Chi­nese ex­perts bring the mir­a­cle of thrifty ir­ri­ga­tion to Ethiopian farm­ers

ChinAfrica - - China Report - By Liu Jian

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.

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