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Trialing climate-resistant forage grass to support small farmers in Ethiopia

Progress stage
Jun 2024 to May 2027
  • Ethiopia
  • Agriculture
  • Jun 2024 to May 2027

This project, led by researchers from Haramaya University, aims to study the effects of introducing a drought-resistant grass species in Ethiopia. The project team will conduct a participatory pilot trial with farmers in the East Hararghe zone to assess the take-up of “lyme grass” in productive farming, with the aim of increasing small-scale farmers’ resilience to drought, and boosting livestock and crop productivity.

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In Ethiopia, more than 80% of the population lives in rural areas where agricultural productivity is low. The main problems faced by the country’s agricultural sector remain a lack of resources, low crop and livestock productivity, land degradation and recurrent periods of drought. More specifically, in arid and semi-arid agroecological zones (covering 50% of the country’s surface area) crop and livestock productivity (Ashenafi et al., 2019) is reduced due to soil and water salinity (Qureshi et al., 2018).

With a population of over 4 million people, the East Hararghe zone, located in eastern Ethiopia, lacks sufficient pasture land and has been hit by recurrent periods of drought that are jeopardizing agricultural production and livestock farming. Chemical fertilizers are rarely used because of their cost, and the scarcity of plant biomass means that the use of organic composting (worm composting) is also minimal. This has led to a decline in the soil's water holding capacity, leaving crops vulnerable to drought and resulting in smaller yields.

Finally, the poor quality and lack of fodder, which accounts for 75.7% of animal production constraints in the region (Tamrat et al., 2021), poses multiple challenges. Dependence on crop residues (mainly sorghum and maize stalks) as the main feed source causes health problems in livestock, which struggle to digest these residues, thus leading to impaired development. The scarcity of available fodder also impacts the food security of the region’s inhabitants, without access to large quantities of meat, and especially affects children aged from 0 to 60 months, who may suffer from developmental delays and undernutrition (Shimelis et al., 2020).


A team from Haramaya University conducted research to explore the potential of “Lyme Grass” (Leymus arenarius), a type of forage grass that could provide a solution to improving soil management and preventing erosion. This plant has a range of characteristics particularly suited to conditions in Ethiopia, with its ability to bind soil and its resistance to climate stress (drought, soil erosion, salty or alkaline soils and low fertility), offering a promising option for farmers in the rural areas affected (Anamthawat-Jónsson, 1995). While this species of grass has already been used in northern Europe to combat soil erosion and stabilize sand dunes, it has not yet been cultivated for livestock feed.

Funding from the FID will be used to conduct a participatory pilot trial with farmers. Product planting and worm composting equipment will be distributed prior to the study, and training provided in the cultivation of “Sea Lyme Grass”, so that the product’s feasibility and effectiveness can be tested.

Expected results

The project aims to demonstrate how the use of “Sea Lyme Grass”, which is resistant to climate stress, can increase the resilience of small-scale farms. The adaptability of this grass and its capacity to grow in salty soils could help increase agricultural productivity and restore degraded land, which is crucial to increasing the amount of available arable land.

Furthermore, increasing the land given over to fodder would lead to an increase in meat production and greater food security for the local inhabitants.

Finally, the use of drought-resistant forage grass would help promote sustainable agricultural practices, and help farmers better adapt to climate change.

Montagne en Ethiopie
Haramaya University

Haramaya University

Haramaya University is a public university in Ethiopia that was founded in 1954. The team will organize training sessions with stakeholders, design a plan for pilot trial sites, oversee the planting process and manage data collection. The project will be implemented in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).


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