Improving Water Productivity of Cereals and Food Legumes in the Atbara River Basin of Eritrea

Published on 5 August 2010

Research Areas




Start Date: 15 July 2004 | End Date: 30 April 2010


Eritrea is among the ten poorest countries in the world. In 1997, two-thirds of its population (2.2 million people) were undernourished, and 40 percent of children under the age of five were suffering from malnutrition. The war with Ethiopia and the droughts and famines that affected the country in the 1970s, 1980s, and more recently in 2002 have resulted in major disruption and population movement, especially in rural areas. The agricultural support network is in a state of disrepair, food production has dropped to about 40 percent over the last decade, and the technology base has changed little over the last 30 years. Agriculture is affected by recurrent droughts. A sixth of the Eritrea population, or more than 0.6 million people, live within the Mereb-Gash and Tekeze-Setit basins.

There is considerable potential to develop the agriculture sector by increasing the water productivity of crops in Eritrea. A multidisciplinary team will be assembled involving the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the CGIAR Systemwide Program on Participatory Research and Gender Analysis (PRGA Program) at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Department of Agricultural Research and Human Resource Development (DARHRD) and other departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, the College of Agriculture of Asmara University, and other nonprofit development agencies. The CPWF project will contribute to enhancing food security and alleviating poverty for those who need it the most in the Atbara basin by strengthening agricultural research, seed and extension systems in the use of gender-sensitive participatory approaches to increasing crop water productivity, using low-cost inputs, while minimizing risk and ensuring sustainability of production.The research will be conducted utilizing the available indigenous knowledge. Farmers will be partners in technology development with extension and research, with full decision-making power in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The technologies and management practices identified will be disseminated to nonparticipating farming communities. Community-based seed multiplication schemes will be promoted by establishing local enterprises and developing locally manufactured seed-processing facilities.

The project will produce new varieties of cereals and food legumes, which have proven farmer acceptability, with associate management practices, in partnership with farmers; establish seed systems that supply farmers with quality seed in a sustainable manner; enhance farmers’ skills in participatory research and in community-based seed production; strengthen the capacity of national institutions to carry out participatory research and technology transfer, and to monitor and assess the impact of their research; strengthen linkages between research, seed and extension departments by working together in cooperation with farmers and farmer communities.

The main beneficiaries of the material developed by the project will be the people living in the Atbara river basin in Eritrea. They will benefit from the new technologies. The research and extension staff will acquire increased capacity to conduct participatory research for crop improvement. The decision makers will use the results and the methodology of the project to extend it to other crops. Other IARC and NARES will be able to use the methodologies and the knowledge generated by the project.


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