Project Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of the project is to attain higher agricultural productivity, food security and income for smallholder farmers, agropastoral/pastoral communities through rehabilitation and sustainable management of irrigated salt-affected farming areas of Ethiopia and South Sudan. The main objective of this project is to introduce, test and promote appropriate technologies and practices for rehabilitation and sustainable management of irrigated salt-affected farming systems and in Ethiopia and South Sudan and draw lessons for scaling up.

The Target Group

The project will directly target 5,000 smallholder farmers in selected areas in Ethiopia and South Sudan who are facing high food insecurity due to their high dependency on marginal water and land resources. The indirect beneficiaries will be about 50,000 farmers that are dependent on forage production in both countries with an estimated total area of 200,000 ha. These targets will be achieved through the production and distribution of tested crop and forage seeds, dissemination of improved soil and water management practices, training of farmers and extension workers in the target areas.

The rehabilitation of degraded lands will improve the livelihood of 9 percent of the population of Ethiopia which lives in salt-affected areas. In South Sudan where only 7 percent of 30 million ha of land is being cultivated, rehabilitation and management strategies developed under this project will open a window of opportunity for thousands of rural farmers to improve productivity of their degraded lands and increase their farm incomes. The outcomes of this project will especially benefit women, as they will have better access to food and health facilities. Transformation of degraded lands into productive lands will also create direct and indirect job opportunities for the large segment of young population. This will help in reducing the migration trends of unemployed youth from rural areas to urban areas.

The project will target Ethiopian highlands (Tigray, Amhara and Afar) and lowlands (Oromia) which produce 87 percent of Ethiopia’s cattle and 5 percent of its sheep and goats, however, land degradation has reduced farm and livestock productivity of these areas resulting in increased rural poverty. The developed crop-livestock value chain system will benefit Ethiopia because this is the largest livestock producer in Africa.

The project will target the White Nile irrigation schemes (about 50,000 ha area) in the South Sudan. These soils have a large potential due to availability of fresh water from White Nile River and its tributaries, which run through 7 out of 10 states, providing ready access to an abundant water supply and river transport access for agriculture producers. However, these soils are not being cultivated for decades due to low soil fertility and non-availability of good quality seeds for crops and forages. It is estimated that about 18 percent of the land is not cultivated due to shortage of seed and another 9 percent due to low soil fertility. Increasing productivity of these lands will be crucial to ensure food security for the smallholder farmers of the area.

Strategy, Approach and Methodology

This project will adopt an integrated soil and water management approach to tackle the salinity problems in irrigated areas of both countries. The project strategy would be to first diagnose the issues and then to develop long term mitigation, management and rehabilitation strategies at farm and regional level relevant to the problem using proven and high level international salinity science and management. Since the rehabilitation of saline soils through engineering (drainage systems) or chemical amendments is an expensive and time-consuming process, this project will work on adaptive and mitigation approaches for the rehabilitation of salt-affected soils.

This project will adopt a participatory approach to conduct field trials in different parts of both countries to  test the suitability of local and imported crop and forage species for the rehabilitation of salt-affected soils. Adaptation trials will be conducted at the Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) and volunteer farmers’ plots in collaboration with the national partners. These trials will also be used for demonstration purposes before scaling   up. The project team will jointly implement the best management practices for salinity control at farm level. Smallholder farmers (especially women and young farmers) will be trained to establish seed/gene banks at the community level. ICBA has successfully applied this approach in SSA.

The project will generate and disseminate sustainable integrated crop-livestock technology packages to diversify incomes of farmers through the sale of animal products and forages to local markets, thus making the production systems economically sustainable. However, salt tolerant forage plants are variable in biomass production and nutritive value. The available salt-tolerant forages have not been selected or managed for improved livestock production. For this reason, they need to be tested locally for their (a) edible biomass production (kg/ha/year);

(b) nutritive value of edible biomass (i.e. the response in animal production per unit of voluntary feeding intake), and (c) the use of micronutrients and nutraceutical  properties.

The project will address gender equality and social issues as crosscutting themes in each area. The project will include most vulnerable groups of the society, to ensure that the interventions benefit very poor men and women farmers and households. Since rural women play key role in undertaking agricultural and livestock activities, enhancing their knowledge and capacity will be one of the main targets of this project.