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Ruth Kinuthia, Jonathan Muriuki, Everlyn Binyanya, Evelyn Kiptot, Catherine Muthuri, Kiros
Hadgu and Abayneh Derero

The Key informant survey on seeds and seedlings systems in Ethiopia was conducted in the two project
sites namely: East Shewa and East Wollega/ West Shewa area. The two sites are mandate areas for
Melkassa and Bako Agriculture Research Centres. They are also the implementing sites for the ACIAR
funded project aimed at improving Sustainable Productivity in Farming Systems and Enhanced
Livelihoods through Adoption of Evergreen Agriculture in Eastern Africa. The objectives of the survey
were: i) to map out the tree seeds and seedlings supply system in the country in order to establish the role
of the government and NGOs in the systems; ii) to assess the quality of the germplasm as mapped out in
the seed sourcing, collection/ procurement and distribution and ultimately seedling production and iii) to
identify the organizations and individuals dealing with tree seeds and seedlings, their roles, supply
channels, the support given to tree seed dealers and nursery operators available and challenges
encountered in the system.
Key informants interviewed include woreda Natural Resource Management experts in five woredas in
East Shewa (Dugda, Adami Tulu Jido Kombolcha, Bora, Lume and Wolenchiti); four woredas in East
Wollega/ West Shewa whereby Guto Gida, Jima Arjo and Gobu sayo are in East Wollega and Bako Tibe
in West Shewa. Representatives of three Non-governmental organizations were also interviewed. These
include: Sustainable Environment Development Association (SEDA), Rift Valley Women and Children
Development Organization and International Development Enterprise (IDE). The two religious
organizations interviewed were; Meki Catholic church which has a component in agriculture and natural
resource management and Mekaneyesus Church working in Meki and Nekemte. In Meki Mekaneyesus
Church, the natural resource component leader in Water Supply and Sanitation project (WASUPA) was
interviewed. Also interviewed were research officers at Melkassa Research Centre and Forest Research
Center (FRC) as well as one private seed dealer in Addis Ababa.

In both sites agro pastoralism is dominant; farmers cultivate various crops and keep livestock. Major
crops grown include teff, maize and beans. Vegetables are also common especially in areas under
irrigation. Other crops include potatoes and wheat.
Different tree species planted for various uses were noted. The trees include: fodder trees which are also
widely planted for soil conservation especially in East Shewa. Trees are also planted for fencing, shade,
tree products such as wood and timber and for construction purposes. Fruit trees have also been
established in both sites. Derero (2012), in agreement with these findings, reported that tree planting in
Ethiopia is carried out in many ways and for various purposes. Planting niches include establishment of
woodlots, homestead and boundary plantings, plantings on soil conservation structures and in degraded
areas for rehabilitation. Others include peri-urban fuel wood plantations, buffer zone and timber
plantations in state forests, enrichment plantings in degraded natural stands, establishment of seed stands
and plantings in church compounds and urban areas.
Various tree species are raised in the government and NGO nurseries based on community needs. The
government initiative of closing up degraded areas for rehabilitation has also led to establishment of more
species for this purpose.
Trees species raised in the nurseries consisted of fodder species such as Leucaena leucocephala and
Sesbania sesban. Dovyalis abyssinica, Delonix regia, Jacaranda mimosifolia and Schinus molle were
established for fencing purposes. Species established for shade were Jacaranda mimosifolia and Delonix
regia and those for tree products such as wood and timber for construction included Grevillea robusta and
Eucalyptus spp. Fruit trees established in both sites were mainly Persea americana, Mangifera indica and
Carica papaya. Another study conducted by Lemenih and Bongers, (2011) showed that forest plantations
in Ethiopia are mainly composed of Eucalyptus species (59.3% of industrially planted area) and
Cupressus lusitanica (20.6%), followed by the indigenous Juniperus procera (5.7%). These results
indicate that exotic tree species are dominant in Ethiopia as compared to indigenous trees.
Other species also common in the nurseries include Melia azedirach, Moringa oleifera, Cordia africana,
Olea africana, Croton macrostachyus, Dodonaea viscosa, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus
camaldulensis, Faidherbia albida; Acacia spp (A. seyal; A. tortilis and A. saligna).
The species most preferred by communities in both sites were Eucalyptus spp, Grevillea robusta and fruit
trees. Acacias were preferred in East Shewa since the area is dry and the species can withstand the

conditions. Other species in high demand include Sesbania, Leucaena and fodder grasses for provision of
fodder and at the same time for soil conservation purposes.
Moringa Stenopetala is being promoted as a new species for on-farm planting. The species is indigenous
but has not been widely used due to lack of awareness of its multiple uses among communities. Leucaena
trichandra and Tephrosia spp for fodder provision have been introduced recently in East Shewa by
Melkassa Research Centre.
The Forestry Research Center (FRC) of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has been
the sole supplier of tested tree seeds in Ethiopia since its establishment in 1975. Data on tree seed request
and supply at FRC from 2006/07-2010/11 indicates that the center on average was supplying 7,278 kg of
pure seeds annually which satisfied about 78% of the request it received (Derero, 2012). However, Derero
noted that national demands for tree seeds can be much higher. In the same period, the FRC had a total of
419 seed customers, of which 59% were governmental organizations and 36% NGOs. This indicates that
community needs for seeds are not met by formal supply systems. Nursery operators and farmers
therefore had to find out alternative ways of complementing the government efforts.
For all the woredas, seeds are either purchased from the seed dealers or collected locally. Local collection
takes place in farm lands, churches, schools, streets, natural forests, individual woodlots, mother trees at
the government and NGO nurseries and research centers. In some woredas such as Dugda and Alem
Tena, natural resource officers engage highly experienced and trained labourers (whom they have trained)
in seed collection. The collectors are mainly paid in kind (grains such as maize). In other woredas nursery
workers and casual labourers are involved in seed collection and paid in cash. NGOs usually purchase
seeds and also employ workers to collect from the various sources.
There are government nurseries in each woreda where seedlings are raised and distributed to the
communities. One central nursery is located at the woreda capital and other smaller nurseries at the
kebeles and Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) mainly for training and demonstrations. There are group
nurseries in Lume, group and individual nurseries in Alem Tena and NGO based nurseries in Dugda. It
was noted that there were more individual nurseries in West Shewa/ East Wollega than East Shewa, the
latter being more moisture stressed.
Several NGOs support the government and are involved in tree seedling production and planting. The
NGOs interviewed (apart from IDE and Mekaneyesus) have nurseries too. Seedlings raised from these
nurseries are distributed freely to farmers. Notable NGOs with significant involvement in the national

tree seed and seedling system include IDE and Mekaneyesus in Nekemte. IDE supports government
nurseries by purchasing tree seeds from seed dealers and giving them to the woredas to raise seedlings;
which are then distributed to the communities. Seedlings are transported to the farmers in the various
kebeles freely (although a small fee is charged to the urban dwellers in Dugda woreda) both by the
government and NGOs. Mekaneyesus in Nekemte supports individual nurseries with technical advice on
all aspects of nursery management and provides the nursery owners with nursery equipment such as water
cans, hoes, spades and rakes. The organization used to run project nurseries for training and
demonstration from 2004- 2010 but after that, they started focusing on private nurseries. This was after the
community members demonstrated knowledge and understanding on nursery management techniques.
They have more than 60 beneficiaries with nurseries in the project sites that they are currently working
with. Some of these are individual owners especially the model farmers; others operate the nurseries as a
Distribution of tree seeds to individual nursery operators by the woreda government is not common in
both sites. However, Dugda, Alem Tena, Wolenchiti and Bako indicated that they distribute tree seeds to
individuals and groups. Most of the seeds are mainly given to the government nurseries, schools, and
farmers or groups with the capacity to raise them in the nurseries. NGOs prefer to distribute seedlings as
opposed to seeds. Mekaneyesus distributes seeds only. IDE distributes only seeds for fodder grasses to
individuals. Seed distribution is done through DAs in most cases, sometimes farmers take them from the
woreda offices. IDE and Mekaneyesus take the seeds to the beneficiaries. In Bako Tibe, seedlings are sold
to farmers who have to transport them from the woreda nursery.
Both woredas and NGOs purchase the seeds from licensed dealers in Southern region and Addis Ababa.
These seeds are trusted to be of high quality hence most woredas do not carry out any quality tests for
them. To ensure genetic quality for locally collected seeds, seed collectors are trained in advance by the
woreda forestry/ natural resource management officers and Development Agents (DAs) on the factors to
consider in determining the mother trees such as age, health, number of the trees and physical qualities
depending on the purpose of the trees.
After collection, tests are done to determine the germination rates and, in some woredas, collectors are
only paid after determining the germination rates. Physical quality is ascertained through observation of
the seed colour, insect attack or broken/damaged seeds. FRC pointed out that they conduct purity test,
germination test, test storage behavior and pre sowing treatment for the seeds.

Derero (2012), focusing his study on Wolaita and Arsi in Ethiopia, found out that FRC generally collects
seeds from acceptable number of mother trees (at least 20 trees) but occasionally from smaller number of
trees which could compromise the genetic quality of the collected seeds. He therefore noted the
importance of a careful selection of mother trees and species based collection guidelines which are still
lacking in Ethiopia, to guarantee the genetic quality in the collections.
Individual seed collection was not commonly reported in both sites. However it was evident that both the
government institutions and NGOs are encouraging it. Communities are encouraged to collect seeds and
establish them in their individual nurseries or sell to other farmers/groups that operate nurseries. The
government in most cases however does not purchase seeds from them since they are not licensed but it
accords support such as trainings, provision of seedling containers and nursery materials. Some NGOs
such as SEDA engage some collectors permanently.
Challenges encountered during seeds and seedlings distribution by the government and NGOs necessitate
establishment of more individual/group nurseries to meet community needs. This is based on the premise
that the evolution of a network of small-scale tree nurseries in rural areas could facilitate access of
resource-poor farmers to improved tree planting material (Degrande et al. 2012). Farmers join nursery
groups to learn tree propagation techniques and to benefit from plants produced in the group nursery.
Alternatively, they might prefer to purchase improved planting material of their choice in small-scale
nurseries that are not too far from their homes.
Transport problem is also a major challenge to meeting seedling demand by smallholder farmers; roads
are poor and some kebeles are inaccessible during rainy seasons. Many seedlings are damaged during
transportation and sometimes vehicles to transport the seedlings are unavailable.
One of the most important activities that support seed and seedling systems is technical skill development
(Harrison et al. 2008). Trainings on seed collection and nursery management are conducted for nursery
workers in both government and NGO nurseries. The trainings are done to casual workers (who are
mainly engaged in seed collection) and individual nursery operators. The trainings are conducted by
woreda officers, DAs, NGOs and experts from other institutions such as research centres. The wider
community (including other farmers in the kebeles not necessarily engaged directly in seed collection
and nursery operations) is also trained mainly by the DAs on seed collection, nursery sites selection,

establishment and management of trees on farm. Some FTCs have nursery sites where demonstration
takes place.

Government nurseries are supported by the government and NGOs. These include the central nurseries
located at the woreda centres and other nurseries in the kebeles, most of which are temporary nurseries.
NGOs support their own nurseries too. Individual nurseries are for commercial purposes and these are
managed by the individuals. Some group nurseries are for commercial purposes as is the case in Lume
woreda. Group nurseries established by NGOs are aimed at providing seedlings to the group/community
members and also for training and demonstration purposes.
Seeds and seedlings distributed by the government are not sufficient to meet community needs. The
quantity of seeds purchased by the government is limited due to the budget allocation. NGOs help in
supply of more seedlings but still the demand is not fully met. Due to this, farmers are encouraged to
collect seeds by themselves and establish their own nurseries. If well supported, seed collection by
farmers could surpass what the government and NGOs are able to supply.
Elsewhere in Malawi, more than 90 % of the documented agroforestry tree seed distributed to farmers in
Malawi was produced by smallholder farmers and collected mainly from scattered farmland trees (Nyoka
et al. 2011). These authors concluded that the procurement and distribution of germplasm to farmers was
in general effective, but that sustainability could be enhanced by strengthening grassroots organizations
involved in tree seed and seedling production to institutionalize the distribution through farmerfarmer
Vegetative propagation techniques can result in accelerated fruit production compared to tree
establishment from seed (Jamnadass et al. 2011), among other merits in quality tree germplasm
production. The level of acceleration in fruiting of vegetative propagules depends on the level of
ontogenetic maturity of the material being propagated. This is determined by the origin of the scion or
cutting from within the tree/stock plant. Moreover, vegetative as opposed to seed collection has been
applied when significant genetic gain through true-to-type cloning is anticipated. However, vegetative
sampling and subsequent multiplication require more resources such as nursery propagators when
compared to seed collection (Dawson et al., 2012).

Most interviewed organizations in the two survey sites do not deal with vegetatively produced species.
However Dugda, Alem Tena and Wolenchiti woredas distribute grafted mango and avocado seedlings
obtained from Melkassa Research Centre. IDE and Rift valley Women and Children Development
Organization also distribute grafted mango seedlings purchased from the research centre.
High cost of seeds from the dealers and lack of dealers close to the woredas are major hindrances to tree
germplasm access. This makes the dealers purchase the seeds from Addis Ababa and Southern nation
which is far from the woredas. Woreda agriculture and forestry officers may not find enough people for
seeds collection especially during farm peak periods. Poor seed quality is another major challenge.
Sometimes seeds purchased from dealers have low germination rates as opposed to what is indicated on
the seed labels. This leads to low germination rates causing seed shortage and losses to the organizations
and individuals establishing such seeds. Seeds collected locally may also have very low germination rates.
Farmers demands are therefore not fully met. The above constraints are similar to those facing the forest
development in Ethiopia as noted by Derero et al., (2011a) which include: inadequate and poor quality
seed supply, poor seedling quality and inappropriate silviculture, poor research extension linkage and poor
coordination in the sector.
Survival rate of seedlings supplied to farmers is usually very low. Transportation of seedlings is a major
problem especially during rainy season due to poor roads which also makes frequent monitoring of the
planted trees difficult. Seedling distribution coincides with planting season of crops; hence farmers tend
to neglect planting of trees, many of which get destroyed. Unavailability of vehicles for transport in the
woredas forces them to hire transport which is expensive. Seedlings damage during loading and offloading in distribution is also common. Late distribution of seeds and seedlings to communities,
especially by the NGOs (who may be involved in other activities), causes a lag in nursery activities too.
In West Shewa bare root seedlings are raised in the nurseries due to inadequate finances. This makes the
seedlings susceptible to destruction and also contributes to their low survival rate. Attack by termites
especially in West Shewa zone was noted. In East Shewa the low survival rate of trees is exacerbated by
the dry conditions that prevail.
Different farmers have different preferences and it is difficult to satisfy them all. For instance, Eucalyptus,
Grevillea and fruit trees are in high demand and farmers become hesitant to plant other trees species. This
leads to damage and loss of the trees which have already been raised in the nurseries. Unavailability of
mother trees in the local areas for the preferred species due to deforestation was noted to be of concern.

The seed collectors have to travel to far places to search for them, a process which is expensive. Lack of
sufficient seed collection equipment also makes the whole seed acquisition process difficult.
Seed dealers incur high transport costs in travelling since some mother trees are very far. Illegal seed
dealers sell the seeds at lower prices making it difficult for the private dealers to market their seeds at
favourable prices. High cost of collection results to increased seed prices which discourages buyers and
makes the collectors compromise on quality. Most private/individual seed dealers are not concerned about
quality hence may end up collecting seeds of poor quality. Inadequate/unavailability of adequate seeds is
another challenge that was noted. Seed storage is also a problem due to unavailability of cold room
facilities therefore seeds cannot be stored for a long time especially in cases where buyers are not readily
Large scale nursery operators face labour challenge. They also lack enough inputs such as seeds;
polythene tubes, watering cans and pumps, nursery tools and equipment for seed collection e.g. ladders
and hooks. . Sometimes nursery operators raise seedlings without fully assessing demand leading to poor
sales hence incurring losses. Shortage of water for the nurseries and destruction by termites was reported.
Due to financial challenges nursery operators are unable to afford seed pots and high quality seeds of
species such as Eucalyptus and Grevillea and most of the seedlings are raised without pots. Generally
nursery operators lack knowledge/skills in collection of quality seeds and nursery management.
Other Challenges
Free grazing culture leads to destruction of the planted tree seedlings resulting in low tree survival rate.
Destruction of planted trees by cattle, camels, wild animals such as monkeys (especially on Moringa spp)
was reported. Lack of awareness on the importance of trees on farmlands by farmers leads to low
commitment to tree planting and management. Sometimes farmers may not be willing to plant trees on
farmland at all. Some farmers extend settlement and farmlands to the communal lands closed for
rehabilitation which exacerbates seedling establishment difficulties. Unfavourable weather conditions
affects growth and survival of the trees planted. For example there had been very heavy rainfall in West
Shewa, the year before this interview that destroyed seedlings. Tree species like Cordia africana dry
easily; Acacia saligna species have a short life span and farmers tend to resist these trees.
Knowledge gaps exist at the grass root level on what type of trees to plant and their management options.
NGOs lack of experts specialized in tree seeds lead to purchase of seeds that do not meet farmers needs
or are of poor quality. This was exemplified by World Vision who in the previous year had bought

mangoes that were of poor quality in Wolenchiti and incurred great losses after they failed to germinate.
The short project duration for the NGOs before they complete all their activities makes it difficult to
follow up on the planted trees.
Engagement of government agencies and NGOs in improving tree seed systems endeavor is important. A
new ministry of Environment and Forestry was created in June 2013 and is expected to focus more on
seeds supply. Some government interventions indicated include certification of seed dealers to ensure
quality and examination of seed dealers at least twice a year. Seeds are also tested in research centers to
ensure quality. Central nurseries are established at woredas for seedlings distribution to the communities.
Woredas purchase seeds only from licensed dealers.
Training and capacity building of the government experts in agronomy and natural resource management
is done at both woreda and kebele level. Training and participatory nursery development are proven
methods of building farmers awareness, leadership and technical skills and independence regarding
germplasm quality, production and management capacity (Carandang et al 2006). To achieve all these
farmers also need to be trained. The government supports woreda nurseries with financial resources
(sometimes inadequate) and materials such as seeds, rakes, hoes, water cans and facilitation of daily
workers. NGOs provide vehicles to the woredas to assist in transportation of the seedlings.
Efforts by the government to rehabilitate area closures due to deforestation, erosion and farm land
expansion are also done; promotion of agroforestry techniques by the government and NGOs encourages
many tree and crop species on the same land, in this way different tree seeds can be obtained easily;
regional states e.g. the Southern nation are establishing more seed centers (similar to FRC).
From the findings above, a number of recommendations can be made. These include building the
technical capacity of seed dealers and nursery operators in the study sites and devising mechanisms for
ensuring fair trade, and evaluation of changes. More training should focus on quality seed collection and
nursery establishment by individual farmers especially in kebeles located far from the woreda nursery
which currently face transport problems. Moreover, on enhancing high quality seeds and seedlings, a fair
and transparent bidding system should be focused on so that there is a supply of highly pure seeds with
high germination rates. Decentralization of seed supply through establishment of more seed centers closer
to the communities or supporting communities to establish genetically diverse seed sources is necessary
since seeds are currently obtained from as far as Southern nation and Addis Ababa.

The Agroforestry extension system should be strengthened and technical manuals for seed collection and
handling and seedling production produced. Awareness creation on importance of planting trees to the
wider community should be enhanced. Local institutional mechanisms should be involved in tree
planting to emphasize tree tenure, proper planting methods, protection and management approaches that
guarantee high seedling survival rates. Communities should be encouraged to engage more in local seed
collection for species easily accessible and adapted to the area with seed pooling to enhance genetic
diversity of the collected lots.
The current focus on some, mainly exotic, tree species is undermining the farm tree diversity; hence
collection of tree seeds by the public sector should be more diverse. Enhanced promotion of indigenous
tree species which can easily regenerate naturally such as acacia species is necessary. There is need for
better community mobilization to inform farmers on benefits of such species especially in climate change
adaptation and natural resources management. More research should also focus on methods of
propagation of certain species to this effect. This can also be supported by creating a good synergy
among stakeholders during nursery establishment and tree planting and follow-up with farmers after
The woreda offices of Agriculture are currently excellent in seed distribution but weak in follow-up.
Creation of a stronger linkage between NGOs, Government and individual farmers to work together in
nursery trainings, establishment and management is necessary as well.
Government support for individual/group nurseries through provision of seeds, polythene tubes and tools
such as shovels, hoes, rakes is noble. However, in as much as seeds and other materials are made available
to nurseries and farmers during various projects, efforts should be made to ensure the security or selfreliance of the farmers to sustain the seed access beyond a projects life span. Linking nurseries and seed
dealers to markets and input supply chains with credit facilities need to be tested. Increased budget
allocation to the woreda nurseries to enable them purchase seeds of good quality for different species
(especially fruit species) is necessary. This can help them raise more seedlings for distribution, obtain
modern nursery equipment and to hire people to guard the nurseries in the short term. However, seedlings
should be supplied to farmers at a considerable fee as opposed to free distribution. This will ensure
that farmers place value on the seedlings they have purchased unlike free seedlings. Medium-term to long
term plans by government and NGOs should be geared towards developing self-sustaining seedling
supply nurseries ran by private individuals dealing with species whose market has developed
with farmers.
Efforts should be made to encourage farmers to manage livestock husbandry by either decreasing the
number of livestock or controlled grazing systems for quality production to reduce land and

environmental degradation. More safety measures on the protected areas such as fencing and guards to
avoid cattle and camel invasion; Sensitization of farmers to manage the area closures by themselves and
protect the trees as well as applying indigenous conflict management and resolution mechanisms is
essential. Introduction of zero grazing system as opposed to free grazing and provision of improved
forages such as alfalfa, elephant grass may be necessary in the long-term. .

Carandang, W.M., E.L. Tolentino and J.M. Roshetko. (2006). Smallholder Tree Nursery Operations in
Southern Philippines Supporting Mechanisms for Timber Tree Domestication. International Tree Crops
Journal (in press).
Dawson I, Harwood C, Jamnadass R, Beniest J (eds.) (2012) Agroforestry tree domestication: a primer.
The World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya. 148 pp
Derero, A. (2012). Evaluation of tree seeds and seedling system in Ethiopia with focus in Wolaita and
Arsi. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Jamnadass RH, Dawson IK, Franzel S, Leakey RRB, Mithfer D, Akinnifesi FK, Tchoundjeu Z (2011)
Improving livelihoods and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa through the promotion of indigenous and
exotic fruit production in smallholders agroforestry systems: a review. International Forest Review, 13,
Nyoka B, Ajayi O, Akinnifesi F, Chanyenga T, Mngomba S, Sileshi G, Jamnadass R, Madhibha T
(2011) Certification of agroforestry tree germplasm in Southern Africa: opportunities and challenges.
Agrofor Syst 83(1):7587






Teklemariam Sime, Korcho

0910 655 170


Dugda Woreda

Tebede Teleka

0919 678 661



Solomon Getachu, Getachu Tasew,

No phone numbers



Ketcha Orgessa

0911 027 141

Alem Tena

Alem Tena woreda office

Lemi Dembel

0934 198 871

Alem Tena

Alem Tena woreda office

Ayano Bejiga

0920 065 315

Alem Tena

Alem Tena woreda office

Meseret Abu, Shura Dabi

No phone numbers

Alem Tena

Alem Tena woreda office

Zeke Abebe

0922 280 168



Tatek Ashenafi

0922 280 168




0911 398 63


0911 56 74 34



0911 365 025/ 0911

Woleta sodo/

Alem Tena

119 462



Tegenu Semeyat, Girma Welde

Ermias Melkassa


Woleta sodo

Eden field Agricultural seed

0910 61 49 25

Addis Ababa

Girma FRC

Awassa Podo seed enterprise

No number

Addis Ababa

Girma FRC

Bayou Tilahun- Green Memis Plc

0912 180 396

Addis Ababa

Bayou Tilahun





Ethiopian Catholic Church Social


Development Coordinating


0911 544 005

Office Of Meki (Ecc- Sdcom)

Sustainable Environment


management Association


(SEDA)- Zeway

0927 255 339


WASUPA (Water Supply and


Sanitation project)- Zeway


0912 053 788

Rift Valley Women and children


Development Organization-


0916 831 560

0924 489 004

International Development


Enterprise (IDE)- Zeway/ Meki


Mekaneyesus Church


0911 797 322

Organization- Nekemte