Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Jan NYSSEN, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
Amaury FRANKL, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
MITIKU Haile, Dept. of Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
ROMHA Assefa, Relief Society of Tigray, Mekelle, Ethiopia and Previously at Ma’ar Project, Dogu’a Tembien, Tigray, Ethiopia
SEIFU Gebreslassie, EthioTrees Project, Dogu’a Tembien, Tigray, Ethiopia and Previously at Selam-Watsani Project, Dogu’a Tembien, Tigray, Ethiopia
BIRHANU Biruk, Dept. of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Jozef NAUDTS, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KULeuven, Belgium
ZBELO Tesfamariam, Dept. of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University, Ethiopia
Miro JACOB, Dept. of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
Jozef DECKERS, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KULeuven, Belgium

Farmers in north Ethiopia have developed a wealth of indigenous knowledge that allows near-optimal management of their farmlands. For instance, a study of land use in a 208-ha catchment in Dogu’a Tembien shows that patterns of land use and crop production system are strongly associated (P < 0.001) with soil type. Similarly, smallholders design their cropping system in accordance with spatio-temporal rainfall variability: in Tigray, five cropping systems could be identified, ranging between a ten-months system with two successive rainfed crops (around Korem) and a five-to-four-months cropping season with drought-resistant varieties near Sinkata. In addition there is variability in crop associations, depending on soil type, slope position and elevation. With inter-annual changes in precipitation, the cropping systems shift at catchment as well as at the regional scale. In addition, newly introduced technologies such as soil and water conservation are integrated into the farming systems. The farmers’ environmental knowledge is such that strong correlations exist between application of manure, compost or mineral fertilisers and site-specific land and climatic conditions. Excess fertiliser is sold off, particularly in areas where spate irrigation is traditionally practiced, since the floods bring fertile sediment from the upper areas. Outcomes of our research in the Tigray region of Ethiopia over more than 20 years have been published in many journals, and have contributed to scientific knowledge that is relevant for rural development and sustainable livelihood. Direct knowledge sharing with farmers was done through their involvement in field research activities. The implementation of six development projects, the organisation of Farmers’ Days in which research findings were demonstrated in the field, and the development of three extension manuals (two in Tigrinya and one in English) were further endeavours to disseminate knowledge gained. In a bid to better reach the rural community, to hand the knowledge directly to the farmers, and hence to empower them, we took inspiration from ‘almanacs’ as they had been used in northwest Europe, and which build on the close links between a calendar and farming activities. The developed booklet offers basic research findings, expressed in simple, often local, words in Tigrinya language, combined with other useful and sometimes lighter information. It has been distributed among farmers with the aim that it is not only read by farmers but also passed on and discussed within the communities (farmer-to-farmer extension).