Making a change where it Counts: Celebrating World Food Day at IWMI’s “River of Learning” Share Fair
October 16 was World Food Day and GWI EA attended celebrations in Addis Ababa. This year’s theme announced by FAO was ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition’.
In Addis Ababa, the day was celebrated with a ‘River of Learning’ Share Fair at the ILRI compound, convened by IWMI as a way to mark the 10th anniversary of IWMI East Africa’s office establishment in Ethiopia. There was a rich turn-out of research institutions, private sector organizations, NGOs and donor agencies, sharing their work and achievements on water for agriculture over the past decade, but also asking important questions about where to go next. GWI East Africa was invited to participate, convening a stand and making several contributions to the discussion and debate.
One of the key achievements, mentioned during the fair, was the recognition that agriculture water management is a cornerstone for growth in the region – and none more so than in Ethiopia. Community based integrated watershed management is adapted as a strategy in all of Ethiopia’s regions and funded by the Sustainable Land Management program run by the Ministry of Agriculture. More recently, water-centered development is adapted as a key strategy in Ethiopia’s growth corridors.
Many actors shared their work during the fair. The Nile Water, Land and Ecosystems program (NLWE) of the CG system – IWMI’s flagship research program – focuses on sustainable agriculture, water and livelihoods, and emphasized the need for sustainable intensification as part of a paradigm shift from the green revolution era and its unintended impacts on water and ecosystems. The aim of the NWLE project is scaling up sustainable innovations through joint platforms in the Nile corridor in East Africa. The project will address multiple and complex issues of land and water management, ecosystem strengthening and human development over a 12-year period, focusing on issues including small-scale irrigation and rain-fed farming, including in the highlands of Ethiopia, around Lake Victoria and in complex development environments including the Sudd in South Sudan. GWI EA has been invited to contribute its thinking into developing the program, and, in particular, how to exploit synergies between research activities and how to reach out to and influence key decision makers.
In a session on achievements, GWI-EA flagged its program approach and the development of the regional charter in Morogoro Tanzania this August. The charter engages government, civil society, academic institutions and practitioners from Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania in undertaking to increase political attention and investment levels in water for smallholder agriculture. For more information and to download the charter please go here.
Highlighting the multiplicity of actors and efforts in sector represented at the Share Fair and yet the scattered knowledge and learning in the region from the many research and implementation programs, the GWI-EA Program Director, Dr. Alan Nicol, suggested that the gathered organizations should commit to a synthesis of existing knowledge and learning in the sector in the coming year. The suggestion was seconded and followed up on by others, including from the CG system, and subsequent discussions are now shaping the process by which this can take place in 2014.
During the event, we were reminded that Sub-Saharan Africa has made significant strides in reducing hunger in recent years. In July of this year, African Union member states set an ambitious target to eradicate hunger completely by 2025. Ten of the AU state countries are showing agricultural growth rates of more than 6% per annum and allocating more that 10% of their GDP to the agriculture sector, as per the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework agreement. Yet a grim reality remains that by 2015 a quarter of the world’s poor will be from sub-Saharan Africa. African states therefore still have a long way to go.
Arguably, one of the most important messages of the day came at the close and from one of the participants, a farmer from Tigray. While appreciating all the mentioned achievements of the sector and all the projects and future intentions, he noted, “Measure your achievements by the change you make on the lives of individual farmers, not by the amount of research and learning documents generated by your programs. Make a change in the lives of farmers, because that’s the change that counts.”
Please see GWI EA’s new film Harvesting our Futures that was launched on World Food Day.
Bethel Terefe, Tesfaye Ewnetie and Alan Nicol