Experts say the partnership will serve as a platform whereby dryland communities mostly in East Africa and the Horn of Africa can make use of innovations and technological products to improve agricultural and livestock productivity.
The partnership between the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), which was launched on 28 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is called Sub Saharan Africa Platform on Integrated Crop- Livestock System.
“In this partnership we will do research based on people’s customised needs and provide them with technological products that can impact their lives.”
Fantahun Mengistu, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).
The research partnership is headquartered at ICARDA regional office in Ethiopia.
Said Nahy Silim, coordinator of ICARDA Sub-Saharan Africa region, says the new platform has four main objectives: improving the productivity and value chain of small ruminants, improving natural resource management, improving the productivity of cereal and leguminous crops, and ensuring socioeconomic benefits of innovations.
“In the area of small ruminants, researchers will focus on improving the local breeds of sheep and goats by employing a scientific breeding strategy,” Silim explains, adding that the platform will introduce forage species and better management to help improve animal feeds, and ensure market access.
He notes that interventions planned for the natural resource management wing of the partnership include introducing innovations that increase agriculture productivity such as water harvesting and efficient water use techniques, and starting small-scale irrigation.
In areas which are favourable to crop production, improved varieties of cereal crops, mainly wheat and barely, and legumes such as faba bean, chick pea and lentils will be introduced, Silim adds, noting that the platform will ensure food security for the dryland communities, and enable inhabitants to become exporters of these crops.
Fantahun Mengistu, director-general of EIAR, says that through the partnership, countries such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania will jointly identify research priorities, share research knowledge and methodologies, exchange experts and hold joint forums, among others.
The research projects to be conducted include scaling up indigenous knowledge, generating new technologies such as integrated crop farming and adopting existing ones, according to Mengistu.
The communities will be introduced to technologies through innovation platforms and training where they can participate in research and articulate their needs, Mengistu adds.
“Oftentimes science is criticised for not reaching the local people,” says Mengistu. “In this partnership we will do research based on people’s customised needs and provide them with technological products that can impact their lives. When we say 'linking', we mean science and research with human touch.”
Tefera Nadew, a senior researcher with the Ethiopia-based Centre for Development Research, says that the idea of linking research with local communities has often been neglected, and that this partnership is a major step towards addressing that problem.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.