On 27 and 28 February, the N2Africa project was officially launched in Ethiopia. More than 70 people attended the workshop, representing project partners, the private sector, universities, government and researchers.
On the first day, Ken Giller (Wageningen UR) and Bernard Vanlauwe (IITA) gave introductory presentations which inspired participants on the potential of nitrogen fixation and this project to enhance productivity.
N2Africa is committed to making the very best technologies from all around the world available to smallholder farmers in Africa. Through use of improved agronomic practices such as new varieties of grain legumes together with rhizobium inoculation and a small amount of manure or phosphorus fertiliser we can easily double yields, and we will be working hard to ensure that farmers have access to stable, profitable markets to sell their produce – Ken Giller
Vanlauwe explained how the first phase was really a proof of concept while the coming five years will focus on taking the results to scale. He stated that N2Africa’s vision of success is to ‘build sustainable, long-term partnerships to enable African smallholder farmers to benefit from symbiotic N2-fixation by grain legumes through effective production technologies including inoculants and fertilizers.’ The project aims to also leave a ‘legacy’ of strong national expertise in grain legume production and N2-fixation research and development that can deliver legume production technologies into the future.
Essential elements of the project approach include partnerships for research (technology development and testing); partnerships for development (public-private partnerships, last mile delivery and dissemination, value chain development); women’s empowerment (labour-saving technologies, enriched food baskets, business opportunities); and partnership platforms (engagement, validation).
Director General of the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research, Dr Fentahun Mengistu, officially opened the meeting emphasizing his support for this partnership of research and development organizations.
Endalkachew Wolde-Meskel, country coordinator joined with partners to give an overview of the achievements of the recently completed bridging phase project which included impressive photos of demonstration plots from around the country. The bridging phase has successfully established partnerships with a range of Ethiopian research institutions.
The strategy for implementing the N2Africa project in Ethiopia is to work in partnership with federal and regional agricultural research institutes and universities in four regions, Benishangul Gumuz (EIAR), Amhara (ARARI and Bahir Dar University), Oromia (OARI and EIAR) and Southern Regions (Hawassa University and SARI). During the bridging year, N2Africa has established solid and dynamic partnership with these institutions, thus providing a springboard for the smooth deployment of Phase II. Results from the bridging year showed the potential that exists to enhance the productivity of target legumes through rhizobium inoculation, improved varieties and better agronomic management – Endalkachew Wolde-Meskel
In the afternoon and on Day 2, participants worked in groups to define visions of success for the project in Ethiopia, and to sketch out action plans around key project outcomes: productivity, value chains and markets, nutrition, women’s empowerment, crop-livestock.
The project in Ethiopia differs from other countries in its additional focus on livestock:
Legumes are a core component of the Ethiopian diet, but legume residues are also hugely important in sustaining Ethiopia’s large livestock population. Through N2Africa’s work around improving legume productivity not only will farmers directly benefit through better yields – improved livestock productivity could generate additional income and lead to further crop productivity benefits through better traction and more manure for improved soil fertility – Alan Duncan, ILRI
The discussions were active and dynamic fueled by breaks for traditional Ethiopian coffee and a range of pulses with injera at mealtimes.
By the end of the meeting, there was a strong spirit of collaboration among participants and some excellent networks were established which bode well for the establishment of N2Africa Phase II in Ethiopia.