Rwanda looks to spice up international menus with premium red chillies

by Devika Jyothi


‘I am excited with the progress of the chilli nurseries; seedlings are looking very good,’ says Dieudonné Twahirwa, a farmer in Bugesera District, Eastern Province of Rwanda, and the owner of Gashora Farm Limited.

Mr. Twahirwa is part of the red chilli pilot project, an initiative of SITA in collaboration with Akay Flavours & Aromatics, an Indian company engaged in spices extraction. The pilot aims to develop premium quality, high value chilli varieties in Rwanda, and to establish direct linkages between farmers and buyers of red chilli, in Rwanda and India, respectively.

Rwandan spices: SITA gauges prospects and possibilities

Red chilli is a big part of certain cuisines in Africa, and of the Indian cuisine as well.  While India is one of the leading producers, consumers and exporters of premium quality chilli in the world, Rwanda’s chilli production is at a very nascent stage, marked by a limited production capacity and the deployment of primitive agronomic practices. However, the country’s rich soil fertility and climatic conditions present enormous potential for the cultivation of certain high value chillies.


That makes red chilli a perfect fit for the SITA programme from both the investment and the trade perspective. SITA is working on the development of new, high value chilli varieties that are suitable for exports.

SITA had previously conducted two field visits in Rwanda, amongst others in Bugasera, Rusizi and Nyanza. A team, consisting of representatives from the National Agriculture Export Development Board (NAEB), an international expert on spices and SITA project representatives, assessed the spices production, and carried out a techno-commercial feasibility study for the production of select spices. In view of the country’s landlocked geography, the mission focused on high value crops like ginger, turmeric and chillies. The team found that while Rwanda produces limited quantities of bird’s eye chilli, the production of other crops like ginger and turmeric remains negligible.

The SITA team presented the findings to Akay Flavours, a leading buyer and processor of spices. Akay Flavours, having been looking for alternate sourcing destinations for certain chilli varieties, expressed interest in sourcing chillies from Rwanda.

Following due consultations between Akay Flavours, SITA, NAEB and Rwandan government authorities, meetings were also organised with select large scale farmers looking to expand their chilli production. The opportunity of growing different chilli varieties was discussed. Authorities expressed their support for the expansion of Rwanda’s chilli production, and emphasized the importance of also processing the chillies in Rwanda.

Rwandan red chilli: Developing a pilot programme

In line with the consultations, Akay Flavours and SITA have jointly developed a pilot project. Select farmers will grow six new chilli varieties in different locations in Rwanda. The total area covered under the pilot programme is around 5 hectares.  Akay Flavours has agreed to buy the entire harvest for the current season, at prevailing market prices.

‘We observed that bird’s eye chilli grows very well in Rwanda. But the demand for this variety is very limited and economic feasibility is very low. We intend to introduce different varieties of chillies with high demand in the international markets, offering better yields and returns to the farmers,’ said Shibu Anandarajan, Vice President of global sourcing at Akay Flavours.

The chilli seeds were provided by Akay Flavours, and distributed to eight commercial farmers between July 18 and 27, 2016. SITA and NAEB are providing agronomic support to the pilot farms and closely monitoring their progress.


The project team will visit the farmers from September 2 to 10, 2016, to ensure the seedlings are effectively transplanted from the nurseries to the main fields. The farmers have also been provided with a technical note, detailing all agronomic practices that are to be followed. The ITC and NAEB teams will continue to monitor the execution of the pilot project until the harvest.

‘This pilot programme and training gives us a better, fresh hope to continue chilli farming. We had cultivated bird’s eye chilli in 2014, but the yield was poor. The trial seeds received as part of the pilot look very promising – they have good germination percentage and are growing vigorously,’ said Giscard Tuyishime, one of the farmers participating in the pilot programme.

If the yields and quality of produce meet global standards, Akay Flavours will work with select farmers and increase the production of chillies to over 250 hectares. This can produce around 1,000 tonnes of dried chilli annually, with a current market value of USD 2.0 million. ‘We will address the sustainability challenges in the cultivation of new varieties of chillies, and aim to expand their cultivation on a large scale in Rwanda with the help of SITA.  We thankfully acknowledge the support and guidance from SITA team for developing this project as we have initiated trial cultivation of different varieties of chillies. We look forward to the successIMG-20160816-WA0002 of the trial plots,’ Mr. Anandarajan of Akay Flavours remarked

Akay Flavours is also looking into the possibility of setting up primary processing facilities in Rwanda.

‘I really look forward to a long term partnership with Akay Flavours. However as the nurseries have been successful, we would like to get more seeds with higher yields, so we can start expanding this year instead of waiting for the next year,’ says an enthusiastic Mr. Twahirwa who was introduced to SITA project in May 2016.

In the meantime, SITA will work with other spice companies to expand the chilli production in Rwanda to over 1,000 hectares.

Reviving East Africa’s handloom industry: Weaving the warp and woof

by Devika Jyothi

East Africa has the potential to emerge as a major global destination for handloom and hand-woven textiles and apparels as well as other niche products.  However, the path ahead is not easy as weavers in the region lack the product design and marketing skills, as well as the international exposure required to be competitive.

It is here that SITA plans to step in.

In its second year of implementation, SITA aims to strengthen the export competitiveness of the handloom sector as part of its cotton-to-clothing strategy in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  SITA recently concluded a mission to assess the real potential of East Africa’s handloom sector.

The project will support the existing handloom clusters in the region to enhance product quality, productivity, and to help them venture into new markets. This will be achieved by facilitating knowledge and technology transfer from India.  India has a strong legacy in handlooms with well-structured handloom weavers’ clusters.

Based on the findings of the mission, activities will now be charted out to develop the handloom sector in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.  In the upcoming year, the delegation will:

  • Conceptualise SITA’s handloom approach and outline activities to strengthen and specialize weaver-clusters, through the transfer of best practices from India
  • Identify 1-2 women weavers’ clusters per country with the potential to grow and export
  • Identify master weavers and entrepreneurs who will participate in an exposure visit to India, including a plan for the training of trainers
  • Assess the skills-development needs of the clusters, so that they can expand, diversify and export
  • Spot opportunities for specialisation and drive value addition, with a focus on niche markets (viz. the luxury segment, alternative fabrics such as silk and wool, destined for export markets in Europe and the US)
  • Establish appropriate market linkages
  • Initiate collaboration with local support institutions to boost the productivity of the African handloom industry


This is not the first time that SITA is supporting weavers in East Africa.

During the design phase of the project, in February 2015, SITA supported a pilot initiative led by SEWA Bharat. SEWA Bharat – the all India Federation of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) – works towards achieving the full employment, economic empowerment and self-reliance of women workers in informal sectors. The initiative facilitated the participation of six Ethiopian weavers in India’s Dastkar event, a national crafts fair and exhibition. The pilot was part of the SETU-Africa programme, a Government of India initiative that aims to introduce Ethiopian traditional handlooms and other handicrafts to the Indian market.


With the support and guidance of SEWA Bharat, the Ethiopian artisans selected and shipped an assortment of their products to India. They presented traditional handloom fabrics,handicrafts, modern dresses, carved leather bags, purses, and jewellery at the sale-cum-expo.

The artisans also participated in a designer workshop and a buyers-sellers meeting. The event gave them insights on how to diversify and expand their business, and how to meet the demand of the Indian market while retaining their artisanal traditions. Moreover, the event offered Ethiopian artisans the chance to interact with Indian designers and buyers, and assess what they could improve in terms of design and pricing.

‘We would definitely look for long term business opportunities with India,’ Ms. Misrach Mekonnen, the Project Coordinator for WISE and the team leader of the artisan group, had said at the time. WISE is the Organisation for Women in Self Employment, an Ethiopian NGO dedicated to the realization of sustainable livelihoods among poor women.

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‘With more designer-artisan and artisan-buyer interaction, I feel our women artisans will be more equipped to provide the right quality of hand-woven textiles and handicrafts for the Indian buyers, which will eventually provide increased business value and create jobs and income opportunities, enabling sustainability,’ she added.

That is exactly what SITA endeavours to do: enhancing the export competitiveness of weavers in East Africa and establishing market linkages, by collaborating with India, to create more jobs and income opportunities in the sector.

This will pave the way for a successful revival of the East African handloom industry, enable the handloom clusters in the region to grow, and provide a more secured life and livelihood to the weavers.


Reaching the Wilting Point

by Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

Ginger bacterial wilt disease has been discussed at length in previous blog posts. To recap: it is a disease that has infected Ethiopia’s ginger. This has been happening since 2012, when the disease was first reported, and 80% of Ethiopia’s ginger crop has been killed. It is time to reach what I will call the ‘wilting point’ (which is actually defined as the minimal point of soil moisture a plant requires not to wilt) – but in this post I will use it to refer to the point where the disease’s effects are sufficiently mitigated, to revitalize Ethiopia’s ginger production.

The country is moving in this direction. A movement to revitalize Ethiopia’s ginger production started in April of this year. A national event, organized with the support of SITA, brought together the stakeholders in the sector to agree on a strategy to revitalize the production of ginger – the most important cash crop for Ethiopian farmers.

Mr. Mitiku observing freshly harvested ginger in Peermade, India

Haimanot Mitiku, Center Director at Tepi National Spices Research Centre, discusses the meeting and subsequent actions with us. Tepi National Spices Research Centre is the main body responsible for the coordination of spices research and development in the country. Mr. Haimanot has extensive experience in the sector, and his Centre is responsible for the coordination of national research on the control of ginger bacterial wilt disease, and for the development of improved varieties and production technologies.


Q. Tell us about the National Workshop on the Revitalization of Ginger Production in Ethiopia.

A. The national workshop to revitalize ginger was organized by the Coffee and Tea Development and Marketing Authority of Ethiopia in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and SITA. The meeting was attended by ginger farmers, development agents, researchers, investors and other governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in the ginger sector.

During the meeting, the progress of ginger rehabilitation research done at the national level was presented by different researchers and agricultural professionals. We had presentations about the importance of ginger in the world, and in our country in particular; about the current status of ginger production in Ethiopia; and about the spread of bacterial wilt in Ethiopia – it was found that the disease is present in all ginger growing areas.

There was a presentation about the Integrated Disease Management (IDM) research efforts that have been undertaken so far, to control the disease and revitalize ginger production. There was also a presentation about the efforts undertaken to multiply disease free ginger seed. Finally, a SITA representative shared the Indian experience with controlling ginger bacterial wilt disease.

Q. What were the main decisions taken?

A. After the presentations, participants discussed the available options to control the disease, and to obtain disease-free ginger seed for future production. A number of options were raised and were classified in terms of urgency: short, medium, and long term goals.

On the short term, our focus is on identifying the research outputs that can directly be applied to manage the disease. We will also raise awareness about the disease and control measures, and strengthen our quarantine system.

On the medium term, we will need to multiply and distribute disease free ginger seed in high quantities, and also introduce disease-free and improved ginger varieties from abroad. We will also continue to conduct research about increasing the productivity and quality of ginger in Ethiopia.

And on the long term, our goal is to develop improved ginger varieties in Ethiopia.

Q. What processes have started as a result of the workshop, and what are the important next steps?

A. Four groups were formed, with membership from research institutions, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Coffee and Tea Development and Marketing Authority, SITA and private tissue culture companies, to develop working documents to guide the implementation of these plans in the coming two and a half years. These plans include a budget and an action plan for implementation.

The plans are currently under review. Once approved, they will receive their allotted budget and the implementation will begin.

Q. How did SITA contribute?

A. SITA understood a rehabilitation strategy was first needed for ginger. Before SITA’s involvement, there was some confusion about the causal agent of ginger bacterial wilt disease in the country. To solve this, SITA gave professional support from India, and finally consensus was reached by all that the causal agent was ‘Ralsotonia solanacearum’.

In addition to this, SITA arranged a five-day experience sharing and training visit to India for some spice professionals and investors from Ethiopia. Moreover, a number of consultative meetings and discussions were arranged about ginger rehabilitation and turmeric marketing strategies, to collect important inputs to draft strategic documents for ginger and turmeric production and export.

Haimanot, first from left, observing a turmeric polishing machine during the SITA training visit to India

Currently, a number of investors have started procuring turmeric. Some of them have even established turmeric curing plants. For ginger, some progress has been achieved towards controlling the disease, and towards multiplying disease free rhizomes, since everybody agreed on the causal agent.

Moving forward, SITA and other governmental bodies should continue to work together on the rehabilitation program of ginger, so that the efforts done so far can be hastened and strengthened. Generally, in a year time SITA has made great interventions towards improving the sector.

“I am on the road to success,” says a little ‘voice of SITA’ from northern Uganda

by Ben Naturinda

It was mid-2015 when he met Aman and a certain Dr. Vivek while they were on a SITA mission in Lira, Uganda to meet sunflower enterprises. They spoke about the SITA project, and how it would help him reach new markets – especially the Indian market. They spoke about technology in India, and about how, a little more than 20 years ago, there were no sunflower oil mills in India. Today, India boasts the best technologies for oil milling and oil refining.

Ogwang Joe needed better equipment to improve the extraction capacity of his small mill, that did just about 7 tones per day. Hearing the team talk about crushers, boilers and other machinery, and about how integrating these technologies into his little mill would increase his oil extraction capacity by about 20% was music to his ears. The team told him that if he extracted oil fully from the seed cake, the cake’s quality too would improve, and increase his earnings by 30% of the market value of the cake. Excited at these prospects, he promised himself to think beyond his little mill.

Ogwang, second from the right, tells his story to the SITA and India Solvents Extractors Association teams visiting him on 22 June 2016
Ogwang (in front) in a group photo in front of his current small processing unit
Ogwang shows the team his current mill with old technology, and lacking in other components such as boilers

Ogwang asked to be linked to companies that could provide him with access to better technology. The team promised to help, and in 2016, during SITA’s fifth Partnership Platform meeting in Kampala, Uganda, he was linked to the Indian company Vijin. They arranged for Ogwang to travel to India, to explore a range of options.

In India, Ogwang was exposed to many new technologies. Apart from better oil expellers, boilers and seed crackers, he was shown the latest refining technologies and equipment. Ogwang decided to purchase new equipment for his mill, that would raise his milling capacity to 30 tones per day.

With the new equipment and with the capacity increase, Ogwang’s rented building was becoming too small. To fully accommodate his new level of productivity, Ogwang decided to construct a new building in the Lira Industrial Park.

Ogwang shows a team visiting from the India Solvents Extractors Association how far he has come with the construction of his new building

The land that hosts Ogwang’s building had been unutilized thus far. This gave Ogwang the idea to use the land to construct all the necessary structures and buildings for his business. “I have since acquired a loan and I am carefully using this to build an appropriate processing area and building” says Ogwang. The expected investment from India in these structures and equipment currently amounts to 260 million Ugandan Shillings (approximately US$ 56,000).

This, of course, has not been an easy road. Acquiring a loan, he says, has not been easy. The interest rate is very high (about 25% per year), but not high enough to deter him. He is determined, and fully trusts that he is on the road to success.

Ogwang has taken a lot of interest in SITA activities. Recently, he attended a sunflower quality standards training, organized and conducted by SITA in northern Uganda in April 2016. Ogwang believes that understanding the market standards and dynamics is important, now that he is on the expansion path.  He is also very much engaged with the India Solvents Extractors Association (SEA). A business-to-business meeting is planned for July 2016, and through his involvement with SEA, he hopes to meet many new potential partners.

Ogwang is not looking back, and surely he is on the road to success.

Weaving Livelihoods: Assessing East Africa’s Handloom Potential

by Devika Jyothi

‘We have the finest cotton, and yet we have no access to the market,’ said a woman weaver in Uganda. ‘We wait for the markets to come to us,’ she added, hinting at the futility of the wait.Picture1

She was speaking to the SITA delegation that was on a mission there, to assess the potential of East Africa’s handloom sector and to enhance the export competitiveness of women weavers in the region – one of the strategic priority areas of SITA.

True, East Africa produces some of the world’s finest cotton and has a long-held tradition of handloom weaving. The region is however yet to emerge as a global destination for handloom and hand woven textiles and apparels, as it struggles with the organisation and professionalization of the sector. Most of the weaver-groups are challenged by the lack of access to high quality yarn in smaller amounts, the lack of product design and marketing skills and the lack of access to domestic, regional and international markets. Limited institutional support is also a challenge for some of the groups.

Picture2What is the true potential for East Africa to grow into a major producer and exporter of handloom and hand-woven textiles and apparels?

For a first-hand assessment and understanding of the market situation, a delegation, led by Ms. Carolin Averbeck, ITC SITA Task Team Leader for Cotton to Clothing, Ms. Kidest Teklu, ITC Programme Officer for Cotton, Textiles and Clothing, and Ms. Sharmistha Mohapatra, IL&FS India Head of Livelihoods and Rural Enterprise, convened a series of meetings, consultations and field visits in the four focus countries – Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.


From May 30 to June 17, 2016, the team met key Government institutions, industry associations, producer groups, marketing partners and civil society organisations and vocational training institutions to gain a holistic understanding of the existing status and strength of the value chain.

Potential for development of export competitiveness

Of the four focus countries, Ms. Mohapatra observes that Ethiopia has the largest base of handloom weavers. The country has well-established clusters and a longstanding tradition of hand-woven textiles. The products have strong demand in the domestic as well as export markets, largely driven by the Ethiopian Diaspora. Moreover, the sector has registered a marked shift in the demand pattern towards value addition, contemporary designs and styles, and better quality products.

The team visited cooperatives around Chencha town, in Southern Ethiopia. More than 10,000 weavers work in and around Chencha. Most of them work home-based and in difficult living conditions. According to the women weavers, the production of hand-spun yarn is very profitable, and there is potential to train more women to take up weaving.

The handloom sector in the other focus countries is relatively smaller, in terms of organisation, scale and the number of persons effectively engaged. However, each of these countPicture4ries has a distinct textiles tradition, a specialised skill set and a specialised product offering, says Ms. Mohapatra.

In Kenya, the delegation met with the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Cooperatives, Mr. Ali Noor Ismail. Mr. Noor stated that the Department was in the process of reviving Kenya’s cotton cooperatives. Kenya has the strongest cooperative movement on the African continent, with 20,000 registered cooperatives and 14 million members. Kenya has the capacity to produce more than 700,000 bales of lint cotton annually, but is currently under-performing. According to Mr. Noor, there is a need for county governments to allocate more funds    towards cotton promotion and value addition, including handloom.

While Kenya has a strong base of bead artisans, boasting of an innovative range of craft and textiles based products with beaded surface ornamentation, Tanzania has distinct skill in tie – dye, printing and batik techniques, presenting an opportunity for the development of niche high value products.Picture5

The delegation also met with Uganda’s Cotton Development Organisation. The organisation highlighted the need for value addition activities for women involved in cotton production. The women have little to do during the off-season of cotton production. Enabling value addition would help them to transform Ugandan cotton into a high-value premium product.

Mission Outcome, Onward Plan

After further consultations with institutions engaged in the development of the handloom sector in India, an action plan for the development of the handloom value chain in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda will be developed by the SITA team and shared with national stakeholders.

SITA will support and expand existing handloom clusters through cooperation with India to enhance productivity, product quality and design, and it will support the clusters to venture into new markets. SITA will collaborate with relevant partners in India, as well as with leading institutions in the US and EU, to design the action plan and gain insights on the designs best suited for these markets.

According to Ms. Mohapatra, ‘There is significant potential to further develop the East African handloom value chain. India has a strong tradition in handloom and it has professional handloom weavers’ clusters. It will be beneficial for the East African weavers groups and support institutions to learn from the Indian handloom legacy, including from the policy support that is provided to help it succeed.’


So, tell me what you want, what you really really want

by Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

The spices interventions in Ethiopia are gaining ground. After a study tour through India and the start of a ginger pilot project on demonstrator farms, preparations are underway to upscale the activities next year.

What most urgently needs doing, is increasing the volume of production of ginger and turmeric, and improving post-harvest quality at farm and processor levels. Stakeholders expressed a need for training in order to address these challenges, during a consultation workshop that was conducted in September 2015.

This sounds straightforward enough, but who exactly should be trained, how should they be trained, what should the content be and what should the trainee be equipped to do as a result?

Welcome to the Training Needs Assessment workshop

welcome to

To address the question of what is needed, who better than the future trainees themselves? Over the course 1,5 days, a wide representation of Ethiopian spices stakeholders, including representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers, processors, extension workers, academics and private companies, gathered in Addis Ababa to share their inputs.


The interactive workshop had participants work together in groups to identify the who, what, how and when of the training package. “Participant’s contributions are the key for success of this workshop”, Mr. Million Bogale, Chairperson of the Board of the Ethiopian Spice, Aromatic and Herbs Products Grower Association (ESAHGPA) said. “We came here to listen”, Ms. Florence Béraud, the learning specialist who facilitated the training added.

The training conducted in India in January 2016 was the first step of the training process. Those who participated in the Indian training, were also a part of the Training Needs Assessment Workshop and will be part of the implementation of the training, in order to adopt an integrated approach within the project.

who need

The who, participants agreed, consists of four target audiences: producers, extension workers, traders and processors. Participants discussed the specific needs of these target audiences in small groups. The training content defined during the workshop, includes not only specific good agricultural and post-harvest practices, but also skills that need to be acquired in order to provide training, report on the progress and the ability to access relevant market information.

Participants agreed on a timeline for the next steps: development of the training strategy and packages, validation by all stakeholders, and implementation of the packages through the training of master trainers.


“The content was good, one of the best we’ve had, both on ginger and turmeric. There was a special emphasis on ginger, because ginger is the item which needs more attention and should be a priority moving forward”, Mr. Abdalla Yahya, owner of the spices company YSO Plc said of the training.

Ginger requires special emphasis because Ethiopia’s ginger productivity has fallen dramatically since 2011, due to the outbreak of bacterial wilt disease. The disease is estimated to have destroyed 80% of the crop. To discuss the disease, and identify the revitalization efforts that are needed in order to address it, a National Workshop on Revitalizing Ginger Production in Ethiopia was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, together with ITC, following the Training Needs Assessment Workshop.

During the National Workshop, experts discussed the spread of the disease in Ethiopia’s major ginger-producing regions, and presented the current status of research on the impact of bacterial wilt mitigation measures. ITC Spices Expert, Dr. George, contributed to the discussions by presenting the disease control measures that are used in India, which were also a major component of the training conducted in India earlier this year.


Participants in the National Workshop agreed on a way forward to revitalize Ethiopia’s ginger production. In the coming two and half years, four key issues will be addressed: research and technology will be developed in order to revitalize the ginger production; a package will be developed for agricultural extension workers, with the support of SITA (through the Training Needs Assessment Workshop); an input-supply system will be developed, for the country to obtain clean ginger seed; and the National Ginger Task Force will be re-established to oversee the efforts. “We’ve had different meetings on ginger, but this last one was very important. We’ve worked on a plan, a budget and will monitor and evaluate the progress. In the next two and a half years, we plan to achieve some progress with revitalizing the ginger production”, Mr. Haimanot Mitiku, Director of the Tepi Spices Research Centre said.

What you reap isn’t always what you sow

by Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

We sat down for an order of shiro on our way to Bombey, Ethiopia. Shiro is a staple Ethiopian stew. It is made from chickpeas, lentils, and peas that are dried and ground into a powder, blended with a ton of spices and herbs, including ginger, chili peppers, cardamom, basil and fenugreek. The stew is prepared by adding onions, garlic and water to the powder.

Judging by the cuisine, Ethiopia ought to be a spices powerhouse. A variety of spice plants are grown in Ethiopia, including chilies and peppers, ginger, black pepper, anise, badian, fennel, coriander, nutmeg, mace and black cardamom. Spices are a significant source of foreign income for Ethiopia, and Ethiopia’s spices exports reached US$ 33 million in 2014. However, in the past ten years, the growth in production has been marginal. The main issue is productivity: the majority of Ethiopia’s crop yields are well below world averages.

A ginger field in Bombey, Ethiopia.

According to the Ethiopia Ginger and Turmeric Export Strategy 2016-2020, a document developed by the Ethiopian Ministry of Industry with the technical assistance of ITC, ginger is no exception: a yield of 2857.2 kg/ha on average was recorded in Ethiopia in 2013, compared to a yield of 6362 kg/ha at the international level. Ginger productivity has fallen dramatically in recent years, due to the outbreak of bacterial wilt disease. The disease is estimated to have destroyed 80% of the ginger crop in Ethiopia. In the absence of mitigation measures, the disease spread at a fast pace. Coupled with inadequate traditional agronomic practices, the total production of fresh ginger dropped from 756,893 tons in 2012 to 127,559.09 tons in 2014. Meanwhile, the international demand for ginger is booming, growing at an impressive 45% in value between 2013 and 2014. Global ginger production has grown remarkably, mainly through improved yields: between 1993 and 2013, yields were multiplied by 2.5.

ginger 2
The ‘ooze test’, a method used to detect bacterial wilt disease, demonstrated by ITC expert Dr. C.K. Peethambaram. 80% of Ethiopia’s ginger crop is estimated to have been destroyed by the disease.

There is potential for Ethiopian success when it comes to ginger production and exports, the main constraint being bacterial wilt disease. Maintaining a fairly good yield despite bacterial wilt is possible, given particular practices are followed. To instruct farmers in these practices, ITC organized a training in the district of Bombey, located in south-central Ethiopia. ITC spices experts took farmers through best agricultural practices for the selection, harvesting and treatment of ginger rhizomes prior to planting, soil treatment, the planting process itself and subsequent application of manures and fertilizers, mulching and weeding. A training manual detailing all the practices was developed and distributed to the farmers.

The farm where the training took place is one of two locations in Ethiopia where the practices will be followed this season. Training was also provided at a commercial farm in Tepi, Nathi Coffee and Spices Plc. “It was a nice training, supported by practical field demonstrations,” said Getachew Mamo, the General Manager of the farm. “We have tested the pH level of the soil, and have gone through the process of soil treatment. In general, the manual is a good guideline which we can further expand on. We are also planning to translate part of the training manual in the local language, so that we can provide it to our local staff.”

Training in best agricultural practices for the cultivation of ginger.

These activities will be up-scaled in the following years, to propagate and promote the adoption of these practices throughout the country in an effort to revitalize the ginger sector.
Two demonstrator farms will also be developed in Rwanda as part of the SITA project. If successfully implemented, the project can benefit over 80,000 smallholder farmer livelihoods in Ethiopia and Rwanda.

In Ethiopia, the goal is to retrieve the production of ginger to 80% of the total ginger production of the country in the 2016-2019 period. To make these efforts a success, policy makers, scientists, extension personnel and farmers will need to work very closely together. Revitalizing the ginger sector will be challenging, but, “if it is properly done, the Ethiopian climate is good for ginger and the demand is high”, Dr. Peethambaran, ITC spices expert said. In December 2015, Dr. Peethambaran conducted a survey to determine the spread of ginger diseases in Ethiopia. No ginger farms free from bacterial infection were located during the survey. Based on the survey and discussions with farmers, staff from the Ethiopian Department of Agriculture, traders, researchers and other stakeholders in the ginger sector, an initial list of recommendations for the cultivation of ginger was compiled, for small-scale farmers and for large-scale commercial farmers.

Subsequently, a group of Ethiopian and Rwandan companies and institutions (including both companies that were trained this week), participated in a training tour in the South of India, to learn from the best practices employed there to maintain ginger yields despite diseases. The training manual that was used in this week’s trainings is based on the scientific practices for ginger cultivation used in India, tailored to the specific Ethiopian context.

ginger 5.jpg
Mitigation and control measures, tailored to the Ethiopian context.

Cotton Contamination Assessment and Training in Uganda

by Carolin Averbeck

“This bag is made out of PP”, says Marco Mtunga, an ITC consultant and cotton expert with more than 19 years of experience. We are standing in the middle of a huge storage hall, full of seed cotton. At one end of the hall, there is a metallic pipeline, which works like a gigantic vacuum cleaner. “PP can contaminate cotton,” explains Marco and points to the bag which several young men are using to carry the cotton from a far-end corner of the hall to the pipeline. Other young men are feeding the pipeline with the seed cotton. From here, the cotton is conveyed to the gin – a machine that separates cotton fibers from seeds, hulls, and other foreign materials. These other foreign materials, which contaminate the cotton, are the reason why we are visiting this ginnery and several more in the North-Eastern part of Uganda. We have two cotton experts from Uganda’s Cotton Development Board with us, Fredrick Itungulu and Patrick Ilukat.

From Left to right: ITC Consultant Marco Mtunga examining seed cotton, which just arrived at the ginnery; and  Woman sorting the seed cotton after offloading

Our objective is to assess the level of contamination for each ginnery, to discuss our findings with the managers of the ginnery and advise them on how they can avoid contamination at each step in the production chain. The level of contamination is one of the factors defining the quality of cotton, while the quality affects the price. Contamination forces ginners to sell their lint cotton at discount prices to international merchants. Price differentials for cotton with the same fiber characteristics can range from 5 up to 30 percent. Discounts are usually applied indiscriminately to all cotton originating from an area or a country which is perceived to have contaminated cotton.

Earlier this week, during a one-day training in Kampala, Marco had explained to ginners from about 10 of Uganda’s currently 20 active ginneries why PP, also known as polypropylene, is the most dangerous cotton contaminant, and how it can be avoided in the whole production process.

From left to right: Workers using a polyester bag to transport the seed cotton. Polyester can contaminate the cotton; and  Patrick Ilukat of Uganda’s Cotton Development Organisation examining the quality and staple length of the cotton. “This is high quality cotton,” he explains. “It is very white and the staple length is 28-29 mm”

The training and subsequent visits to ginneries were jointly organized by ITC’s SITA team and Uganda’s Cotton Development Board. They mark the first activity of a joint action plan by ITC and CDO, which aims at branding Ugandan cotton as contamination-free and at achieving premium prices at international markets for Ugandan cotton – to the ultimate benefit of the farmers.

Reducing cotton contamination is one of Uganda’s Cotton Development Board strategic priorities. Before the harvesting season starts, CDO organizes pre-season visits to sensitize ginners, extension officers and farmers on the issue of contamination. We are now sitting in the shade next to the storages of a ginnery in Bukedea district. The manager had mobilized a number of extension officers and agents, and we are discussing the issue of contamination with them. Cotton contamination starts at the farm-level and with the material of the bags the farmers are using to pick the cotton and to transport it to the collection points. “Where I come from, farmers use PP bags,” says one agent. “In the past, we never had such issues. Farmers used their cotton bed sheets to pick the cotton, but nowadays they just reuse the seed bags,” says another. We discuss what needs to be done to change the situation. “Ginners could provide the right bags to the farmers,” suggests someone, who is echoed by others.

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CDO team Fredrick Itungulu and Patrick Ilukat examining the cotton feeding system at the platform level

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Platform from where ginning machines are fed

Earlier this week, during the training day in Kampala, ginners debated on the important role they have to jointly play to avoid contamination along the whole production chain – from the farm to when the cotton is shipped abroad. Most ginners have already installed different measures in their ginneries to avoid contamination. There is now need to ensure that farmers use the right bags to pick and transport the cotton. Several ginners committed to distribute contamination-free picking bags to the farmers prior to the next picking season. Some highlighted the missing link between ginners and farmers, and the need for ginners to directly sensitize farmers. “At the end of the day, it is the farmers who lose, since discount prices are ultimately transmitted to the farmer level,” said one ginner during the discussion.

Ginners also agreed that only through a joint effort they can fully avoid contamination along the whole production chain and ensure that Uganda has an international reputation for high-quality, contamination-free cotton. During the SITA project, ITC will continue working with CDO and the ginners to further strengthen Uganda’s reputation as premium exporter of cotton. As a very next step, several ginners will have the opportunity to visit Indian ginneries and learn from best practice.

Knowledge sharing, from South to South

by Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

We are back in our respective Ethiopian and Rwandan homes, and look back on a week in India that was both knowledge and travel intensive. Over the course of 7 days we drove over 700 km, to see how ginger and turmeric production is done, from field to market, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

What we found is that there is great potential to adapt and replicate the Indian best practices to our local contexts. Many aspects our speakers highlighted with regard to their context, are recognizable. Peermade Development Society (PDS) Organic Spices used the terms ‘small holdings’, ‘remote location’, ‘limited irrigation system’, ‘limited production capabilities’ and ‘difficult access to market’ to describe their production environment. That sounds familiar!


Their advice with regard to seed treatment, irrigation and institutional support therefore lends itself well to address the Ethiopian and Rwandan challenges. However, ‘nothing is constant’, George Paul, CEO of Synthite Industries – the world’s leading processing factory for the value added products from spices – he said. As much as knowledge on disease mitigation is of the essence to us today, as productivity improves, new challenges, including meeting market entry requirements, are looming on the horizon. This holds true for our Indian partners as well, who operate in an environment with increasingly low profit margins and have difficulty accessing sufficient raw materials.

Last week’s training showcased the benefits of South-South knowledge sharing and cooperation. India has achieved substantial results when it comes to ginger and turmeric cultivation, and has developed effective practices to maintain its ginger yield despite diseases. The knowledge shared by our Indian partners creates enormous opportunity to boost the productivity of Ethiopia and Rwanda’s ginger and turmeric crops. But most importantly, sharing this expertise can lay the groundwork to find relevant, effective and efficient solutions to jointly address challenges in the future.

All we seek in India

by Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei

                                                        “What you seek is seeking you” – Rumi

We are driving across the southern Indian provinces of Kerala and Tamilnadu, to receive best practices training from experienced ginger and turmeric farmers and processors. Over the last few days we have seen demonstrations of the seed preparation, planting, mulching and harvesting of ginger and turmeric, and have visited processing factories where we witnessed the cleaning, drying, cutting, grinding and quality testing of the products.

Our goal is to learn from these best practices and adapt them to the Ethiopian and Rwandan contexts, and the task ahead seems daunting to say the least. This week has not only been inspiring, but also an eye-opener to the complex and hard work (and machinery!) that goes into successfully preparing seeds and soil, growing the crops while avoiding diseases and processing them in an efficient and clean manner.


Our speakers this week however have not missed a single opportunity to tell us that there is great potential in this sector for us. When visiting Synthite Industries, the world’s largest processing factory for the value added products from spices, their CEO George Paul said of their success, ‘We are people with ordinary talents, but with extraordinary perseverance that made us successful in our space’. To our group he added, ‘considering the virgin soil available in Africa, I see great opportunity in agriculture development in this region, in particular spices.’

The unpoluted soil that is available on the African continent is considered to be a major advantage. In addition, there is still tremendous potential for growth, which in many other nations has largely been exhausted. What inspired the group this week was to see how these successful companies started out small only decades ago, and were able to grow into the best practice they are for us today.

IMG_3596The competition in the spices sector, our speakers have warned, is fierce. To stay ahead of the competition, continuous research and development is required, as well as being able to find new sourcing destinations.

There is a definite interest in Ethiopian and Rwandan ginger and turmeric, and as it turns out, companies would be willing to transfer the necessary know-how  and technology to the farmers, in order to source spices. So you see, “what you seek is seeking you”.