Message from Center Director

Dear readers, I would like to say Welcome to Wondo Genet Agricultural Research Center Web page. Our Research center is one of the 17 Agricultural Research centers under the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). It is located at 276 km south east of Addis Ababa and around 14 kms from Shashemene town.  The center is nationally mandated for conducting and coordinating research activities on various agronomic aspects of Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs). We also conduct research on post-harvest processing and product development approaches suitable for industrial use. Research based market intervention and extension activities are underway to design effective strategies for technology transfer. In addition, our center is acting as an active collaborator in implementing research trials and outputs developed by other research centers in Ethiopia. Some of these are maize research and extension in southern region, south east coffee research, natural resource research (irrigation, soil fertility etc),some horticultural crops other than MAPs, fishery, forage, sericulture, apiculture and other livestock commodities. 

There are 23 Aromaticand 18Medicinal Crops Prioritized for research and extension in our center. Our center is involved in different spheres of research on aromatic and medicinal crops’ production, processing and utilization technologies. Hence, different research processes take part in the development of research and promotion activities. There are 4 research processes involved in conducting and organizing research activities in various dimensions of our commodities. These are:  Crop, Livestock, Natural resource management and Agricultural Economics, Technology Transfer and Commercialization.

Since its inception, as a research center under the EIAR, 17Aromatic,7 medicinaland2 bio-fuel crops have so far been released. Hence, full varietal information is available on these commodities. In addition, the center has issued 2 books, 11production manuals(for 22 varieties)and 13 informative brochures and fliers for the intended users/beneficiaries. Our potential users are: small scale herb growers (Farmers and the unemployed university graduates), large scale commercial growers (Potential Investors) and Processors. . 

Currently, some farmers and 3 agro-processing companies namely Green Mark Herbs PLC and Green Way PLC are involved in and benefiting from the aromatic and medicinal crops sub sector. Most of these companies are owned by foreigners working in Ethiopiato promote these commodities, therebycreate job for jobless youths and generate hard currency for our country. Some local industries are also engaged in the production and processing areas of the sector.The participation of these industries is very limited as they are constrained by deficient technological backups in mechanical, pharmaceutical, chemical or other areas of applied food and pharmaceutical sciences. 

Having access to wide range of market opportunities was the major impediment faced by actors involved along the value chainof the sector. Our previous experience indicates that unknowing of linking small scale farmers to market outlets was a big challenge. This is because, majority of the prioritized MAPs were targeted based on international market demand involving those which are exotic for Ethiopia. Hence, searching local consumers for these crops ended up with very limited market span and unsustainable business deals. Secrecy among those financially benefiting from the sector was inherently affecting knowledge sharing and awareness among clients using products from MAPs. Hence, this behavior has retarded dissemination of our technologies in a wider scale. Our center has therefore been doubly responsible for breaking this sphere of silence.    

Another challenge faced by our center in meeting the national demand for industry level import substitution is the inherent expensiveness of essential oils produced abroad or elsewhere as compared to synthetic flavours and fragrances imported from abroad. This is due to inefficient processing techniques, in adequate or absence of knowledge on processing technologies and lack/absence of efficient processing facilities.  

To address the challenges faced by small scale farmers access markets outlets for exotic types of aromatic and medicinal crops, linking them to emerging processors and exporters who rarely show themselves up in the system has so far been tried.  Yet, this strategy couldn’t sustain for long due to limited volumes of produce taken up from these farmers, non-frequent marketing styles and unsustainable deals between these two actors. 

With a revision of previous attempts made by the center, a strategic shift has been made in the target crop commodities of research from more of exotic to indigenous types. Those, most commonly used but given less emphasis due to fragmented market they share started to come up.  Meanwhile, more commonly used but not so much known crops such as rosemary, thyme, rue and basil, started to be retargeted. However, this doesn’t rule out targeting globally important and exotic species of aromatic and medicinal crops. Furthermore, the revision of bio fuel crops research in Ethiopia didn’t face any problem of novelty in terms of awareness, but innovations in the processing and utilization of products originating from these crops needs an intensive and practical approach for awareness creation.      

Based on the revised approach for targeting selected aromatic, medicinal and bio fuel crops, a new strategic document is prepared with the collaboration of researchers from the center. In the document, key challenges of the sub sector with the emerging opportunities to address issues like: import substitution, export promotion, utilization of local knowledge, enhancing collaboration among actors, Job creation, innovation, natural resource management and overall environmental stewardship is highly emphasized.

Finally, our research center has been actively engaged in research and development activities related to Aromatic, Medicinal and Bio fuel crops since its establishment as one of the research centers under EIAR. Therefore, we will keep and enhance the track to meet the county’s ever growing demandby focusing on the development of technologies for import substitution and export promotion for the emerging industrial sector of the MAPs. Hence,it is the voice of every stakeholder within the Aromatic, medicinal and bio fuel subsector to let this precious area of research and development flourish in Ethiopia paving the way for the country’s prosperity.