Haramaya University has been implementing a project titled “Technology, Institutional, and Extension Approaches towards Sustainable Agriculture and enhanced Food and Nutritional Security in Africa (InnovAfrica)”, which it won to a European Union call H2020-SFS-2016-2 in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research and other international partners.  A multi-actor platform meeting was conducted from 11 to 13 June 2019.

According to Prof. Nigussie Dechassa, Academic Affairs Vice-president of the University, “Agricultural productivity is low as a result of food and nutrition insecurity and it is a major problem particularly in the rural areas of Ethiopia.” To tackle the problem, InnovAfrica project assumes that Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) practices such as crop diversification should be integrated with efficient extension and advisory services (EASs) supported by innovative institutional approaches (IIAs) to achieve food and nutrition security (FNS) at smallholder farmer level.

With this in mind, promising SAIs technologies (e.g. maize-common beans intercropping) combined with innovative EASs (e.g. integrated farm plan, the French acronym as (PIP) and innovative IIAs (e.g. integrated seed systems backstopping from the multi-actor platform) are being tested and validated in Kombolcha and Meta districts in Eastern Hararghe Zone.

One of the work packages of the project is field experiment. In connection with this work package, a maize-legume intercropping system is being tested in Kombolcha and Meta districts on farmers’ fields. The first season trials were conducted last year in four kebeles (two per site) in the study districts and interesting results have been obtained. The results of the crop harvests indicated that intercropping maize with the common bean crop resulted in superior yields to mono cropping. The intercropping resulted in yield advantages of about 54% over the national average yield of maize in the country. The farmers chose intercropping of maize variety BHQPY-545 with common bean variety Dursitu to be the best treatment for their agro-ecology and socio-economic conditions.

The Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) members who participated in the meeting consisted of the major members, namely, Oromia Agricultural Marketing Enterprise, Fedis Agricultural Research Institute, Afran Kallo Cooperative Union, East Hararghe Zone Bureau of Agriculture, and West Hararghe Zone Bureau of Agriculture with development agents (DAs) and farmers. On the first day of the meeting, a field day was conducted at the research sites of Kombolcha and Meta districts. Dr. Udaya Nagothu Sekhar, overall coordinator of the project from Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Dr. Mehereteab Tesfai from Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, and Mrs. Lurie Laurie van Reemst, from the Netherlands participated in the meeting.

Members of the platform, farmers, and development agents observed crops maize crops already planted this season and discussed on a number of issues concerning agricultural production and productivity in both districts. In both districts, MAP members identified the major weaknesses to be key factors that have led to the inefficiency of the efforts being made to alleviate problems that constrain agricultural productivity in the region. Lack of communication, lack of joint planning, lack of defined roles and responsibilities, lack of sustained communication and networking were identified as such. The participants have agreed to commit themselves to jointly address the problems and particularly seek solutions to the critical shortage of seeds of improved crop varieties and other agricultural inputs such as pesticides. The second and third days of the meeting were progress reports presented and plans for the next season were drafted.