The 24 innovation labs gathered under the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative are strongly expected to collaborate and bring synergies to address the problems caused by climate change with the aim of increasing food production for a growing population in the countries where they work.
Ethiopia is one of the Feed the Future focus countries with nine active labs (see this fact sheet). The Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) is one of these nine labs working in the country, through a sub-grantee, the Texas A&M Universityand its director Neville Clarke.
Clarke is also leading the Innovation Lab on Small Scale Irrigation (ILSSI), which has been active in Ethiopia for over two years. ILSSI and SIIL are collaborating in Ethiopia through a grant from SIIL known as ‘Sustainably intensified production systems impact on nutrition’ (SIPS-IN). This grant complements the ILSSI and involves the same partners as well as Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia.
How many simple technologies have been introduced to rural farming communities, only to fail miserably shortly after the nongovernmental organization (NGO) closes the project? Too many. The technologies were too complicated. Nobody was trained to use them. Materials could not be sourced locally and importation was prohibitively expensive. The list is long.
The sustainable intensification of agriculture offers smallholder farmers huge opportunities in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, according to the participants of a workshop on appropriate scale mechanization at Bahir Dar University on the June 8-9, 2016. The introduction of locally-adapted technologies has the potential to raise incomes and nutritional security, reduce drudgery and empower women and youth, offering the people of the region sustainable alternatives to migration to larger urban areas of the country, principally Addis Ababa.
The event was organized by the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium, a $4.7 million four-year project, which is part of the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL), an initiative of Feed the Future led by the United States Agency for International Development. The consortium component of SIIL, which began in September 2015, seeks to leverage the use of mechanization to improve farm productivity, income and nutrition of smallholder farmers, particularly women, in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia and Ethiopia.
Opening the event, Baylie Damtie, the president of Bahir Dar University, underlined the importance of agriculture in the sustainable development of Ethiopia, the key to the industrialization of the country. He also emphasized, however, that this process needed to be introduced at a pace suitable to the needs of the country. Job creation is key, he said.