With its diverse natural resources and many agro ecological zones, Ethiopia is the homeland and domestication of several crop plants. Among those, large amounts of pulses have been farmed, consumed and exported for many years.
Types of pulses which Ethiopia produces & export to the globe are white Pea Beans, Small red kidney beans, Chickpea (Desi & Kabuli), Faba Beans (Horse beans), Soya Beans, Green Mung Beans, Dark Red Kidney Beans (DRKB), Pinto Beans, Light & Red Speckled beans, Bitter Lupin & many others.
Though the origins of chickpeas are debated, Ethiopians like to say that the pulse originated in the Ethiopian highlands, in a town called Desi that bears the same name as the most common variety of the plant. Whether or not this is true, chickpeas have been cultivated for trade and domestic consumption for centuries in Ethiopia and hold an important place in its culinary traditions.
In Ethiopian culture, chickpeas form the basis of one of the most ubiquitous and widely eaten stews, known as shiro. They are a critical ingredient in the country’s traditional and nutrient- rich snack, kolo, which consists of roasted barley and dried chickpeas. During harvest season, they are eaten fresh, straight off the stalk, and have become a symbol in the country of fertility and prosperity.
Chickpea production and export Chickpeas are one of Ethiopia’s most important legume crops, accounting for 17% of total pulse production in the country (second only after fava beans) which amounts to more than 470,000 metric tons, annually.
Ethiopia is the fifth largest chickpea producer in the world and one of its largest exporters. Every year, 120 thousand metric tons of marketable surplus chickpeas are produced. Of this, more than 40% makes its way to international market. The majority of these chickpeas are grown by smallholder farmers who still rely on rain-fed and non-mechanized farming practices. As the country modernizes its agriculture sector, however, production potential is increasing rapidly with more crops available for export each season. Given Ethiopia’s favorable climate conditions, chickpeas in Ethiopia have two growing seasons, further increasing their production potential.
The Desi variety, known for its small bean size and dark color, is grown across Ethiopia’s northern and central highlands and accounts for 90% of total chickpea production in the country
Kabuli chickpeas, which are lighter in color and larger in size than their Desi cousins, are grown in Ethiopia’s central midlands, adjacent to the Rift Valley, and make up for 10% of overall production.
Haricot Beans were likely first introduced to Ethiopia by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Since then, they have become an important source of domestic food production as well as an important export commodity. The major Haricot Bean producing areas of Ethiopia are the central, eastern, and southern parts of the country. Ethiopia’s terrain and climate is ideal for Haricot Bean production because of the diversity of its agro-ecology zones, all of which are generally moderate in their temperatures year round, leading to the wide cultivation of three different varieties of the bean.
The three varieties, identified by the color of the mature bean, are each grown in different regions. The speckled and red varieties are both commonly consumed in Ethiopian cuisine. The red variety – the highest demand for which comes from across East Africa – grows primarily along the Rift Valley in southern Ethiopia.
The speckled variety, known for its colorful beans, grows in northern and central Ethiopia. White varieties are widely cultivated in the same areas as the speckled and red varieties, but because they are not consumed locally, more than 90% of the white Haricot Bean harvest makes its way to export.