CARIAD helps Ethiopian researchers to improve food security

Ethiopian researchers working with scientists at Bangor University’s Centre for Advanced Research in International Agricultural Development (CARIAD), have achieved a breakthrough in increasing the food security of poor farmers in drought prone areas of Ethiopia. They have identified two Indian wheat varieties, adapted to Ethiopian conditions, which give higher yields when rainfall is scarce.

Project staff and farmers in Mekelle inspecting the new varietiesProject staff and farmers in Mekelle inspecting the new varietiesDr D.S. Virk of CARIAD collaborated with partners Mekelle Agricultural Research Centre (MARC), and Tigray Agricultural Research Institute, Mekelle (TARI), and with local farmers in Tigray, to test these varieties.  Their selection method for the best varieties involves the farmers in making decisions about what elements of the different varieties are important to them.  This is called participatory varietal selection or PVS, and CARIAD is a world-leading exponent of its use.

Mr Hagos of the Tigray Agricultural Research Institute, Mekelle, said:

 “The food security of poor people will be immensely improved with the cultivation of these varieties.”

Dr Virk said “The PVS approach is universally applicable, and the two farmer-preferred varieties will provide food for many hungry people in Ethiopia.”

 “Before the project, farmers in the region preferred traditional low-yielding varieties, as the locally-recommended modern varieties were too late to mature. However, during the testing, the farmers overwhelmingly preferred the new varieties, over both the traditional and the modern varieties, and were keen to grow them again if seed were available,” explained Dr Virk.

The proposal by TARI to release the varieties nationally for cultivation in drought prone areas was accepted by the Ethiopian National Variety Release Committee in February 2011.

Dr Eyasu of Mekelle Agricultural Research Centre (MARC)said:

“These are the first varieties ever released by MARC and TARI, and this would not have possible without the help of CARIAD.”

TARI now plans a major programme of seed production and will disseminate these varieties widely in rainfed, drought-affected areas. The new varieties will benefit over 350,000 households on the 210,000 ha in Tigray and Southern regions where wheat is grown.

PVS involves farmers in the research from the start, and is highly effective in identifying varieties suited to their needs and preferences, particularly in drought-affected or infertile areas. Farmers work with CARIAD and local partners to identify new varieties that suit their particular needs for yield, flavour and time to maturity. These are then widely distributed, and community-based systems set up to provide enough good quality seed to farmers.

The selected varieties have also been tested in Southern Ethiopia as part of the same project. Dr Virk had initially identified the varieties in a PVS project in Gujarat, India, funded by the DFID Plant Sciences Research Programme from 1996 to 2002 and managed by Bangor University.

Publication date: 8 March 2011