Current and potential use of cactus in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia.
Cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) was introduced to northern Ethiopia by missionaries. Cactus culture in Tigray is expanding partly because of severe degradation of natural resources in the region. Invasion in some areas of southern Tigray was high to the extent that it have been considered a threat to farming. More than 60 cultivars of cactus have been identified so far. To offset the above-mentioned impression, cactus pear has also a higher role in the economic and cultural value. It is commonly used as famine food, livestock feeds, bee forage, cash crop and live fences. It can also be used for soil and water conservation. It has lots of potential uses, one of which is red cochineal dye production. The main possibilities for successful cochineal production in Tigray include healthy conditions of the plant, a favourable climatic and edaphic conditions, and the availability of cactus pear in most small farming systems.