Planting trees for greener livestock production in Ethiopia
As a result of repeated waves of droughts in the 1980s, many areas of northern Ethiopia experienced mass starvation, death, and migration.
Yet some villages not only managed to escape these ills but were also able to continue maintaining and rearing their livestock.
This was all thanks to a variety of Ficus thonningii – a drought-tolerant tree species that were traditionally only used as an ornamental tree when other trees had dried up, but which took on a new role during these periods of drought.
Farmers found that these tree species, when combined in a system with grazing livestock and forage, not only boosted the productivity of the livestock, but also helped to reduce drought and land degradation.
Researchers from Mekelle University have found that the practice, which originated out of the challenges of the 1980s, has now been adopted by more than 20,000 households in northern Ethiopia as of August 2017.
The use of these trees in systems combining trees, forage, and grazing livestock, also known as “silvopastoral” systems, reduced the amount of water used by livestock by up to 83% and also produced more forage biomass for the animals – meaning more nutritious milk and meat.
Through the planting of these trees, and their use alongside grazing livestock, Ethiopian farmers have not only managed to raise livestock that can feed and sustain their communities, but have done so while limiting impactful land and water use.
Researchers now plan to extend these systems across Ethiopia and the surrounding region.
- Farmer knowledge
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
- International Foundation for Sciences
- Ethiopia Ministry of Sciences and Technology
- Ficus thonningii Silvopastures: An Indigenous Innovation for Livelihood Improvement, Climate Change Adaptation and Environmental Resilience in Northern Ethiopia
- Reducing hunger and drought effects in Ethiopia: a miraculous tree
- Silvopastoral system based on Ficus thonningii: an adaptation to climate change in northern Ethiopia