CRP12


The Ethiopian highlands are losing many valuable tree and shrub species because of anthropogenic and climatic factors. The coverage of high value indigenous tree and shrub species has declined. The tree species that used to provide quality products and ecosystem services have become limited. As a result, there is increasing use of non-forest/tree products such as dung and crop residues to fill fuel and other household requirements.

This brief, co-produced by the Nile Basin Development Challenge and the Africa RISING research program on sustainable intensification, examines important issues to consider for the advancement of tree planting in the Ethopian highlands: germplasm issues, data and information-related issues, capacity development, working on a holistic and integrated approach, institutional issues and policy-related issues. Yet, trees can be a potential connector/integrator of the crop and livestock components of the farming system in the highlands of Ethiopia.

The brief was developed from the third meeting of the National Platform for Land and Water Managementread the meeting report.

Read the NBDC / Africa RISING brief on tree growing in the highlands of Ethiopia

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Confronting project ideas with farmers’ realities is always an interesting game with sometimes unexpected outcomes. In one recent Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) activity, this reality check has unearthed a potentially promising future for intensification in the Ethiopian highlands via chicken and fruit tree farming.

As part of the NBDC, one of the program teams (in the so called ‘Nile 3’ project on targeting and scaling out water management systems), held field focus groups in four watersheds, namely in Gorosole (Ambo, Oromia), Laku (Shambu, Oromia) Maksenit (Gondar, Amhara) and Zefie (Debre Tabor, Amhara). The focus group discussions, focusing on a participatory mapping exercise, were held separately in each location for women and men.

The objectives of the discussions were to identify the ‘ideal’ landscape management from a community perspective and understand why that ideal landscape has not been implemented. We hoped that the rainwater management practices that the focus groups find most suitable in each watershed would allow us to validate the suitability maps developed by the project team.

Unsurprisingly, soil and water conservation related to small scale irrigation practices was found to be suitable. In some locations, farmers wished they had better access to pumps to intensify these practices.

More surprisingly however, two other major rainwater management practices across all the watersheds were seen as important: Fruit tree cultivation and chicken farming.

In all watersheds, fruit trees scored high in the mapping exercise. In the highlands (Laku, Gorosole and Zefie), farmers put apple trees high on their wishlist. In the warmer Maksenit area, (mostly) women talking of ‘home gardens’, i.e. small papaya orchards combined with pepper production. Fruit trees are a source of hope for most farmers that the project team encountered.

Remarkably, each watershed was at a different level of implementation but it did not affect the results. In Gorosole there are no trees because farmers cannot access seedlings, whereas in Zefie and Maksenit the first farmers are planting trees, however they are yet to yield any fruits. Laku watershed was the only location where farmers do have apple orchards and are facing challenges to bring apples to the market. Given the high price of apples in Ethiopian towns, apples seem a promising business – a pathway to make the value chain work for smallholders?

In two watersheds – Laku and Maksenit – farmers were dreaming of chicken farms (with about 20-30 chickens). In those areas, chicken prices are high. Diversifying their activities to include poultry would allow farmers to de-stock other livestock and decrease the pressure on natural resources. However, this promising track is not without its hazards: In Laku, farmers struggle with their limited knowledge about how to increase the chicken population and move towards chicken farming; in Maksenit the limiting factor is pest management.

Given that chickens often cost less in Ethiopian cities than they do in rural locations, farmers might want to promote and handle poultry farming carefully. The poultry road to intensification is perhaps not as promising as it first looks.

Read a detailed report from the focus group discussions (on the project wiki)

(By Catherine Pfeifer)

The national platform on land and water management held its third meeting on 23-24 July 2012 at the campus of the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa. About 70 participants attended this event and represented Governmental agencies and regional bureaus, research institutes and universities, non-governmental organizations and donor agencies.

After having been established with a specific vision and mandate in the first national platform meeting, the National Platform was further developed in the second national platform meeting, where participants teased out priority work areas for which four thematic working groups are developing an agenda.

This third event offered an opportunity to:

  • Inform a wider audience about the national platform: what it is about, what it aims to do and how it relates to other projects, in particular Africa RISING;
  • Introduce the four thematic working groups and their agenda for the coming months and gather feedback on their rationale and activities.

This meeting was a first for the platform as it was hosted with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) – more specifically, one of the Africa RISING ‘early win’ projects on ‘Sustainable tree-crop-livestock intensification as a pillar for the Ethiopian climate resilient green economy initiative‘. As a result, the main part of the event was dedicated to this particular project which ties in naturally with the agenda of the land and water management national platform.

The agroforestry part of the event culminated with a panel discussion which discussed some challenges faced in Ethiopia: Weak coordination and integration, climate change, and (insufficiently?) participatory approaches to policy-making. One of the panelists and some  platform members advocated a holistic approach that integrates crops, livestock and agroforestry.

Following these sessions, the four thematic working groups of the national platform introduced themselves, their agendas for the next 12 to 18 months and collected additional ideas of relevant initiatives, actors and documents that could inform their work on institutional innovation, technological innovation, ecosystem resilience and policy support.

The third national platform meeting ended by raising some challenging considerations for the platform itself: How wide or focused should it be? How to avoid duplication and competition with the Sustainable Land Management project funded by the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ), how (and perhaps whether) to sustain this platform beyond the Nile Basin Development Challenge…

Expanding a platform to invite other actors and initiatives can be crucial for its healthy development, although it begs the question of the added value and unique selling point of the platform.

Read the workshop report

See some pictures from the workshop

Read the notes from the sessions

Tilahun Amede, Nile Basin project leader is co-editor of a new book ‘Integrated Natural Resource Management in the Highlands of Eastern Africa: From Concept to Practice.’

It documents a decade of research, methodological innovation, and lessons learned in an eco-regional research-for-development program operating in the eastern African highlands, the African Highlands Initiative (AHI). It does this through reflections of the protagonists themselves—AHI site teams and partners applying action research to development innovation as a means to enhance the impact of their research.

This book summarizes the experiences of farmers, research and development workers, policy and decision-makers who have interacted within an innovation system with the common goal of implementing an integrated approach to natural resource management (NRM) in the humid highlands.

This book demonstrates the crucial importance of “approach” in shaping the outcomes of research and development, and distils lessons learned on what works, where and why. It is enriched with examples and case studies from five benchmark sites in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, whose variability provides the reader with an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of integrated NRM in agro-ecosystems that play an important role in the rural economy of the region. It is shown that the struggle to achieve sustainable agricultural development in challenging environments is a complex one, and can only be effectively achieved through combined efforts and commitment of individuals and institutions with complementary roles.

Chapter 1 gives an overview of INRM as a concept and the birth and evolution of AHI, including the methodological framework through which innovations were developed and tested and its results. Chapter 2 provides an overview of farm-level methodological innovations oriented towards participatory intensification and diversification of smallholder farming systems for optimal system productivity (economic, social, and ecological). Chapter 3 summarizes AHI
experiences with a set of approaches employed to operationalize participatory watershed management through an integrated lens which looks not only at soil and water but at a wider set of system components and interations.

Chapter 4 explores lessons learned to date on methods and approaches for participatory landscape governance, exploring how processes that cut across farm boundaries, involve trade-offs between different land users or require collective action may be addressed effectively and equitably. Chapter 5 explores the role of district level institutions and cross-scale linkages in supporting grassroots development and conservation initiatives, including improved coordination and better support to local livelihood priorities and bottom-up governance reforms. Chapter 6 explores methods and approaches for scaling up and institutionalizing integrated natural resource management innovations (e.g., those presented in earlier chapters), as well as approaches for self-led institutional change that can institutionalize the process of methodological innovation and impact-oriented research.

Published by IDRC, ICRAF and Earthscan, the full report can be downloaded from the IDRC institutional repository