Project

EAU4Food - European Union and African Union cooperative research to increase Food production in irrigated farming systems in Africa

Increase food production at farm level in irrigated areas in Africa by the development of innovations using a transdisciplinary approach, which involves the active participation of all stakeholders, in all relevant disciplines, like biophysics, economy, sociology and agronomy.

Aim

EAU4Food seeks to address the enormous challenges African agriculture is facing today: despite numerous attempts, agricultural productivity has only slightly increased in recent years and, in general, cannot keep up with population growth. In the coming years irrigation will gain importance, but at the same time the availability of fresh water and the sustainable use of soil resources is under increasing pressure. Hence, new approaches are required to increase food production in irrigated areas in Africa, while ensuring healthy and resilient environments.

In the coming years irrigation will gain importance, but at the same time the availability of fresh water and the sustainable use of soil resources is under increasing pressure. Hence, new approaches are required to increase food production in irrigated areas in Africa, while ensuring healthy and resilient environments.

Many previous attempts to improve food production in irrigated areas did not live up to their expectations, because of limited involvement of stakeholders, ill-understood socio-economic structures and/or mono-disciplinary approaches. To overcome these potential pitfalls of successful adoption of innovations, EAU4Food utilizes a true transdisciplinary approach, which involves the active participation of all stakeholders, including farmers, water managers, retailers, policy makers, NGOs, etc. in all relevant disciplines, like biophysics, economy, sociology and agronomy. It develops, tests and implements locally-appropriate, robust and affordable innovations for improved farm performance in irrigated areas, building on existing and traditional practices and irrigation strategies, and driven by farmers and key stakeholders.

Another potential pitfall of implementing innovations is the fragile African environment. In order not to address food production at the expense of environmental degradation, local so called sustainable production thresholds are defined. These thresholds provide the upper limits to which a production factor (e.g. use of water and fertilizer) can be increased without detrimental environmental consequences at different time horizons. Innovations are tested against, and should respect, these thresholds.

Research

EAU4Food is executed in four irrigated zones in Africa, which were purposely selected to be in the southern hemisphere (Mozambique and South-Africa), the northern hemisphere (Tunisia), West Africa (Mali) and East Africa (Ethiopia) to fully benefit from the potential of cross distributing promising strategies and innovations. At each site, key indicators, farm strategies and biophysical parameters are monitored for identification of current constraints to food production and to evaluate agro-ecological and socio-economic impacts of improved practices and/or innovations after implementation.

Results

Results of EAU4Food are distilled into tailor made support tables and guidelines for different user groups. These support tables and guidelines assist in the proper consideration of alternative practices by overseeing short-term and long-term opportunities and risks and hence facilitate decision making processes at local level.

EAU4Food is expected to have significant positive impacts on agricultural production at farm level for many years to come, and on wider policy processes at national and trans-national levels. To enlarge and maintain the impact of EAU4Food, capacity building programmes are developed at different levels, going from farmer to farmer exchange up to exchange of scientific personnel. Moreover, further exploitation of the results of EAU4Food is supported via other mediums such as 'songs of success', documentaries, school programmes, policy briefs, fact-books and scientific publications and presentations.