By Irene Ebrahimi Darsinouei
“If I had to do it all over again? Why not, I would do it a little bit differently.” – Freddy Mercury
A team of ginger and turmeric farmers and processors from Ethiopia and Rwanda is headed for Southern India this week. As part of the Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project, we will be traveling across Kerala and Tamilnadu to learn all about how to improve the production of ginger and turmeric, implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and mitigate diseases.
We will begin our journey in Kochi, the hub for spice trading in India. Over the centuries, the Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, British and Dutch all came to Kochi for spices. Spices have proven to be one of the main commodities of trade and today, they form a big exporting potential for Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The challenges we are addressing are the following: Rwanda has limited land, and is seeking to introduce cultivation of high-value cash crops, to increase farm incomes. Ethiopia by contrast is a relatively large producer of ginger and turmeric, but in recent years suffered a sharp decrease in production due to the outbreak of bacterial wilt disease. The sectors require concerted support and revitalization to address the ginger disease complex which has ravaged the sector.
If we could do it all over again, what would we do differently? We have come to the titans of the spices industry for advice. Over the coming week, we will be instructed on Good Agricultural Pratices (GAP), be trained to identify and mitigate diseases and visit major farms and processing plants. These best practices will subsequently be replicated in demonstrator farms that will be developed in Ethiopia and Rwanda. Here, farmers will receive hands-on training, to use modern agronomist practices and improve productivity.
By the way, did you know that Freddy Mercury, lead singer of Queen, grew up in India? His name was actually Farrokh Bulsar. He was born in Zanzibar (major producer of spices!), spent his childhood in India and moved to England at the age of 17. Who knows; ultimately, the new and improved spices from Ethiopia and Rwanda might be traded along similar routes…