Ethiopia: Nation's First Centre of Excellence for Teff Sprouts Up

The construction of the centre started two years ago

The nation's first centre of excellence for conducting research on teff, a fine grain indigenous to Ethiopia, will be established in Debre Zeit, Oromia Regional State.

Costing 40 million Br, it will be financed by the Danish government and administered by the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), the seven-year-old Agency established to increase productivity under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Construction having begun two years ago, it will be operational by January. The three-story building, which rests on 700Sqm of land, is located in the existing Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Centre. It will house a biotechnology laboratory, administrative offices and a meeting hall.

"The centre will help us develop our research into teff," said Solomon Chanyalew (PhD), director of the Centre, which has 440 employees and has bred 26 types of new teffspecies since its establishment in 1953.

Resting on 147ha of land, the Agricultural Research Centre aims to improve teff, durum wheat, chickpea, lentil, forage crops, vegetables, fruits, poultry, dairy and animal nutrition.

"The new centre of excellence will be equipped with modern laboratory equipment that we currently don't have," added Solomon.

Buelcon Construction PLC, a local construction firm, is the contractor for the project, while ASPIRE AECOM Architects & Engineering is the consultant on the project.

Four types of teffare grown in Ethiopia: liyu magna (white teff), melestegna, abolse and qey teff(red teff).

Different studies have shown that teffis a good source of fiber, iron, calcium and potassium with high nutritional content, including 11pc protein, 80pc complex carbohydrates and three percent fat.

In the last season, cereal crops were grown on 10.2 million hectares of land. Around 30pc of this land was used for growing teff, and the total production in last year's Meher season, the main growing season that starts in May and ends in September, was about 50.2 million quintals.

Teffoccupies 17.3pc of the total agriculturally productive land in Ethiopia, and the average productivity per hectare is 17.5ql. The Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute has cataloged 6,414 varieties of teffamong the nearly 72,874 pieces of genetic materials it keeps.

The patent for teffhas been held by a Dutch agronomist, Jans Roosjen, since 2003. Although Roosjen lost a court battle in The Hague that led him to lose the rights to the grain in the Netherlands, his patent still applies with the rest of the members of the European Union.

Experts in the area applaud the construction of the centre of excellence, considering the dependency of the country's economy on agriculture, a sector that makes for over a third of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs two thirds of adults. The Central Statistical Agency forecasts a total of 314 million quintals of agricultural products to be produced this season.

"The centre will help to improve food security and provide upgraded seedlings with much higher productivity to farmers," said Fentahun Tesafa, assistant professor at Bahir Dar University's College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences. "The centre should have adequate finances and human resources."

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