19 Dec 2014
No. 1654


Reinforcing partnerships for integrated watershed management in Ethiopia

Drs Siambi and Amede with farmers and partners at the Yewol watershed. Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

One of the major problems for farmers in Ethiopia’s Woreillu District, some 500 km north of Addis Ababa, is soil erosion and associated land degradation. “Plants here suffer from both nutrient stress and water stress. The top soil in this watershed is gone and production and productivity have declined. Our big question was how can we make sure that seeds and fertilizer stay where they are placed,” says Dr Tilahun Amede, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT-Ethiopia. 

The answer lay in collective action for building water harvesting structures and terraces on farms – a huge community effort that required a strong partnership approach. Dr Amede brought together local government, community leaders and farmers, as well as scientists from nearby Wollo University and Sirinka Agricultural Research Centre to work together for landscape change and sustainable intensification.

The group identified key landscape challenges and discussed solutions that could be tailored to suit individual farmers’ needs and also solve the community’s problems as a whole. They also facilitated processes to introduce new bylaws in the community that would guide the work being done to mobilize communities, build the water harvesting structures and establish rules for livestock movement and a number of other issues. (For more on what was done view our slideshow on http://www.slideshare. net/icrisatsmco/yewol-slideshow).

Four years later, farmers in the Yewol Watershed are pleased with the results. “Four years ago this area was a disaster,” says Ali Ahmed, a farmer living in the watershed. “When we built the terraces they were as tall as us. Now the terraces are half our height, so they have filled with soil that would have been washed away.” Now that the problem of resource movement has been solved, the farmers are working with Wollo University and Sirinka on testing a variety of interventions such as testing improved crop varieties, growing fodder crops, fruit trees, improved sheep breeds and other farm interventions.

ICRISAT has been working with the farmers to test chickpea in rotation with barley that is usually grown in the area. “We used to believe nothing except barley would grow here,” says Getachew Mohammed, another farmer. “But now we are able to even grow trees. Our soil quality is improving.” Farmers have also been testing various fertilizer blends, with or without micronutrients, to minimize yield gaps.

Continuing to support this work and scaling out this watershed management approach to other districts will require the continued efforts of Wollo University, Sirinka Agricultural Research Centre and ICRISAT’s recently established office in Ethiopia. To encourage this partnership, Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, ICRISAT and Dr Amede visited the Yewol Watershed and held meetings with various partners.

Drs Siambi and Amede discuss the progress made in Woreillu District with the District Administrator, Mr Derib Assen. Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

Drs Siambi and Amede met with Mr Derib Assen, the District Administrator, who supported the work with resources and staff who helped mobilize and organize the local community members.

“Almost every initiative taken up here has been beneficial. Our agenda is to improve livelihoods for the farmers in our district. And we have started to bring about a change. The public awareness around this work has created the demand for solutions and that is very important,” Mr Assen said in a meeting with ICRISAT.

The ICRISAT team met the President of Wollo University, Dr Abate Getahun and his team.

“You are the people on the ground, and the faces that the farmers will remember. It is very important to us that we find common ground and work together,” Dr Siambi said.

The ICRISAT team briefed the University President on the recent trip to the Yewol Watershed and they also discussed various sources of funding that could be tapped to continue the work and also to scale it out to other areas.

“We are an infant university, just seven years old. We have ten colleges including the college of agriculture and we have 47 departments. We have a lot of young scientists who can benefit from partnerships with you and we are happy to work together to bring change to the farmers,” Dr Getahun said. The ICRISAT team discussed the various areas of collaboration such as the work done in the Yewol watershed as well as capacity building training offered by ICRISAT.

Capacity enhancement was also discussed in ICRISAT’s meeting with Sirinka Agricultural Research Station. With five directorates: agricultural economics, soil and water, livestock, gender and extension and more than 70 scientists, the Sirinka station will continue to be a major partner in the watershed work. The scientists at the meeting were keen to hear of the capacity enhancement courses run by ICRISAT in the region including the use of tablets for data collection as well as those on modern breeding and genomics tools. Further work with Sirinka will most likely focus on improving agronomic practices in this sorghum-growing area with the introduction of legumes such as pigeonpea and chickpea to improve soil fertility, developing alternative markets and products for sorghum and also to collaborate on the nearby Diko Watershed, which faces similar problems to those seen at Yewol four years ago.

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

Wollo University President, Dr Abate Getahun, (center) and faculty members discuss the research needs of Yewol watershed with ICRISAT and plan for 2015. Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT
Scientists from Sirinka Agricultural Research Centre discuss future collaboration with ICRISAT, including training and capacity enhancement.
Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

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Opportunities abound for market-led impacts in Nigeria

Seated (L to R): Dr Ignatius Angarawai, Dr Anthony Whitbread, Mr Mohammed Dankade Ibrahim and Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe with other partners. Photo: ICRISAT

The presence of good infrastructure, motivated national research and extension staff and farmers with strong market orientation are prime factors for opening up opportunities in Nigeria, concluded Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director, Resilient Dryland Systems, ICRISAT, after a recent visit to Nigeria.

During the week-long visit Dr Whitbread interacted with Eng Suleiman Sani, Managing Director, Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA), Mr Mohammed Dankade Ibrahim, Permanent Secretary, Kano State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Mr Sani Ibrahim Amin, Registrar Bayero University, Kano, who represented the Vice Chancellor.

Indicating that there are great opportunities for impact, the KNARDA Project Manager remarked that the Kano extension system is well organized for technology uptake and delivery based on a systematic arrangement wherein the state extension system is divided  into zones, zones into areas, areas into blocks and blocks into cells, thus moving research output from research institutes to the grassroots directly.

The Permanent Secretary assured the ICRISAT team that all research and development partners are welcome and presently Kano is home to international organizations like ICRISAT, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, SG2000, and USAID-Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites. He assured that the collaboration is a welcome development and all possible steps will be taken to ensure security for peaceful operations.

Dr Whitbread informed the partners that ICRISAT has plans for increased investment in human and infrastructure development for ICRISAT offices in sub-Saharan Africa. He said ICRISAT would continue its efforts to generate and disseminate appropriate and affordable technology towards improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers, reduce poverty and create
jobs for youth.

The objective of this visit was to identify opportunities for impacts from research and explore partnerships for developing effective technologies and dissemination.

Dr Whitbread was briefed by ICRISAT country representative Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe and met with staff including the sorghum breeder Dr Ignatius Angarawai.

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Trainings @ ICRISAT

Plant genomics

Participants at the training course. Photo: ICRISAT

The 11th Centre of Excellence in Genomics training course on “Next Generation Sequencing Technologies for Crop Improvement” was held from 24 November to 5 December at ICRISAT-India. Thirty two scientists from 13 countries participated in the training.

Apart from lectures, the participants received hands-on training on genetic mapping, Quantitative Trait Locus mapping, Genome-Wide Association Studies, Genome Selection, R- software and decision support tools.

Watershed management

(L to R) Drs Anthony Whitbread, CLL Gowda, SP Wani
and KH Anantha at the inaugural session.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Convergence, consortium, collective action and capacity building - the 4Cs - are important for sustainable intensification of rainfed agriculture, said Dr Suhas P Wani, Director ICRISAT Development Center (IDC), speaking at a short course on Integrated Watershed Management for Sustainable Intensification of Rainfed Agriculture.

The training program covered, among others, topics on concept and approaches of integrated watershed management and sustainable intensification, research for development, the 4 Cs, best practices of convergence in the areas of natural resource management, and integrated pest management.

The resource persons included experts from University of Florida, USA; Department of Rural Development, Watershed Commissionerate, Andhra Pradesh; National Remote Sensing Center, and ICRISAT. The training course held from 1-5 December at ICRISATIndia, was attended by 13 participants from different states of India.

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