Koga Veg brings new crops and markets to smallholder farmers in Ethiopia
Koga Veg was founded in 2013 to boost rural economic development in the area around Bahir Dar. The area is characterized by smallholder agriculture and the production of crops for own consumption or sale into the local market. Koga Veg introduces peas and other export crops as a means of increasing farmer income.
Farmers in the area have little experience in producing for international markets, and lack access to modern production techniques. Therefore, farmer training, capacity building and the setup of a contract farming scheme are key components of the company’s strategy to include farmers in this new supply chain. Koga Veg has started by establishing a nucleus farm that serves as a production basis and farmer training centre. This way, farmers get the opportunity to work on the farm and to become familiar with new crops and production techniques before producing these new crops themselves as an outgrower.
Land lease agreement
In February 2013 Durabilis obtained a concession on 50ha of irrigated land in the recently completed Koga project near the town of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. In May 2014, Koga Veg was formally registered as a company under Ethiopian law.
Promising results from first agro- trial
A first small-scale test of different pea varieties in collaboration with Amhara Region Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) showed very promising yield and quality.
While the initial plans entailed a single large scale investment in infrastructure, the implementation strategy was revised to a more gradual approach in order to mitigate risks, even though this means that the Koga Veg operations will take longer to reach a profitable scale.
Koga Veg will perform two production and export trials, one every semester, on about 10 ha of own land with minimal investments in order to better understand the dynamics and parameters of a medium-sized vegetable farm in the local context. The evaluation of pre-defined success factors will determine the approach for further upscaling.
Initiatives to embed sustainability into the operations
Several initiatives have been taken to incorporate sustainable production methods on the Koga Veg farm. A master thesis student was engaged to perform soil fertility trials and recommend soil protection and integrated pest management practices in collaboration with a Belgian expert. Crop rotation is under investigation in collaboration with a neighbouring farms that work with complementary products and markets, potentially allowing for a wider diversity in a rotation scheme on all collaborating farms. . The BSCI code of conduct is implemented in the daily operations and procedures. GLOBALG.A.P. standards have been implemented and will be audited in October 2014.
As soon as production and export trials are up and running, farmers will be invited to participate in on-farm training programmes. Demonstration plots are prepared to showcase good agricultural practices and new production techniques (e.g. small scale drip irrigation). A farmer field school approach will be adopted to provide practical training on crop management, quality standards for export produce and relevant certification schemes. All of this will prepare farmers to become independent outgrowers in future years, complementing the production volumes from the nucleus farm, and creating a cash income for their families.