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Vermont - Ethiopia - Kenya Collaborations

Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management

Bio-Based IPM Strategies for Cut Flower Production in Ethiopia:

Developing Capacity in High-Value Export Crops for Sustained Rural Development

Over the past few years, the floriculture industry in the US has witnessed major changes as production facilities for ornamental cuttings have moved to Central America, Mexico, Kenya, and Uganda, taking advantage of low-cost labor and warm climes. The greenhouse industries in many of these countries have only been established within the past 10 years,  yet have provided a model of sustained growth and economic opportunity, and have achieved increasing access to lucrative export markets. As the industry has grown, so has the sophistication of the production systems and distribution networks. In turn, this has led to broader improvements in the local economy and infrastructure.

This success has prompted investment in other developing countries, such as Ethiopia, who see export horticulture as an increasingly important component of their agricultural economy, and a major force for sustained rural development. The cool climate in the Ethiopian highlands is ideal for production of roses and other high-value cut flowers. Greenhouse production capacity is expected to increase 3-4 fold in the next 1-2 years alone. A vibrant greenhouse industry will provide business and employment opportunities in areas traditionally under-served by industrial developments in larger population centers. Greenhouse production is the pinnacle of intensive agriculture,with large amounts of high-value plant material grown in a relatively small area. The income-generating potential of greenhouse grown cut flowers far exceeds that of any traditional field crop in Ethiopia. Furthermore in protected  agriculture, the growing season is extended far beyond that feasible for many field crops. Conditions are optimized for plant growth, but these also favor the rapid increase of pest populations and spread of diseases. Pest control strategies are heavily reliant upon chemical pesticides, and toxic materials with long residuals are commonly used. But this is neither sustainable nor desirable from an economic, human-health or environmental perspective.

Currently, Ethiopian cut flowers are primarily sold to retailers in Italy, but access to other countries in Europe, and emerging markets in Asia and the middle East will be required to sustain the current rate of  industry growth. Production of high-quality, pest-free and pesticide residue-free flowers will be essential to maintain and increase this access, necessitating change in crop protection strategies to ones that are based upon the use of cultural and biological controls.

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