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  • Periodic Report Summary 3 - EAU4FOOD (European Union and African Union cooperative research to increase Food production in irrigated farming systems in Africa/ EAU4Food)

Periodic Report Summary 3 - EAU4FOOD (European Union and African Union cooperative research to increase Food production in irrigated farming systems in Africa/ EAU4Food)

Project Context and Objectives:
The principle objectives of EAU4Food were to design, test and disseminate new and effective soil and water management strategies, which will allow African farmers to increase food production and achieve sustainable use of irrigation water, conserve soil fertility and reduce pollution of fresh water reserves. EAU4Food supports the wise use of water resources at irrigation system and farm level simultaneously with adequate soil management practices to counteract the general decline of natural resources. By doing so, EAU4food facilitated the development of socially acceptable, environmentally sustainable and economically profitable production systems.
EAU4Food had been designed and implemented as a transdisciplinary research project, where researchers from multiple disciplines and stakeholders across different levels are co-investigating and co-developing innovative solutions.

Innovation is understood in EAU4Food as transforming inventions and new approaches into practice. New approaches to increase water productivity in irrigated areas therefore need to be accompanied by attitude and practice changes. EAU4Food innovations also seek to enhance convergence between water and agriculture systems. EAU4Food is implemented at 5 countries in Africa, reflecting different experiences and irrigation practices.
In this context, EAU4Food had concentrated on two major focal points:
• effective co-creation of innovations
• embedding results in current African policies and programs to address economic growth, food security and sustainable development

The applied approach using LPA's and CóP's had bee experienced as promising to achieve local innovations, if the enabling environment is given. Factors outside the farmers influence need to be addressed with institutional innovations. Locally built capacity is now available and should be used to faciliate such institutional innovation.

Project Results:
WP1: Methodology for transdisciplinary approach: The EAU4Food consortium had successfully established in Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Mali and Tunisia both the Learning Practice Alliances (LPA) as well as the Community of Practice (COP) platforms. Both LPAs and COPs had formed the operational bases for the elaboration of transdisciplinary innovations. The transdisciplinary approach is accepted by scientific community and by the wider stakeholder community.
The transdisciplinary approach has enabled EAU4Food with an opportunity to have real impact and to enable an uptake of agricultural innovations beyond localised experiments or case study areas, given the right resources and careful consideration of context. However, building relationships of trust and achieving impact within a four year time period is an ambitious goal, and EAU4Food researchers had to overcome a number of difficulties in ensuring effective participation and innovation uptake. Although there is room for improvement within the constraints of the project, for example communicating more effectively at policy-level, many factors are simply beyond researchers’ control. These include: high turnover of government staff, competing agendas and existing tensions among stakeholders, which hamper engagement in the innovation process and platforms; natural or socio-political upheavals, for example civil unrest and severe flooding, which disrupt the research; and water scarcity, lack of access to other inputs, and labour constraints, which are some of the factors that hinder innovation uptake by farmers. Several lessons could be usefully learned from the EAU4Food experience. Most importantly, local capacity to facilitate transdisciplinary approaches and string interaction between the research, farmers, and governmental bodies were created.

WP2 – Experimental trials and modelling were carried-out to improve crop production, in particular to increase crop yields per volume of water used.
On many occasions, yield (Y) increased several-fold, suggesting that the implementation of knowledge and intensification of agriculture could contribute to closing the yield gap. Similarly, water use efficiency (WUE) increased with innovations compared to conventional farming, indicating that intensive farming can be more sustainable than conventional farming practices.
The experience gained underlined that the comparison of innovation performance across regions and different crops is still difficult. The expression of Y and WUE as a fraction of potential crop yields Ypot and WUEmax at least allowed to demonstrate the relative impact of innovation for a given crop. The annual influence or crop diseases and the changes in soil fertility when using a former unproductive land are important, so that the performance monitoring should to stretch at least over a longer period of 5 – 10 harvesting seasons.

WP3 – Transdisciplinary development and implementation of innovations:
The first criterion for reflecting on the innovation process is, of course and by definition, to evaluate the adoption by farmers or other stakeholders. An innovation that is not adopted is … not an innovation. The timeframe of a project like Eau4Food is too short to judge long-term or even mid-term adoption, so we can only rely on short-term information, that are largely influenced by the players themselves - who are also the evaluators. Reporting on implementation is biased by the request of reporting the “success stories”. Nevertheless, all case study regions appeared to be at the fringe of stepping towards innovation, but still have massive institutional, organizational or capacity challenges to overcome. The following innovations had been tested:
- Gumsalasa irrigation scheme: Simple irrigation scheduling, Pest control, Fertilizer research, Organic amendments.
- Chókwè irrigation scheme: Compost production, Strategic Plan for Drainage and Maintenance in the Irrigated Scheme of Chókwè, Testing the Low Pressure “Low Energy” Drip Irrigation; investigating innovative rice production.
- Giyani: field trials focused on tomato, mulching and markteing
- KO2: Direct seeding with pre-germinated rice seeds, the use of selective herbicides, and advices on the production management
Brahmi scheme and Kairouan: Disseminating agricultural innovations through farmer groups, Enhancing dairy production,
WP4 – Upscaling and guidelines for lasting improvement: Simulation of impacts. A framework was elaborated to harmonize the application of modelling tools (multi scales) and to indicate the necessary steps for the development the scenarios. The models were used during this reporting period to supply the comparative analyses within WP2 with relevant input information.
WP 5- Dissemination, capacity building and knowledge sharing: Promotion of the EAU4Food approach to the wider African stakeholder community. EAU4Food is regularly discussed with the CAADP Head. Five newsletters were issued in English French Arabic and Portuguese, 2 PhD sandwich student are making progress. The Africa irrigation Factbook and Farmer Information Cards are being developed.
In cooperation with several projects from the Africa Cluster a documentary movie had been completed: “Agriculture, water and climate change in Africa” The Film EAU4FOOD- Africa Turns Green. A special issue for ICID is under preparation.

Potential Impact:
EAU4Food had demonstrated at a wider group of farmers, ways how to tackle the problems as being perceived by the farming communities. Transfer of inspiring approaches took place in the CoPs. The innovations addressed irrigation scheduling, fertilization, testing varieties (Tomato seedlings, pre-germinated rice), maintenance of canal systems, and marketing issues. In some cases results had led to the discussion of establishing farmer cooperatives to strengthen the organizational capacity of the farmers. In the case of Ethiopia, the project created additional exposure of the farming community; the government took then action to rehabilitate the gate of the dam, which is essential for implementing advanced irrigation scheduling. Overall a first shift in mind-set was reached, though it need to be recognized that there are issues beyond the influence of local farmers. In all case study areas a continuation of the cooperation between the private sector, the government (in particular extension services) and the knowledge sector is demanded. Ways are now under investigation how to formalize this cooperation, so that it can be a long lasting platform for boosting regional development.

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