Last week, some 50 people involved in the the LIVES project (Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders) met to plan project interventions in commodity value chain development.
Involving LIVES project staff as well as partners from regional bureaus of agriculture and water, regional research institutes, officials from the ministries of agriculture and of water and energy, participants debated the project approaches (action research, knowledge management, capacity development) as well as cross cutting issues like gender, the environment and mechanisms to ensure integration. Regional working groups dived deeper into their specific needs and priorities, examining potential project interventions, commodity by commodity.
ILRI’s Dirk Hoekstra welcomed participants from across the four project regions. He pointed to the country’s strong emphasis on “impact-oriented agricultural research” and emphasized that LIVES will achieve this by combining national and international expertise to benefit rural communities. “At the end we want to have impact on the lives of the rural people.”
Mentioning that LIVES is one of several value chain oriented projects in the country, he talked of partnership and complementarity – “it is important that we link up with them from the beginning to maximize opportunities for scale and wider impact.” The launch event the same week was an important opportunity to connect with these many other potential partners.
He introduced the workshop’s objectives as “creating partnerships, so we get to know each other”, creating understanding of the objectives and activities of the project, and “fertilizing each other with knowledge, to have greater impact.”
Introducing LIVES, project manager Azage Tegegne explained its focus on high-value market-oriented irrigated agriculture and livestock. LIVES aims to contribute to enhanced income and gender equitable wealth creation for smallholders and other value chain actors through increased and sustained market off-take of high value livestock and irrigated crop commodities.
He outlined some key strengths of LIVES: “It is a unique model for partnerships between CGIAR centers, national ministries, national research institutes and development institutions”; it aims to integrate work on high-value irrigated crops and livestock production for system intensification; it will test and develop irrigated fodder production to address the critical feed challenges in Ethiopian livestock production; it will improve water use efficiency and develop a model for enhanced nutrient management through the use of manure for horticultural crops; and it will be a platform to test enhanced water governance through water users associations.
Thereafter, the workshop particiapnts focused first on livestock value chain interventions then on irrigation value chain interventions. Participants worked through potential interventions for each commodity. They characterized the actors in each value chain, the main constraints and intervention opportunities and, most important, their ‘vision’ for each value chain – essentially initial outcome statements with indicative pathways. The results of this work will be further discussed in the coming months through a series of 10 zonal workshops.
A key session towards the end asked participants to consider ‘integration’ challenges, opportunities and action points for the project. The discussions generally surfaced actions needed to integrate work on crops and livestock; to integrate research with field activities; to integrate gender and environmental concerns; to integrate different components and teams in the project; to address institutional cultures that work against integration. More specifically:
Some of the integration challenges LIVES needs to address are:
- Different institutional and organizational cultures
- Rapid expansion and growth at the expense of natural and environmental assets
- Ensuring full gender representation
- Fierce competition for water, land and environment by both irrigated agriculture and livestock
- The value chain approach is new to many and poses risk management challenges.
Some of the perceived opportunities for LIVES are:
- Complementary of livestock and irrigated crops: What is left from the livestock goes to irrigated fruits and vegetables, and vice versa
- National policies promote the integration of livestock and irrigation agriculture
- The existing participatory integration of watershed management approach provides methods for the project to build on
- There are many people on the ground to take the ideas and practices to communities
- Project intervention sites already use mixed crop-livestock farming systems, thus integration is already familiar to them.
Some of the LIVES action points are:
- Keep a strong focus in the design of interventions to maximize household incomes
- Create awareness and knowledge to integrate and understand environment and gender issues
- Strengthen womens’ associations and ensure fair representation of women and youth groups in the project and its interventions
- Ensure continuous dialogue among project partners and actors
- Focus on capacity development of women at all levels
- Carry out cost benefit analysis for the interventions proposed
- Identify and communicate clear sets of activities that are to be implemented by all actors.
Report by Peter Ballantyne
The Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project contributes to enhanced income and gender equitable wealth creation for smallholders and other value chain actors in Ethiopia through increased and sustained market off-take of high value livestock and irrigated crop commodities.
LIVES is jointly implemented by by ILRI (the International Livestock Research Institute), IWMI (the International Water Management Institute), the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and regional Bureaus of Agriculture, Livestock Development Agencies, Agricultural Research Institutes and other development projects.