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Improving wheat seed system and end-use quality in Ethiopia

“My work in Africa is not finished,” Jeanie Borlaug quoted her father, Dr Norman Borlaug, during her opening statement for wheat seed system field day bringing together farmers, researchers, seed growers, and development enterprises experts to discuss improved seed system and end-use quality issues in Ethiopia. The field day was held at the Kulumsa Research Center (KRC), Ethiopia, on 15 November 2012 and was followed by an end-use quality workshop on 16 November. Both events were organized by KRC and CIMMYT and sponsored by Cornell University’s Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat Project (DRRW).

The field day began with welcome remarks and introduction to KRC by the center director. Bedada Girma Buta, DRRW-ETH coordinator, then talked about Dr Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution in Asia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and the DRRW project, as well as issues currently facing the region, including the extent of Ug99, rust surveillance work, gene discovery and stewardship, and wheat seed system improvements. Jeanie Borlaug, the day’s guest of honor, followed up on Buta’s speech regarding her father, from whom she had learned to work hard, be honest, and never lose humility. “He said our effort is to contribute to farmers’ success to bring enough food on tables in Africa,” said Borlaug, adding that it is crucial to continue educating young generations in the work initiated by her father. “Let us continue to take it to the farmers,” she concluded. Firdisa Eticha then presented on the National Wheat Program, Sara Davidson on DRRW/BGRI, and Gordon Cisar on the DRRW/Objective 21.

Participants visited KRC research plots, seed production fields, KRC/GIZ-ATC machineries, and Gonde seed farm. The day was concluded with discussions on reasons for low variety replacement rate and the need for broader participation of public sector, private sector, farm community based seed production, and marketing system. Chairing the discussions, CIMMYT senior scientist Bekele Abeyo stressed the importance of farmers’ participatory variety selection in fast variety adoption, maintenance of early seed multiplication, impact of fast track variety release, accelerated seed multiplication of released varieties, and the need to organize, mobilize, and support farmers for better access to high quality seed. He also pointed out the need to train and empower farmers to produce good quality seed, and connect farmers with industries for which it is necessary to develop standard quality parameters.

During the wheat end-use quality and gender workshop, Katie Nelson presented her research on wheat variety and quality preference by farmers in Ethiopia. This was followed by a series of presentations, including Cisar’s on breeding wheat for quality, John Ndung’u’s on development of superior quality bread wheat at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Tadesse Desalegn’s on wheat potential for yield and quality in Ethiopia, and gender introduction and presentation by Yeshi Chichie and Derese Teshome, respectively. The workshop was concluded by a round table lunch attended by Women in Triticum (WIT) and Jeanie Borlaug.