One of the key challenges that the Project faces, is the need to change the mindsets of farmers and wean them off unsustainable or damaging practices that make them increasingly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Damaging practices include over-grazing, for instance, or deep plowing which can damage soil structure and lead to a loss of organic matter.
Farmers also rely on unimproved landraces and believe that risks are best mitigated by increasing the size of the small ruminant herds – despite constraints on feed and other inputs, which result in low quality milk and meat, and poor reproduction.
An important part of the Project’s reform efforts are community consultations, events held to discuss the climate changes that communities have witnessed in living memory and using this as the basis to introduce the concept of climate change and enhance understanding and awareness of the threats posed to local livelihoods.
The consultations have framed community climate change plans. Simple and action-oriented, these plans prioritize adaptation strategies and are designed to help communities cope with the negative effects of climate change.
In practical terms, the program will address the issue of climate change adaptability, leveragng available technologies. The project will provide data for policymakers, NARES, and ministries in the form downscaled climate maps directly relevant to barley-livestock production systems in the target areas, and improve climate change awareness and adaptability through activities at the community level.
Technologies and management practices for barley cultivation and small ruminant production, developed in similar agro-ecological systems, are immediately available for adaptation and adoption in target areas, and offer tangible benefits towards improved food security and income generation.
For barley production, conservation agricultural practices such as zero tillage, early sowing, modified seeding rates and the benefots of reduced inputs and reduced fuel costs have direct benefiits on income.
For livestock production, basic improvements in fertility and productivity through measures such as early weaning and simultaneous milking, correct dosage, and timing of parasite control and feed blocks, yield proven benefits.
This program also provides an opportunity to develop and adapt optimum varieties specifically for use in conservation agriculture under zero tillage, with the improved seed available in sufficient quantities to accomplish the task.