Addressing the needs of communities in the Southern Rift Valley of Ethiopia

As the guiding principle, we intend to focus our research on improving ecosystem services while enhancing agricultural productivity in a sustainable way. Motivation for this is easily obtained from observing that the basic economic activities in this area of the country are agriculture, fishing, ecotourism and small trading. Traditional crop and animal husbandry are characterized by very poor efficiency and low productivity. Consequently, poor livelihoods, food insecurity and poor health status thrive in many parts of the region. Poor agricultural management has caused severe land degradation. This aggravates terrestrial/aquatic biodiversity loss and challenges sustainable development. Hence, improving agricultural productivity, socioeconomic and health status and reducing land degradation are key to sustain livelihood in the target region. Knowledge on how these key-aspects interact and drive development is ill-developed for the region and insufficiently backed up by academic research. As a matter of fact, most of the research and academic institutions, including AMU, are not sufficiently empowered to undertake quality research to generate policy recommendations on the above issues.

Yet, and due to the program for higher education expansion, stipulated in the first growth and transformation plan of Ethiopia, a number of new campuses with new programs have been launched at AMU. The limited number of experienced staff and the dated infrastructure of AMU, however, has impeded the provision of quality education. Library and ICT facilities are insufficient, information accessibility is poor and lab facilities below standard for teaching, learning and research activities. With a dearth of qualified staff and up-to-date facilities, university education and research are falling short to answer the challenges for a sustainable development in the region. Therefore, this programme proposal has the ambition to fill the persistent gaps in human capacity (knowledge, attitude, and skills), information management (ICT Library) and research facilities through VLIRIUOS cooperation.

Forty springs, forty nations, finding common ground for sustainable development in the South Ethiopian Rift Valley