Pawe soybean research glimmering new hope for ensuring food security

Conducting research and releasing improved seed varieties has a paramount contribution toward ensuring food self-sufficiency. It also enables to produce market competitive agricultural products which thereby increase nutrition quality and speed up the nation’s all rounded development. In relation to this, the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR) shoulders a huge responsibility.

What is more, food security, economic development and conservation of natural resources among others would be ensured with the support of EIAR’s multifaceted innovative research.

The Five Year National Growth and Transformation Plan that targets to double agricultural productivity and boost economic growth will highly benefit from the Institute’s research outputs. Moreover, the country’s current economic growth which is being witnessed by different international institutions and economists would be ensured through concreted research and study efforts.

Accordingly, the Pawe Agricultural Research Centre, under the EIAR, is discharging its responsibility by conducting researches on 220 crop varieties, soil and water as well as animal species in this fiscal year. It released 17 crop varieties, two types of bio fertilizer and two animal fodder species over the last five years.

As Metekel Zone environment is known to have conducive agro-climate for soybean cultivation, it has paramount importance in ensuring smallholder farmers’ food self-sufficiency. Currently 100 investors are engaged in commercial crop production including soybean in Guba Woreda alone.

In a recent field visit organized by the Centre aimed at expanding best practices, displaying farmers soybean production achievements and sharing experiences, among others, Centre Director Adane Melak said that the undertaking researches in the areas of crop, animal, soil and water, forestry. All research and study processes are targeted to releasing improved and new varieties which can be accessible to farmers, investors and other research centres. The Centre gives due attention to researches on crops specially, on warm climate cereals and oil seeds among others. Consequently, the centre has achieved commendable outcomes specially on soybean, haricot-bean, sorghum, millet and maize.

The Centre has also carried out researches on soil, water and released two varieties of bio-fertilizers to increase and sustain agricultural productivity of the soil. These bio-fertilizers have increased soybean production.

The animal research department released poultry technologies and introduced them to farmers. Besides, as there are a large number of animal resources in the zone, the Centre has been undertaking research on animal and animal related diseases. The Centre has also conduct researches on warm climate bamboo. As Pawe has been a national Centre to soybean research since 2011, it has carried out various advanced researches to boost soybean yield. Since its establishment, the Pawe Research Centre has carried out commendable research activities, helped the expansion of agricultural technologies, and provided professional support to farmers and investors. So far the Centre released six soybean species to beneficiaries.

Soybean is categorized as warm climate cereal. It can grow well in long-rain and warm climate states of the country. The most part of Benshangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia, some parts of Tigray as well as the SNNPS have conducive environment for soybean cultivation. “Our research Centre is situated in an area suitable for soybean research and production,” Adane said.

According to the 2012 survey, nationwide about 28,000 hectares of land was covered with soybean, of which, about 26,000 hectares was in Benshanugl-Gumuz.

According to Adane, currently local and foreign companies are engaged in the cultivation of commercial crops including soybean in Metekel Zone.

Although soybean cultivation has a long history in the country, lack of agricultural technology, information, market access and awareness about its benefit were major hindrances limiting large scale production in the country. Adane further said in areas which have sufficient rain and conducive agro-climate for soybean cultivation, the research released two late mature species that can yield 28-30 quintals per hectare. Nowadays, the Centre is engaged in facilitating market chains, providing information and raising farmers awareness about the benefits of soybean at household level, he added.

Moreover, in its effort to expanding and familiarizing technology, it has enabled 4,486 farmers become beneficiaries of agricultural technology in seven woredas of the zone.

Centre soybean researcher Tadesse Gidey also said that the Centre is working to promote the benefits of soybean among farmers and investors. Apart from its nutritional value, soybean is also used as animal fodder and to maintain soil fertility.

Soybean research has been underway in Ethiopia since 1950s, E.C. Previously, it was conducted in Hawassa, however, due to favourability for soybean cultivation Metekel Zone has now become centre for soybean research.

Adane indicated that most Ethiopians are not well accustomed to food prepared from soybean as a result it is not common to see soybean in their daily meal.

Soybean does not only make people healthy, but also is used as animal fodder, and keeps soil fertility among others. Soybean contains 20 per cent fat, 40 per cent protein and 29 per cent carbohydrate. But, when we compare it with egg and meat in terms of its protein content, it is higher by twofold. Its cheapness, disease preventative nature, unmatched nutritional value makes soybean the most preferable food item, particularly for children. “Our society can get protein from soybean, which can also be a replacement of animal protein

Tizazu Degu, Pawe Agricultural Research Centre and National Soybean Research Coordinator said that although soybean has been cultivated in Ethiopia since 1950’s the country has been importing it from abroad. United States, Brazil and Argentina are the well-known soybean producers globally.

So far, the Centre has released species that can yield up to 26 quintals per hectare in research centres. But on farmers’ field, the yield is still between 18 and 19 quintals per hectare on average at national level. Thus, to fill the gap the centre has continued its research on pest management, disease control and other related activities.

The centre mainly conducts research and works on introduction of foreign origin species to farmers. So far, about 18 soybean species have been released at the national level.

Girma Arengo, Medin kebele Farmer at Pawe said he started cultivating soybean three years ago. “The researchers helped me how to harvest and use bio-fertilizer properly and get good yield. They have taught me that bio fertilizer renews the soil and increases farm productivity. Soybean cultivation has benefited me more than any other crops. However, lack of market access has limited me from profiting more.”

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