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Ethiopia peas are important crops from a socio-economic angle. Not only do they offer basic nutrition in semi-arid regions but provide cash income for farmers.

Produce at a Glance

Ethiopia peas are some of the essential food security crops but with a still high export quantity. The export value for chickpeas in 2017 was $68312. This constituted the highest value of dry legumes other than those of kidney beans and faba beans. The most diverse family of peas is the field pea, which goes under the acronym hunger-break food in Amhara. The origin of the pea, especially cowpea is thought to be south-east Asia around 2300 B.C. There is also evidence that East or West African countries, including Ethiopia, may have been alternative origins. One strain of the field pea, known as P. sativum var Abyssinicum is native to the state. Locals make bread and other cuisines from the seed that they refer to as Shiro wet.

The Forms of Export

Ethiopia peas go into export as dried and shelled produce. The pods are usually dry by the time of their harvest. Shelling, which is the removal of the seeds from the pods takes place immediately after picking.

The Three Primary Varieties

Chickpeas, cowpeas and field peas constitute the three main varieties of Ethiopia peas. The following is a sample look at each of the types:

Chickpeas: Botanically known as Cicer arietinum L., chickpeas are the staple legume next to beans in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, & Peoples’ Republics (SNNPR). They come mainly from small-scale farmers. Because the crop is by far more labor-demanding than other legumes and cereals, it brings a premium to farmers who grow it for commercial reasons. The major growing areas include the two Shewa zones and North Gondar.

So important is the crop in Ethiopia that the government has introduced new sub-cultivars that include: DZ-1-4:  since 1974, this variety has been productive at 10 to 14 kilograms per hectare. Minjar, on the other hand, a 2010 sub-cultivar, yields as high as 40 kilograms per field. There are also Akuri, and Mastewal, to name but a few of the most productive.

Field Peas: field peas or Pisum sativum L. is a broad term for many kinds of peas that grow across the country. There were about 142 distinct sub-varieties of the field pea in Ethiopia in the 21st century while in the world the range clocks around 1500 types. Irrespective of their diversity, they remain some of the most common legumes in home gardens, mainly for local consumption. Their primary area of cultivation is Western Amhara.

Cowpeas: among the hardiest of legumes, the cowpea is perhaps the best known across Ethiopia. It grows mainly in the dry parts of the north, west, and east of the country. Botanically known as Vigna unguiculata, the crop provides food alternatives for smallholder farmers. It makes a popular meal by the name of unguiculata wat. The most distinctive features of the pea are its dark dicotyledonous area that is stark against the overall creamy tan of the main seed.

Growing Conditions

Ethiopia peas, especially chickpeas, thrive in medium-to-high altitude areas between 1800 and 2300 meters above sea level. They prefer well-drained, fertile soils and precipitation of between 700 and 1300 millimeters of annual rainfall.

Two Main Seasons

Ethiopia peas grow in two parts of the year:

Spring crop: this crop runs from the start of the short rains in February through May.

Summer crop: the second planting season starts during the long rains of July to October.

Harvesting, Drying, Grading, and Packing

The harvesting takes place after the crop has reached maturity in 100 days from the planting date. By now the leaves, if not already picked for use in local dishes, are usually dry and wilted. The workers uproot the entire plant or slash the pod-bearing stalks for threshing. A rolling pin passes over the stems set between two opposite tarpaulins to separate seeds from the pods. Winnowing to purify the seeds off any debris or sand follows suit.

Drying Ethiopia peas entails the removal of water to less than 12 percent using mild electric heat or minimal sun exposure. Grading involves the sorting of the highest quality seeds: grade 1 is made of fresh, undried peas. Grade 2 consists of dried seeds. Grade 3 has the left-overs which make local flour.

The packing of Ethiopia peas takes place soon after grading is over. The main packages are jute bags of 50 kilograms. Export produce goes into fresh and dried separate categories. The shipments feature labels of the country of origin, the packing date and the net weight.

Storage Advice

Ethiopia peas require low storage temperatures of 0 degrees Celsius. They equally need a fair relative humidity of 60 percent.


In short, whichever variety they come in, Ethiopia peas are some of the essential food and export crops. Virtually every region from Amhara (central and northern region) to SNNPR to the south and Oromia to the east grows one or all of the varieties. The government has also stepped in to help farmers grow the crop under Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) terms.  This means that quality is paramount in each production timeline.

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