SIMLESA farmers in Ethiopia are starting to reap the benefits of new technologies!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

This was the impression created by the five farmers who attended the farmer-researcher Q&A organised by the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research EIAR when all the SIMLESA project-countries congregated at the Ethiopian Melkassa Agricultural Research Centre close to the town of Adama also known as Nazareth.

No detail was spared to showcase the hospitality and general development of this mighty country. Buses carried participants on the new express highway 100kms out of Addis Ababa. The Sustainable Intensification of Maize Legumes in East and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) team were the first to use the major highway through special permission organised by project leader, Mulugetta Mekuria and when the team arrived at the research station – they were not disappointed!

The research station, knowing that the team were coming at an off-season time, went ahead and used irrigation to plant specific breeds of maize and legumes to demonstrate their research results on agronomy.

There were some impressive maize seed multiplication varieties growing on demonstration plots to confirm the previous day presentations by the Ethiopian research team led by Mekonnen Sime.

Seed Multiplication maize varieties at the EIAR Melkassa Research Centre in Ethiopia (Credit: L Ogutu/ACIAR)

Later, the participants were invited to interact with some of the Ethiopian team members and it was impressive to note younger scientists in leadership positions from the different regions of Ethiopia participating in the project.

“We have learnt the importance of residue management as it saves labour on the farm. However there needs to be agreement between technologies promoted by SIMLESA and what the government extension is promoting…” Mr Kabelo, SIMLESA project farmer and an early adopter in Ethiopia.

The farmers were articulate, focused and smart. They had seen what worked and appreciated what was required to adopt technologies and innovations.

…Two days later when a sister project – Adoption Pathways, launched its annual review  and planning meeting in Addis Ababa, it was clear that good progress had been made at collecting data on barriers and incentives to technology adoption, especially for women farmers.

The Adoption Pathways ‘packed a punch’ of high-level agricultural policy staff; deans of Agricultural universities from the five SIMLESA countries and project partners including colleagues from Australia’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), an institute within The University of Queensland and the Norwegian School of Life Sciences.

Dr Thilak Mallawaarachchi, QAAFI discussing Farm-level adaptation decisions in the absence of information

The time, commitment and depth of discussion during the two-and a half-day meeting indicated how important this research is to the participating countries. It was clear that this project’s results will help drive the ‘how’ and ‘the what type’ of research - not just for SIMLESA - but for other agricultural activities in the specific regions.

This team has already prepared six policy briefs and will be soon releasing a seventh one (see later article in this newsletter). The briefs are specific to countries and look at gender disaggregated information at household level.

As African countries continue to grapple with issues around food security for their population, it will be interesting to see how some of this information and knowledge is adopted by policy makers as they generate public policy!

By Liz Ogutu - Regional Manager, Africa