Around 60 experts are meeting at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa on 30th and 31st January to plan an exciting new research project that aims to transform agricultural systems in the Highland of Ethiopia. As in many part of Africa, farming systems in the Ethiopian Highlands are a mix of crop and livestock enterprises. The key to improving the productivity of these mixed crop-livestock systems, to increase food production and improve the livelihoods of the 60 million people who depend on them is to produce more output from the same area of land or per animal while reducing the negative environmental impacts and at the same time increasing contributions to natural capital and the flow of environmental services, a process which has been called ‘sustainable intensification.’
ILRI staff led a consortium of research partners to produce a draft project design focused on the Ethiopian Highlands. Dr Shirley Tarawali from ILRI explained that an important part of the design is to bring together crop scientists, animal scientists, environmental scientists and socio-economists to work together to tackle the complex challenges associated with these mixed farming systems.
“Often we find that scientists from different disciplines are working on different components of farming systems without taking account of the interlinkages between the different components,” she explained.
“For example, crop scientists don’t often take account that crop residues such as straw are an important component of animal feed and livestock scientists don’t necessarily take account of the environmental impact of livestock. We aim to bring together a multi-disciplinary research team from international and Ethiopian organizations and link the project to development partners to undertake research that can help development organizations such as government agencies and non-governmental organizations design more effective programmes for development”.
The workshop provides an opportunity for a broad group of important stakeholders to learn about the project plans and to share their views on expectations from and opportunities for synergies with the project. It is attended by representatives from government, research organizations, donors and development organizations. Following the two day workshop the research consortium will refine the project design.
The project is part of the US government’s Feed the Future initiative (http://www.feedthefuture.gov/). Feed the Future is the United States Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. It supports country-driven approaches to address the root causes of hunger and poverty and forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and under-nutrition. Drawing upon resources and expertise of agencies across the U.S. Government, this Presidential Initiative is helping countries transform their own agriculture sectors to grow enough food sustainably to feed their people. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three multi-stakeholder agricultural research projects to sustainably intensify key African farming systems that overlap with and focus on the focus countries of Feed the Future. These are intended to catalyze concerted research and action by governments and donor agencies around pressing issues.
The overall aim is to transform agricultural systems through sustainable intensification projects in three regions of Africa:
- the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa
- the Ethiopian highlands
- East and Southern Africa
The consortium in Ethiopia is led by the The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI – www.ilri.org) and includes: The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR – www.eiar.gov.et), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT – www.cimmyt.org), International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA – www.icarda.cgiar.org), International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT – www.icrisat.org), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI – www.ifpri.org), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI – www.iwmi.cgiar.org).
Information on the project and workshop is online at http://agintensificationafrica.wordpress.com
The project workspace, with event plans, reports, presentations etc is at: http://agintensificationafrica.wikispaces.com