Chinese experts bring the miracle of thrifty irrigation to Ethiopian farmers
Also called snow melon, the cantaloupe-like fruit that’s white, green or yellow outside and crispy and sweet inside, is most popularly known as Hami melon in China. The name comes from Hami, a city in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China where it grows plentifully.
Yushanjiang Maimaiti, who comes from Xinjiang himself, can’t help but beam in pride at the sight of clusters of Hami melons growing lusciously in the little plot he has cultivated for five months. The twist in the tale: the plot of land is not in Xinjiang but in Alage, south of Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa. There’s a bit of history involved in this too as this is the first time the Hami melon is being grown on Ethiopian soil.
When 36-year-old Maimaiti, a Chinese agricultural expert from the Xinjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, came to teach at the Alage Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training (ATVET) College in Ethiopia last November as part of a China-ethiopia cooperation in ATVET, he found the climate similar to that of his hometown in Xinjiang - with plenty of sunshine but a shortage of water.
Maimaiti thought it was perfect for growing the Hami melon, which would increase Ethiopian farmers’ profits. “We harvest the melon once a year in my hometown. But as there is plenty of strong sunshine here, it can be harvested several times a year,” he told “If Ethiopian farmers learn the technology and solve the water shortage problem, there is the potential to export the Hami melon and watermelon to countries like Saudi Arabia.” However, he was persistent and after searching for two weeks, bought them from a local flower shop.
This April, Maimaiti trained over 40 agricultural technicians from the northwestern Ethiopian state of Benishangul-gumuz to use drip irrigation and plastic mulch to grow the Hami melon and pepper.
Temertu Sahlu, Vice Chancellor of the Alage ATVET College, said drip irrigation has great potential for Ethiopia, especially in the dry season. “We will start building ponds for water conservation soon. After that, we would install the drip irrigation system,” he said.
The college plans to use drip irrigation to grow the Hami melon, watermelon and pepper in a field with an area of 3 to 4 hectares and then extend it. “We need technical and material support from Chinese experts like Maimaiti,” Sahlu said.