REFOOTURE is setting up a living lab in Tepi, in the Southwestern part of Ethiopia.
In Tepi, traditional farming prevails. Advancing the production of spices in the existing coffee-based farming system may provide opportunities to improve livelihoods financially, while also advancing the natural resource base such as soils and biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Regenerative agriculture practices have great potential to address the low productivity and quality of smallholder farming systems while preserving health environment. The region is however affected by several barriers related food system transformation like extreme poverty, heavy dependence on traditional farming practices, lack of sufficient extension support, low literacy levels, weak coordination and collaboration among key value chain actors/stakeholders, poor market linkage and lack of sufficient awareness on the benefits of regenerative/ecological farming. These are barriers that the living lab aims to overcome.
In the Northwestern part of Ethiopia, South Achefer, smallholders have gone through major transformation through the adoption of potato production along with management practices leading to relatively high yields and substantial financial returns. The income allowed them to increase their cattle herd. However, potato does not provide by-product to feed animals, compared to maize. Thus, farmers started to plant Rhodes grass for animal feed. Another topic for innovation is that the region is using fertilizers, as recommended, to close yield gaps due to depleted soils and to create sufficient income for farmers. The living lab will explore the benefits of compost as a way to improve soil fertility and crop productivity, in addition or instead of fertilizers. However, manure is now used as fuel, leaving little material for composting. Therefore, the living lab will also explore other ways to improve crop productivity while improving soil fertility.