As part of the US government’s Feed the Future initiative to address global hunger and food security issues in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three multi-stakeholder agricultural research projects to sustainably intensify key African farming systems. Based in three priority agro-ecological zones, the three projects are focused on sites in Ghana and Mali, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The regions were chosen based on analysis of cropping systems, poverty, population, country development priorities, and the potential for successfully improving agricultural productivity.
On 9 January 2012, a design workshop for the West Africa project starts in Tamale, Ghana. Led by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the ‘Sustainable Intensification of Cereal-based Farming Systems in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa’ project aims to improve livelihoods through sustainable increased productivity of maize-legume and crop/tree/livestock systems in the northern Guinea and Sudan savanna zones of Ghana and Mali.
The second design workshop, from 30 January – 2 February 2012 in Addis Ababa, is hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This project – ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands‘ – aims to “identify options for sustainable intensification of mixed crop livestock systems in the Ethiopian highlands that will enable communities to participate in emerging market opportunities in environmentally friendly ways whilst improving resilience to risks.”
The third design workshop is in Dar es Salaam from 6-9 February 2012 will kick off the ‘Sustainable intensification of maize-legume-livestock integrated farming systems in Eastern and Southern Africa’ project, also led by IITA.
The goal of this project is to “sustainably increase agricultural productivity growth, economic growth, food production, food and nutrition security and improve natural resource management in order to reduce poverty and hunger in the target areas in Tanzania and in the eastern and southern Africa region.” It will “increase the productivity of maize-legume-livestock production systems, system resilience and agro-ecosystem services including provisioning of food and feed; improved water and soil conservation, soil nutrient supply and cycling, soil health and soil structure; carbon sequestration and biodiversity; and adaptation to climate variability and change.”
ILRI is involved to various degrees in each of the projects, with a leadership role in the Ethiopian one. The projects each bring together a range of research for development expertise and partners, including US universities, international agricultural research centers, national agricultural research systems, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and local and international development donor communities.
In the project concept notes, sustainable agricultural intensification is defined as producing more output from the same area of land while reducing the negative environmental impacts, and at the same time increasing contributions to the natural capital and the flow of environmental services (Pretty et al. 2011).