Land Suitability Mapping for Production of Chickpea, Faba Bean and Malt Barley Varieties in Ethiopia
ICARDA conducted a land suitability mapping for selected varieties of chickpea, faba bean and malt barley in Ethiopia in order to identify where and how much potentially suitable land for a crop and crop variety exists in the country.
Land Suitability Analysis
A land suitability analysis is an evaluation and decision-making process involving several biophysical factors like soils, topography, and climate. The main factors considered in this analysis include climate layers (rainfall and temperature during the growing period and length of growing period-LGP), topography (digital elevation models i.e. altitude and slope data), soil types and soil properties (pH, depth, texture, and drainage). In order to define the limits of the suitability ranges of the crop varieties, existing maps, reports and other relevant information has been reviewed. The data were categorized according to the degree of favourability for each crop variety. Then, environmental requirements of varieties were defined by means of a set of critical values, which determine the limits between the land suitability levels. The suitability classes were set as S1 (very suitable), S2 (moderately suitable), S3 (marginally suitable) and N (unsuitable).
Suitable areas for chickpea, faba bean and malt barley in Ethiopia
Different land areas have varying potential and constraints for appropriate and sustainable agricultural use. In order to get better crops and crops varieties, it is therefore important to identify and map the extent and distribution of land areas that are potentially suitable for a specific crop and crop variety. To assist crop technology targeting and scaling-up in Ethiopia, ICARDA initiated the land suitability mapping for chickpea, faba bean and malt barley varieties.
Ethiopia is characterized by diverse agro-ecologies that sustain its agricultural production and maintain its rich biodiversity. The agriculture sector constitutes 42% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and provides employment for about 85% of the population, which earn their livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture. Nevertheless, despite its high biophysical potential Ethiopia`s agriculture has been facing recurrent challenges and the country remains food insecure due to its ever-increasing population and chronically low agricultural productivity. The situation is exacerbated by inappropriate use of agricultural land leading to land degradation as well as recurrent droughts superimposed by climate variability and change. In order to deal with these challenges, the potential and the constraints of agricultural land must be identified. Then, appropriate decision-making for land use planning and sustainable farming can be taken.
Highly suitable areas vs moderately suitable areas
The analysis results show the extent and patterns of the suitable land area available for selected crop varieties of chickpea (Cicer arientum L.), faba bean (Vicia faba L.) and malt barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). The results are presented in the study in the form of tabular data, maps, and graphs. They show that Amhara, Oromia, SNNP, and Tigray remain the major regions with suitable areas for the production of available varieties of chickpea, faba bean and malt barley compared to Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella and Somali region. However, highly suitable areas are limited compared to moderately suitable areas, which are higher across the regions. In general, areas of highly and moderately suitable lands for most varieties considered in the analysis are smaller than the areas for crop level suitability. However, for chickpea varieties considered in this analysis the highly suitable areas are much larger than the current estimated area under chickpea production in the country. For faba bean and malt barley varieties considered in the analysis the highly suitable areas were found to be smaller than the current estimated area under faba bean and barley production.
As next steps, the study recommends undertaking site-specific analysis and to map the key parameters at higher spatial details. This will help to get a better understanding of the level of scaling-up of the specific crop technology for targeting location-specific recommendation at farm to farming systems level. Furthermore, it is suggested to develop, update and have detailed documents with information on environmental requirements for the different crops and varieties. This will be useful for suitability analysis, mapping and simulation modeling based on research findings, particularly when new varieties are released.