Diverse youth groups come together for climate-smart agriculture

Participants from the youth field visit to Doyogena climate-smart landscape. Photo: G. Ambaw (CCAFS)
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Dec 31, 2018

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Sarah Assefa (AgriProFocus), Seble Samuel (CCAFS), Gebermedihin Ambaw (CCAFS), Meron Tadesse (CCAFS), Bedilu Demissie (Arsi University)

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Youth makes up the majority of Ethiopia’s population. CCAFS is creating synergy between this dynamic demographic and climate-smart agriculture.

While the western world faces the challenges of an ageing population, the African continent boasts a youthful majority. Across Ethiopia, more than 70% of the population is under the age of 30, and a new child is born every ten seconds. It is vital to harness the potential of this burgeoning demographic with the country’s heartbeat – agriculture.

In the spirit of this endeavor, between November 29 and 30 2018, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in East Africa and AgriProFocus, invited 40 young people from diverse agribusinesses, universities, civil society organizations, government ministries and research centers to learn about climate-smart agriculture (CSA) implementation in Doyogena climate-smart landscape in Southern Ethiopia. The site is a collaborative project between Inter Aide, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), CCAFS and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), with support from the Feed the Future Africa RISING program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Youth field visit participants discussing the water harvesting scheme in Doyogena. Photo: G. Ambaw (CCAFS)

The aim of the field visit was to expose and inspire young agriculture professionals to engage in CSA activities. The experience served as a dynamic opportunity to showcase and share the climate-smart practices taking place in Doyogena such as watershed management, landscape rehabilitation, community forestry, cereal and legume intensification, forage production and agroforestry, while promoting biodiversity and sustainability.

CSA learning from practice

The participants had the opportunity to experience integrated watershed management, a community-based small ruminant breeding program (CBBP) and a biodiverse climate-smart farm led by a model female farmer. Within the watershed, climate-smart technologies are implemented to adapt to the challenges of climate change, soil erosion and water shortages in partnership with local social institutions known as Idir.

"Soil is life" exclaimed one farmer during the visit, underscoring the importance of soil to farmers, and the dependence of their livelihoods on this resource. For most of the participants, this was their first experience visiting climate-smart farms, motivating new opportunities for their farming practices and academic research. “The field visit gave me a practical example of what I learned in the classroom regarding CSA and inspired me to do my research on related topics,” said Tewodros Berhane, an MSc student at Addis Ababa University (AAU).

Farmers across this climate-smart landscape have successfully stabilized the land, reversing the formerly widespread soil erosion and transforming the area into a model site. In Doyogena, land scarcity is one of the major production constraints. Nevertheless, farmers have managed to feed their families on less than 0.5 hectares of land by implementing integrated climate-smart activities that boost both soil carbon and soil fertility, retain soil moisture content and increase productivity.

Water harvesting structure developed by the community in Lemi Seticho Kebele, Doyogena. Photo: G. Ambaw (CCAFS)

Despite this progress, farmers still face water shortages during the dry seasons, and are striving to address the challenge by developing a community water harvesting scheme. The collaborating team is working with the communities to provide technical assistance on developing climate-smart solar-based irrigation systems to address off-season water shortages and exploring partnerships to scale-up these developments.

Climate-smart livestock systems in Doyogena

During this field visit, young people also experienced the CBBP, established by CCAFS and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which boosts farmers’ incomes and ultimately strives to ensure food security under a changing climate. This program integrates fodder production on soil and water conservation structures. The improved climate-smart breeds provide climate benefits compared to larger livestock such as cattle, consuming less water and feed, and demonstrating increased resilience to food and water scarcities during extreme climatic events.

The exposure of youth to these innovative climate-smart approaches is vital for inclusive inter-generational knowledge sharing and capacity building, as well as for ensuring these practices can be scaled-up and expanded to diverse geographies.

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The field visit benefited from the participation of the following entities: AgriProFocus Youth in Agriculture and Agroecology Networks; Community Integrated Development Association in Ethiopia (CIDA Ethiopia); Agro Focus; Reach for Change Ethiopia; Center of Excellence International Consult (CEIC); Arsi University; Green Rotaract; Wollega University; The Agriculture Knowledge, Learning, Documentation and Policy Project (AKLDP Project) of USAID Ethiopia; NETAGRO Engineering PLC; Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Resources (MoALR); Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA); Areka Agricultural Research Center; Society for Women and AIDS in Africa-Ethiopia (SWAAE); Inter Aide.