach as many farmers as possible. We train one farmer per district, who trains 45 colleagues in his area in his neighborhood,” Kifle explains, showing the intended classroom in his yard.
To the question of whether his “Ethiopian apples” will come to the Netherlands in the near future, he does not dare to give a clear answer, but the sky is the limit for the ambitious entrepreneur. “With our seeds, I want to compete with the apples from abroad, and at the same time conquer a prominent place among homegrown fruit.”