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Title: Reversing degradation of arable lands in Southern Ethiopia
Authors: Amede, Tilahun
Belachew, Takele
Geta, Endrias
Keywords: HILLS
Date: 2006
Publisher: AHI, Kampala, UG
Series/Report no.: AHI working paper / African Highlands Initiative; no. 1
Abstract: Degraded soils are a major constraint to agricultural production and food security in the southern Ethiopian Highlands. As their yields and incomes decline, poor farmers have fewer resources to invest in fertilizers or soil conservation measures, while pressure from the growing population forces them to cultivate marginal lands, and discontinue fallow and the use of crop residues to maintain soil fertility. Soil fertility is declining most rapidly in the outer fields, as crop residues from these areas are used on the homestead gardens where enset and coffee crops are grown, which also receive the most manure and organic waste. Farmers need to adapt their soil fertility management strategies to the considerable spatial and temporal variations in soil degradation, focusing on restoring and maintaining the fertility of outfields and degraded land on steep slopes. The African Highlands Initiative (AHI) and Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization responded to this situation by setting up a participatory research programme on natural resource management. The overall objective of the programme was to increase the capacity for independent innovation within farming communities, while working with farmers to develop appropriate technologies to combat soil degradation. Farmers spent three years testing various methods of restoring soil fertility, introducing legume cover crops into rotation systems, installing measures to control soil erosion, and practicing minimum tillage and more efficient ways of managing crop residues. The results of the research showed that adoption of these technologies depended on factors such as farm size, the availability of labor and soil condition. Research conducted during the programme identified five socioeconomic strata within local communities, each with clearly different pportunities and needs. Any attempt to address agricultural problems should take account of this diversity, as blanket recommendations or technology packages are unlikely to provide effective solutions to the range of problems faced by farmers. Their interests will best be served by using a participatory approach to develop technologies that address the needs and specificities of each group, and by ensuring that farmers are fully involved in all stages of the process, from research and implementation to monitoring and evaluation. The AHI team found the participatory approach to research a very positive experience, which helped them identify problems and develop technologies that were specifically tailored to local conditions. The main achievements of the programme were to increase the capacity of farmers to solve their problems through experimentation and encourage various organisations to work together and learn from each other. The next step is to move from discipline-based research towards research and development in integrated natural resource management at watershed level.
Project Number: 101592
Project Title: African Highlands Resource Management - Phase III
Access: IDRC Only
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