SLU news

Up-scaling organic homegarden agroforestry can play a great role in improving livelihoods

Published: 15 December 2017

Kassa Teka is a scientist from Ethiopia. Affiliated with Mekelle University, Department of Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection in the country, Kassa now works as an associate professor. He has just spent a longer period in Sweden and AgriFoSe2030 interviewed him about his stay.

What is your background and research interests?

- I have Doctorate degree in Geography from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in KU Leuven (Belgium); a M.Sc. in Tropical Land Resources Management, and B.Sc. in Land Resource Management and Environmental Management (specialization- Soil and Water Conservation) both from the department of Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection at my current university. Besides my associate professorship job, I am an editor for the journal of the Drylands, which is a local journal based at the college of Dryland Agriculture and Natural Resources at Mekelle.

My areas of research interest include watershed management, agroforestry, land evaluation, land use planning, soil fertility, and soil survey and mapping.

What have you been doing during your visit in Sweden and in the AgriFoSe2030 programme?

- I have been busy with several key activities during my exchange program while being hosted at Chalmers. Firstly, I have had the opportunity to focus on article writing, based on data collected from Ethiopia, in consultation with Swedish professors. Two articles have been drafted for publication in high impact journals. One of them is about the role of integrated watershed management in reducing soil erosion and at the same time improve livelihoods in Gule watershed, Northern Ethiopia. The other one is also based on research done in Northern Ethiopia, more specifically Eastern Tigray, focusing on land use patterns optimization.

Vermicompost preparation at a tree nursery site at Mekelle University.
Kassa Teka during his visit in Gothenburg.

– Linking to this, and partially based on field data, I am also reproducing syntheses in a format that can be used to support policy and improve practices (it will become an AgriFoSe2030 report). I am writing the report on Integrated Watershed Management in relation to food security for northern Ethiopia.

Secondly, I have also been drafting a joint project proposal on water management. A project proposal entitled ‘Characterization and Demonstration of Integrated Biological and Physical Waste Water Treatment Technologies for Irrigation Water, Irrigated Crop and Soil Quality Improvements at Urban Fringes of Northern Ethiopia’ is now under review by researchers at Chalmers.

Thirdly, I have received training on GIS and statistics and currently I am doing some self-help training on SPSS and ArcGIS software.

Lastly, it was very timely that during my time in Sweden the third National Agroforestry Conference took place between November 16-17 at SLU, campus Alnarp. I participated and presented a paper entitled ‘Home-garden Agroforestry in the Lowlands of Tigray (Northern Ethiopia): its role to plant diversity, soil chemical properties and soil organic carbon stock enhancement’.

What are your expectations of what the programme will be working on?

-In the last decades, climate change (e.g. drought and flood) and land degradation coupled with an ever-increasing population have been the main challenges in developing countries resulting in low food and nutrition security. Moreover, integration of research to policy and extension is very poor in these areas. These challenges are expected to continue in the future if the rest of society doesn’t intervene. Hence, financing research and innovations, and linking research to policy and extension are paramount to minimize these challenges. Thus, my expectation on the AgriFoSe2030 programme is to link theory with practice (research versus policy), and technical and financial support to scale-up best practices (success stories) and innovations to help the grass-roots achieve food and nutritional security.

Furthermore, the AgriFoSe2030 programme is enviably important to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. That work can be done through capacity building of researchers by linking their research work with national policies, and ensure dissemination of research outputs and innovations to end-users through financial and technical support. These activities all link the fields of research, policy, extension and end-users (e.g. farmers).

Tell us one thing that you are passionate about on food security and sustainable agriculture.

-I am passionate about organic homegarden agroforestry. Homegarden agroforestry as a land use system involves deliberate management of multipurpose trees and shrubs in intimate association with annual and perennial agricultural crops and invariably livestock within the compounds of individual houses, where the whole system; trees, crops and animals, is being intensively managed by family labour. The limited or no use of chemicals makes it organic.

This type of agroforestry is practiced in some localities in the highlands of Tigray, Ethiopia. It utilizes family labour of all categories (child to adult), no external inputs such as chemicals (fertilizers and pest/herbicides), minimal cost for external inputs purchase, there is no issue of land ownership, and sustainably improves soil productivity. Hence, promoting and up-scaling such practices can play a great role in improving livelihoods and the environment.

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