Agriculture / Climate Change / Crop-Livestock / East Africa / Environment / Ethiopia / Event report / ILRI / Livestock / Livestock-Water / Sheep / Small Ruminants

Crop-livestock farmers in Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Basin supported in climate adaptation

Participants of field day in the Kabe Watershed

Participants in the field day (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

Last week a project to ‘enhance communities’ adaptive capacity to climate-change-induced water scarcity in drought-prone hotspots of the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia’ held a farmers’ field day at Kabe Watershed.

More than 90 farmers, researchers, extension experts, staff of non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders met to share lessons on what farmers have practiced and benefited from the project interventions. Kabe Watershed lies in the Amhara Region of the central highland plateau of Ethiopia, north of Addis Ababa, in a beautiful landscape reaching 3,996 metres at Mount Yewel.

The area is prone to drought because of erratic rainfall. The farmlands in the watershed and surrounding areas are less productive and do not provide what is expected from them, the rain is not as consistent as it used to be, and crops are not yielding enough to sustain the lives of the communities.

With funds from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with Wollo University, Sirinka Agricultural Research Center, Woreilu Wereda Agricultural Office and the local administrations are working to bring a positive change on the life of the communities.

Farmers at Kabe Watershed are keen to adopt new technologies and find ways to fight poverty. Introduced climate change adaptation technologies have made significant impacts on the communities’ day to day lives.The project has introduced a number of climate change adaptation interventions, including:

Happy woman farmer fetchs water from a tap waterWater:  Shallow wells, improved springs and water harvesting dams are major water related interventions. Shallow wells and water harvesting dams are used as sources of water when the rainy season is over. Through the installation of a rope and washer pumps on the top of shallow wells, and covering the dams with plastic sheets, farmers at a household level use the water from these two sources to irrigate high value vegetables, fruit trees and root crops. Improved springs are also playing a significant role on the health condition of the communities. Farmers, livestock and dogs used to drink water from the same sources before the project interventions.

Crops: An evaluation of improved crops (barley, wheat, faba bean and field peas) is helping to identify suitable varieties for the communities. Most of the improved crop varieties are released from Sirinka Research Center. Farmers were actively engaged in evaluating and selecting varieties that can meet their demands and be scaled up in similar localities.

Awasi sheep breedLivestock:  The Awasi sheep breed (Israel originated) was introduced to farmers. Researchers and other partners have also worked with the communities on the management of grazing lands, forage development in backyards and soil and water conservation structures in the farmlands. Grazing lands are owned by individuals but collectively managed by groups of farmers. Communities have already formulated bylaws to control free livestock grazing on farmlands and grazing lands. These are also recognized and supported by the local administrations.

Soil and water conservation and tree plantation: The project has conducted awareness creation, community consensus meetings on collective action, and facilitated the formation of a watershed committee. The Woreda team together with other partners facilitated the implementation of different physical and biological soil and water conservation practices as well as tree and forage seedling planting on hillsides and farmlands and around the homesteads. The Sirinka researchers have already selected niche compatible potential tree species and screening them using different water harvesting techniques.

Home gardens: Home gardening at Kabe Watershed is important as it involves women and family members, is a source of income, improves nutrition, maintains soil fertility and directly and indirectly plays a role in climate adaptation. Highland fruits, potato varieties, garlic, carrot, spinach, shallot, and cabbage were part of the home garden intervention activities.

The ILRI communications team helped document the field day events and stories.

Photos can be seen here

Kindu Mekonnen contributed to this story

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