Building Resilience in Ethiopia's Awassa region to Drought (BREAD)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Inst of Biological and Environmental Sci


Droughts in Sub-Saharan Africa have been exacerbated by the current El Niño event, resulting in well publicised risks of famine in the worst affected regions and food shortages elsewhere. This project will combine data collected in the Awassa region of Ethiopia before, during and after the current El Niño to quantify the impacts to locally produced food and farmer livelihoods. Our primary aim will be to assess biophysical interventions that promoted resilient food production during this El Niño event, with a strong social sciences input so that societal acceptance and impacts of beneficial interventions can be assessed. We have assembled a UK-Ethiopia project team with long-standing expertise working in the region. It involves experts in all aspects of natural, economic and social sciences.
We will test two over-arching hypotheses: (1) the short term extreme drought associated with the current El Niño will have a long term impact on communities, their farming systems and their soils; and (2) resilience to this drought can only be built through interventions that consider both biophysical and socio-economic factors. A major intervention that we will explore is sustainable soil management through organic residue incorporation, taking into account resource conflicts with animal feed and household fuel use that worsen during times of extreme drought. We explore the knock-on impacts of land management to the availability of green water (stored in soil) and blue water (abstracted from ground and surface water sources). Further data on soil fertility will be measured across a range of 36 case-study farms located within two districts that are different distances from water supplies. The project will allow for crop and soil data collected for two years before the current El Niño to be supplemented with continued measurements of post-drought resilience. Previous data were collected in the ESPA funded project 'Alternative Carbon Investments in Ecosystems for Poverty Alleviation'. Modelling of crop and soil responses will allow us to upscale the impacts of land management interventions.
Our outputs will be translated into outcomes through engagement with farmers, local and regional government and other stakeholders, both throughout the research and once the research is complete. As recently as December 2015, we met directly with these stakeholders, using well-established networks developed by our Ethiopian partners. Awassa is not the region in Sub-Saharan Africa that is worst affected by El Niño, but we argue that its relatively high population density, supported by food availability during good growing seasons, makes it particularly important. Moreover, land in the worst affected regions is so infertile that interventions may have limited impact, whereas in Awassa and similar more fertile regions of Ethiopia, interventions could promote greater agricultural productivity to supply national food demands during extreme events. We have already observed that Awassa houeholds spend more time collecting water and have been able to collect less due to pump breakdowns as groundwater levels get deeper during this drought. Yields have plummeted, affecting the earnings of subsistence farmer. Interviews conducted in December 2015 showed that farmers attempt to cope with the situation through short term strategies such as selling off livestock which will have long term consequences for the farming system in the area. The outcomes of this research will contribute towards increasing awareness of the impacts of drought in the region, and improving resilience of farming systems to drought. This will help farmers to employ better coping strategies for drought and to cope for longer, requiring less interventions and avoiding catastrophic harvest failures. In the long term, this will contribute towards better food security and nutrition, improved resilience and reduced risks associated with extreme droughts from future El Niño events.

Planned Impact

The project is aiming to create positive impacts at several scales from the local and regional to the national and international through knowledge exchange with relevant stakeholders and decision makers. The two key developmental outputs from the project are (1) better understanding of the impact of drought events on communities, their soils and agricultural production in Southern Ethiopia; and (2) recommended methods for building resilience to drought. Potential wider outcomes from these project outputs are respectively (1) increased awareness of the impacts of droughts and coping strategies, allowing farmers to plan their livelihoods more effectively, and local and regional governments to provide better, more targeted support to farmers when needed; and (2) improved resilience to droughts of farming systems and communities, allowing them to cope with the drought for longer before requiring interventions. Many farmers in Halaba and other districts across Ethiopia are dependent on government interventions for survival during drought events at the same time as employing a mix of their own coping mechanisms with long term impacts. There is a clear need for research that will improve planning for droughts and improve resilience of the farming community and assist them in their attempts at coping with droughts without creating negative long term impacts
These outputs will be translated into outcomes through engagement with farmers, local and regional government and other stakeholders, both throughout the research and once the research is complete. Stakeholders will be consulted at the beginning of the research to identify the impacts of the drought on the community and existing coping strategies. This will include identifying what factors influence choice of coping strategies, and what are the short, medium and long-term consequences of these coping strategies for their livelihoods, the environment and future resilience. The findings on the economic and biophysical impacts of these effects will be highlighted in stakeholder workshops. Potential resilience building methods will be co-designed with farmers, and local and regional government. At the end of the research, recommended methods that have most potential to build resilience will be summarised in policy factsheets, to be launched at a stakeholder workshop. Recommended changes to farming practices will be laid out in farming practice leaflets, and handed out to farmers at community days in the Halaba district. Resilience building methods that are translatable to the national context will be presented to the appropriate government departments in Ethiopia; those that are internationally relevant will be highlighted in a briefing to DFID by UA and JHI.

In addition, the project will contribute to an overall better understanding of issues of resilience, vulnerability and climatic hazards in developing country contexts. Findings will be published in peer reviewed academic journals and thereby contribute to continued academic dialogue on these issues, and to the identification of potential future research questions.
Description The use of limited organic resources to build resilience to drought in semi-arid regions was investigated using systems modelling. The study focussed on Halaba in Ethiopia, drawing on biophysical and socio-economic data obtained from a survey of farms before, during and after the 2015/16 El Niño event. Using a simplified weather dataset to remove noise from weather fluctuations, a ten yearly El Niño was demonstrated to cause significant long-term degradation of soil, reducing crop yields by 9-14% and soil carbon by 0.5-4.1%; more frequent droughts would increase this impact. Farmers in Halaba usually apply manures to soils untreated. Counteracting the impact of El Niño on soil degradation is possible by increasing application of untreated manure, but would result in a small net cost due to loss of dung as fuel. By composting manure its recalcitrance increases, allowing soil degradation to be counteracted without cost. The best option investigated, in terms of both food and fuel security, for households with access to water and finances needed for anaerobic digestion (500-2000 US$), is to use manure to produce biogas and then apply the nutrient-rich bioslurry residue to the soil. This will result in a significant benefit of over 5000 US$ per decade from increased crop production and saved fuel costs. However, many households are limited in water and finances; in that situation, the much cheaper pyrolysis cook-stove (50 US$) can provide similar economic benefits without the need for water. The biochar residue from pyrolysis is highly recalcitrant, but pyrolysis results in loss of nutrients, so may result in lower yields than other uses of manures. This may be countered by using biochar to capture nutrients from elsewhere in the farm, such as from animal housing or compost pits; more work is needed to quantify the impact of treated biochar on crop yields.
Exploitation Route These findings should be further investigated in field trials.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

Description Farmers and policy makers have become more aware of the impact of droughts and floods on their soils, and the need to implement practices and policies to maintain soil organic matter content.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

Description UK Parliament - Environmental Audit Committee, Soil Health Enquiry
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description Newton-Bhabha Virtual Centre on Nitrogen Efficiency of Whole-cropping Systems for improved performance and resilience in agriculture (NEWS India-UK)
Amount £1,139,686 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N013492/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 08/2019
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Aberdeen 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 04/2021
Description Resolving the conflict between demands on organic wastes in rural Ethiopia - optimum solutions for food, energy and water security
Amount £80,000 (GBP)
Organisation East of Scotland BioScience (EastBio) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 04/2021
Title Operational Research Assessment Tool for Organic Resources 
Description The project has developed a comprehensive but simple framework which integrates environmental and farm household modelling. This is designed to capture the problems faced by farm households in the Alaba district in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region of Ethiopia, where the shortage of organic resources are acute. The model draws on a range of biophysical and socio-economic data collected in the two study areas, including data on soils and their characteristics, how households use organic resources such as crop residues and dung throughout the year, the time spent on related activities such as wood collection and cooking, and can determine the impact of different household decisions on long term soil fertility, farm productivity and revenue. This allows the quantification of the trades-offs between competing uses of organic resources, which help policy makers and farmers in their decision making. For example, what are the benefits if farms use more dung for soil improvements versus its use in cooking? How much revenue would the household gain or lose if more dung was used on soil? What would the costs be in terms of increased wood purchases or collection time? The data shows that the soils in the areas are extremely degraded and therefore at risk. The results emphasise how packages of measures are important. To maintain and improve them requires both investment in soil conservation measures by farmers, and improvements in the type and efficiency of available organic resources. The model provides a new resource which can be developed to help answer policy questions within the region, e.g. whether livestock can be considered a benefit or a burden to sustainable organic resource use. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model can be the basis of data collection and interpretation in other developing countries. 
Title Building Resilience in Ethiopia's Awassa region to Drought (BREAD) biophysical dataset 
Description Measurements were taken in three fertility zones within households in two districts of Halaba in the SNNPR, Ethiopia. Measurements were taken after the El Niño event of 2015/16, so reflect the resilience of different areas of the farm to drought. Measurements are provided at fertility zones home, near and far from the home, and to two depths (0-20cm and 20-50cm) of mineral nitrogen, percent carbon, percent nitrogen, percent soil moisture, particle size analysis and aggregate stability. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None to date - database only recently released. 
Title Building Resilience in Ethiopia's Awassa region to Drought (BREAD) socioeconomic dataset 
Description Socioeconomic data were collected in three fertility zones within households in two districts of Halaba in the SNNPR, Ethiopia. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None to date - recently released. 
Title Operational Research Assessment Tool for Organic Resources - ORATOR 
Description The "Operational Research Assessment Tool for Organic Resources in Africa" (ORATOR-Africa), developed for the BREAD and IPORE projects, is designed to account for the impact of different uses of farm resources on soil organic matter, crop production, animal production, water use, fuel availability, on- and off-farm labour, and farm income and expenditure. From this, it aims to use simple approaches to simulate resilience to drought and floods, and the impact that changes in resource management will have on resilience. It particularly focusses on organic resources, but because the whole system is represented, the impact of changing use of other resources is also simulated (for instance increasing expenditure on fertilisers). Different inputs of organic resources to the soil affect resource use in the whole system; increased inputs of carbon (C) to the soil lead to increases in the soil organic matter, which impacts the water holding capacity and nutrients available in the soil. This affects crop production, which has an impact on animal production using on-farm feeds. The water holding capacity of the soil and growth of crops and animals all affect the requirement for water. The growth of crops determines the amount of crop residues available to feed to animals and for use as a fuel, and so determines fuel availability (both as crop residues and as dung) and the labour required to collect additional fuel (such as wood). Water use, crops grown and the animals maintained also impact the labour required on the farm. This then impacts the remaining labour available for off-farm activities. The income and expenditure of the farm are a function of the purchases made by the household (e.g. food, feed, fuel & fertilisers) and the products and labour available within the household (e.g. grain, milk & animals for sale). 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Development of key messages for better use of organic resources in farm households in Ethiopia 
Description GCRF South Asia Nitrogen Hub 
Organisation UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The model developed as part of this project (together with ESRC IPORE and BBSRC NEWS projects) has formed the basis of our collaboration within the South Asia Nitrogen Hub
Collaborator Contribution Mark Sutton at CEH Edinburgh led the proposal and put together the partnership between UK partners and partners in South Asian countries.
Impact Meeting with Renewable Energy Confederation of Nepal 02/03/19
Start Year 2019
Description NERC Planet Earth Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article in the NERC Planet Earth magazine, written by journalist Julia Horton. This covered a range of projects conducted by University of Aberdeen scientists on tropical agriculture. The work draws on both our direct research in tropical countries and strategic research on plant-soil interactions, so it cuts across P. Hallett's funding portfolio.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description NERC UnEarthed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact NERC UnEarthed was a large event that attracted over 3000 people. There were two days dedicated to school visits and 2 days when there was free entry to the general public. During our free interactive showcase - UnEarthed - at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh (17-19 November), families and adults could explore the tools used to make science happen and see the extraordinary work of our scientists. Our exhibit focussed on a range of research projects in tropical ecosystems, specifically on the impacts of agriculture and strategies that could be taken to minimize environmental impacts. The text we used to attract visitors was: Emerging from a Scottish forest you stumble across an orangutan in her nest, with drone footage of her natural habitat. What can this have to do with Scotland? Your food choices affect her habitat, other tropical regions, and the livelihoods of local people. A grocery basket will show you how much of what you eat is tropical. Guess the water used and greenhouse gases emitted producing this food, and then measure it yourself with a gas meter and carbon calculator.

Our research is finding solutions to make this food more sustainable and to protect the livelihoods of people living in vulnerable tropical regions. The most important tropical food is rice. You will see how rice can be selected to grow better with less water by reaching deeper soil with its roots. The other major solution is improving tropical soils. By adding carbon, we will show how they can be restored. Our man dressed as an orangutan was a highlight with kids.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Soils, Organic Resources and Livelihoods Workshop, Addis Ababa 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The workshop took p[lace on 15 January 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It aimed to share key policy related findings from the research alongside other cognate research and discuss its relevance with a variety of stakeholders with interests in policy making around soils and ecosystems, organic resources and livelihoods.

The workshop had 24 participants across academia, policy research, government and other organizations, including stakeholders from the various departments in the Ethiopian government, plus stakeholders from International Organizations including the country representatives of ICRISTA and SNV. Presentations focused on the state of scientific knowledge complemented with presentations and discussions covering the policy context and relevant business experiences from Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda from various non-academic stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Stakeholder Workshop (Halaba, Ethiopia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 3 October 2017, Halaba, Ethiopia
Halaba is the main town in the study region in Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region in Ethiopia. This was part of a 2 day joint workshop drawing on outcomes of IPORE, BREAD, and ALTER (DfiD) projects). It was conducted in Amharic and included as participants the Woreda (Area) Administration, Head from the Woreda Agricultural and Natural resources office, and the Head of Water, energy and electricity, Head of Environment, Forestry and climate change and Head of Livestock and Fishery, Kebele (district) development agents:, administration managers and Kebele chairpersons, community members (women, youth, men), plus representatives from the project team from Hawassa University, Southern Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) and International Water Management Institute plus members of senior management from Hawassa University and SARI. The workshop reported on the emerging results of the projects, with participants helping to critically evaluate the results and their implications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Stakeholder workshop in Hawassa to discuss improving organic resource use and building resilience to drought in rural Ethiopia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A stakeholder workshop involving local and regional government, farmer representatives, NGOs and all project partners was be held at Hawassa University (HU) on 29th November 2016 to discuss the potential of methods to build resilience to drought. This was held jointly with a stakeholder workshop planned for the ESRC IPORE project on organic resource use. Through the workshop, methods were selected for further investigation on the basis of feasibility, acceptability, equity and likelihood of success. This workshop was organised by HU, and involved all project partners.

The outputs from the workshop are
1. A short-list of the most appropriate resilience building methods that merit further analysis,
2. A list of preferred options to improve organic resource use
- Why are they the most appropriate options?
- What are the barriers for uptake?
- How can the barriers be overcome?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Stakeholder workshop on resilience building measures - October 2-3 2017 - Halaba 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop presented outputs from the project to farmers, extension workers and local policy makers. Results were presented as simple key messages on how to improve resilience. Discussions with stakeholders assessed the acceptability of suggested measures.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Stakeholder workshop on soils, ecosystems, organic resources and livelihoods 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact General Introduction - Tewodros Tefera.
- Major challenges to Ethiopian agriculture and resource availability
- Can we achieve goal of Ethiopia as a major African food producer.
- Farming has changed from a subsistence to a money making activity. Is it meeting the right goals?
- ALTER, BREAD and IPORE provided

Aims of Workshops and Introduction of Participants - Awdenegest Moges
- General outputs from the projects was reviewed.

Evidence of soil science research: Ethiopia - Euan Phimister and Tewodros Tefera
- Poverty level: 52% poor and 35% medium. Female headed houses are poorer than male headed.
- Rich get better extension services.

Investment in Soil conservation startegies. Victor Owusu
- Constrasting evidence of land tenure vs. soil water conservation. Relationship between land tenure and investment: Ghana - no relation, Kenya - positive relation, Rwanda - negative relation.
- Reviewed a large number of studies exploring different soil water conservation strategies.

The role of science in watershed management. Tefera Tadesse.
- 83% of Ethiopians work in agriculture.
- Watershed development issues started in the 1980s
- Very good uptake. Needs much more. A major challenge is the socioeconomic aspects not included.
- Community participation with free labour to produce structures at Kebele level.
- Strategies - MERET, PSNP-PW, SLMIP I + II, PASIDP and others. Over 600 Woredas.
- Results from these activities do not meet the Growth and Transformation Plan.
- Changes in social, economic and political situation
- Lack of integration among stakeholders.
- Poor research output on watershed development technologies.
- Need to ingrate more between stakeholders, strengthen research, quality and standard of infrastructure constructed, lack of strategic interventions vased on the land use, land terrain, socio-economy, agroecology and livelihood, documentation etc.

Soil fertility and soil restoration Ethiopian experience - Tegbaru Belete
- ETHIOSIS project
- Blanket fertiliser recommendations provided regardless of crop need, soil types and agroecology
- 100 kg / ha recommended.
- 10% increase in fertiliser has produced only a 5% increase in productivity
- N and P dominate decisions. Other nutrients neglected.
- 2012 ETHIOSIS established. Big objective is to map soil fertility. This is used to assess needs.
- Soil samples gathered from field and analysed. Laboratory analysis mainly in Ethiopia (find out where), data goes into a big library - soil library of the Ethiopian soils. Soils have been all archived so could be accessed for further analysis.
- Stakeholder application from the results. Mobile App development.
- Analysis is done in field or the lab. Spectral analysis.
- Complemented by satellite imagery.
- Central data processes. Feeds into AfSIS.
- 748 Woredas and 59 confluence points surved to date. 80,000 soil samples across country.
- Produced a range of maps to data. Soil fertiliser and type recommendation maps.
- Look into this closely for MIDST-CZO.
- $3.7 billion for fertiliser production by industry.
- 40,000 demonstration plots have been setup on farmer fields demonstrating benefits of fertiliser types.
- 'Knowing Ethiopian soil first' - motto at the beginning of the project.

Organic resources and the NEXUS - Euan Phimister
- Overview of the conflicts between resources on farms.
- Case study of solar PV in Uganda. Significant upfront cost. 35% houses never adopt new technologies due to lack of access to credit.
- Change in organic resource use diversifies range of crops grown. Increased food security at household level. High dietary diversity and better nutrition.
- Shocks to households that make them food insecure lasts far longer than the shock itself. Increase change of being food insecure in following year by 6% and falling below poverty line by 10%

Reducing soil degradation to improve productivity - Resource trade offs - Jo Smith
- Overview of importance of soils to humanity
- Soil carbon in Ethiopia very low compared to rest of world. In Halaba many are below a threshold of what would be considered productive soils.
- 2-7% of agricultural GDP lost due to soil degradation.
- Soil organic matter can be increased by adding organic wastes and increasing crop yield, but decreased by removing residues, crop failure and erosion.
- Focus of the talk is on organic manures incorporated into the soil Fresh waste, compost, bioslurry or biochar.
- Trade-offs - food, water, energy and labour
- ORATOR - combines biophysics with economics
- In Halaba soil carbon increases by 0.25 to 0.34 t / ha / decade
- Composted manure retains more carbon in soil than fresh waste.
- Soil interventions like bunds etc. have a much greater potential impact. Soils on steep slopes need soil water conservation structures before applying organic residues in any form
- Floods and drought from El Nino showed negative impact on soil carbon. Persistent effect even after 10 years.
- Bioslurry and compost have a bigger impact on crop production than fresh residue. Biochar is worst but still has a positive impact.
- Bioslurry increases handling time to 1.5 hours from 1 hour for other organic resources

Biogas and Uganda - Vianney Tumwesige
- Drive for pyrolysis cook stoves or biogas for efficiency, resource use and health reasons.
- Cultural, technical, financial constraints.
- Various technologies explored. Fixed dome digester, floating drum and flexible balloon digesters. Handling of feedstock differs between systems.
- Energy demand is essential to workout. Does not work at institution level. Sometimes not at household level.
- Partial fuel switch does not lead to improved air quality in kitchen. Need a 100% adoption.
- Developed slurry separation technology.
- Water, labour, aftersales support, socioeconomic factors
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019