Increasing soil salinization is the major cause of reduced natural biodiversity as well as farm and livestock productivity in Ethiopia and South Sudan. With 11 million hectares of salt-affected soils, Ethiopia stands first in Africa in the extent of area of salt-affected soils due to human-induced and natural causes. These areas are mainly concentrated in the Rift Valley, Awash and Wabi-Shebelle River Basins, and various other lowlands and valley bottoms. The major salt-affected lands in South Sudan are in the White Nile irrigation schemes. These areas have hardly been utilized for agricultural production despite having great potential due to fresh water availability from Nile. Increasing the productivity of existing salt-affected lands and protecting newly developed areas from the spread of salinity is therefore of paramount importance.
Both Ethiopia and South Sudan have high livestock numbers. Ethiopia has over 120 million heads of cattle, sheep, goats, camels, horses, and donkeys, whereas South Sudan has 42 million heads of cattle, sheep, and goats, the highest livestock per capita in the world. Fodder production for such a large population of livestock is a huge challenge for both countries. Therefore, there is a strong need for improved forage varieties that are resistant to biotic (pests and diseases) and abiotic stresses such as drought and salinity.
The project aims at attaining higher agricultural productivity, food security and income for smallholder farmers, agro-pastoral/pastoral communities by promoting most appropriate technologies and practices for rehabilitation and sustainable management of irrigated salt-affected farming systems in Ethiopia and South Sudan and draw lessons for scaling up.