Trees for Food Security – a successful Mid-Term Review

By Mellissa Wood

A midterm review was recently conducted on our project FSC/2014/012 “Improving sustainable productivity in farming systems and enhanced livelihoods through adoption of evergreen agriculture”, or Trees for Food Security, led by the World Agroforestry Centre. This four-year project, which commenced in June 2012, is funded by the AIFSRC ($5.4m), with additional funding ($1.26m) from the CGIAR Research Programme 6 (Forests, Trees and Agroforestry). The aim of this project is to enhance food security for resource-poor rural people in eastern Africa through research that underpins national programmes to scale up the use of trees within farming systems in Ethiopia and Rwanda and then scale out successes to relevant agro-ecological zones in Uganda and Burundi.

The successful review was conducted in Ethiopia between 8 and 10 November 2014 by Tony Bartlett (ACIAR Forestry RPM) and Mellissa Wood (Director, AIFSRC) and included two days of field trips, to the Melkassa and Bako sites, and a one day workshop in Addis Ababa (Monday 10th November). Project staff from ICRAF, CIMMYT and the partner organisations from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda participated in the review. The Burundi partners did not attend the mid-term review as a separate discussion on the project’s progress was held in Bujumbura on 12 November as part of the project inception meeting for Burundi.

This project is an important one for the AIFSRC. It was the first one the AIFSRC funded and is the largest, and it is well aligned to deliver against the mandate of the AIFSRC, the goals of ACIAR and the broader Australian aid program. It represents climate-smart agriculture and therefore well linked to CAADP and the new Science Agenda for African Agriculture, which we actively support.  The integration of trees on farm delivers a range of key benefits that epitomize and underpin Africa’s agricultural transformation:

  • food and nutritional security through increased production (cereals or fruit)
  • livelihood benefits such as income and energy security from tree products including fruits, fodder, fuelwood, timber and can provide diversified income sources for smallholders, especially when they are able to become commercial and are well linked to markets
  • improved nutrition through production of fruit trees, increasing productivity and increasing livelihoods
  • capacity building in local and regional institutions and with individuals
  • and it also builds greater resilience on farms through the provision of ecosystem services, natural resource management and agricultural diversification.

But perhaps the most important element is that this project is about long-term time scales. The farmer at Bako Mr Sorosa told us that one of the reasons he planted his Grevilleas was so his children would benefit. If we go back in 10 years, we will see real changes in the landscape (which is not always the case with research projects).

This plot is being managed by CIMMYT and is measuring the effects of the trees and different types of management on cereal yields. It seeks to understand the trade-offs between competition and facilitation. For example, lower temperatures under the tree benefit wheat and early results show an increase in wheat yield under Faidherbia albida. Photo credit: M Wood, AIFSRC

What is working well:

  • good baseline data collection and understanding of the current biophysical, farming and socio-economic systems obstacles for uptake and on how to achieve impact
  • good healthy partnerships among relevant institutions – CGIAR, national NARS, NGOs, local partners and farmers – strong leadership in the team
  • clear research questions, well designed methodology and research activities and quality data from the analysis
  • good social acceptance of trees on farms.

One of the key research questions being explored in the project is - how can national extension programs and policies provide effective scale out mechanisms? Good discussion was held during the review on options for the project to scale up the research using the Rural Resource Centres (RRC) and farmer to farmer, along with other options.

Research to date has shown that 4 things need to come together over the next 2 years:

  • complete research on biophysical constraints – water, grazing, quality germplasm, tree crop interactions, etc
  • seedling systems – strengthening quality, diversity and access
  • strengthened extension - management advice and support (packets),
  • avenues for knowledge sharing and dissemination.

View a pictorial report (scroll through the photos for full details) of the field visit to Melkassa in the Rift Valley and Bako in the Ethiopian Highlands.