In 2011, SATG FILSAN signed a partnership agreement with Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) supported by the United States Agency for International Development USAID to lend a helping hand to Amoud University on testing a wide range of newly introduced varieties of vegetables and watermelon in three locations experiencing unfavourable conditions for crop growth and development.
“Unfortunately, the soils in the Borama, Baki and Ruqi demonstration plots had high pH levels and did not have sufficient levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and organic matter which are very essential for plant growth,” said Charlotte Maloney, an environmental biologist volunteering at SATG FILSAN. “High salinity was also an issue in Baki and Ruqi.”
The project, which aims to ultimately increase domestic income and reduce foreign dependence, introduced dozens of varieties of tomato, onion, watermelon, hot pepper, cabbage and lettuce; and evaluated these in comparison to locally grown varieties on demonstration plots and in field trials. It was found that for the most part, the evaluated varieties provided higher yields – far exceeding the target yield increase of 22%. The increase in yield was mainly due to amelioration of soil nutrients and rigorous protection against insects and diseases.
“Comparing local and non-local varieties tested during the project to what is expected in the East Africa region, the results show at least a 140% yield increase in onion trials, and as much as four to seven times higher yields in lettuce trials,” Maloney said. “Cabbage performed well in all trials, with non-local varieties doing better than local ones. However, tomato trials saw local varieties performing as well as some of the non-local varieties.”
SATG FILSAN looks to continue its partnerships and evaluate superior performing varieties with an improved data collection system and better crop production practices. It will also work more extensively with agro dealers and farmers to promote fertilizer use and new seed varieties. With the first wave of trials over, the future looks bright.