Today, we met a community of growers in the Debre Zeit area.
Sandhya pitched the idea to them. When she finished with the basics (guaranteed market, social premium, technical viticultural support, etc.), she asked the growers about their questions and concerns.
Here were some of their responses:
“How long after planting the vine cuttings will we produce the first crop?”
“Can we plant other crops between the vine rows during the time before we harvest the first crop?”
“Will grape growing be profitable in this area?”
To understand their concerns, one must remember that the farmer is the ultimate high-rolling gambler. The farmer rolls the die against the odds of the weather, pestilence, markets, and so on. If the farmer’s children will have enough to go to school, the farmer must maximize the returns and mitigate the risks. Winegrowing in Ethiopia promises to do both. Not only are grapes a high-value added product, but the cultivation of an additional crop diversifies the grower’s risk, making the great gamble of agriculture safer for Ethiopian farmers.
The leader of the grower community, a man named Ato. Gebremaniam spoke on behalf of the group. Although I don’t
understand a word of Amharic, the Ethiopian lingua franca, is charisma was obvious. In fact, it was a good thing I don’t understand Amharic, because Ato. Gebremaniam probably could have convinced me of anything!
Sandhya, Biniyam and Sabla, who are our contacts at local agricultural offices, the growers, and I went out to walk the fields. The farmers primarily grow teff (the grain crop used for the delicious Ethiopian staple bread, injera) onions, and tomatoes. When we walked into the fourth and final field, a woman approached us from across the way.
Ato. Gebremaniam turned to Sandhya and I, and he said, “I would like you to meet the owner of this field. Please feel free to ask her about anything you inquire.”
Wait, what? Since when do you speak perfect English, Ato. Gebremaniam?
Meet Ato. Gebremaniam, the charming grower of Debre Zeit, who helped kick off our site selection trip with a promising start!