Retreats provide a good opportunity for staff to understand each other, reflect on working relationships, and network, which leads to team building and cohesion. Most importantly, retreats provide ideal settings to review project achievements, reflect on working modalities and plan for the work ahead. These and more were the outcomes of a three-day Africa RISING Ethiopian Highlands Project team retreat held recently in the town of Bahir Dar from 3–5 February 2020.

 ‘We will get the best out of this retreat if you give it your passion, commitment and energy,’ Project Chief Scientist, Kindu Mekonnen advised as he formally opened the retreat. ‘We have to come out with good recommendations if we are to build a good team that can achieve the deliverables,’ he added.

The chief scientist’s sentiments were echoed by those of the Project Manager, Peter Thorne, who expressed optimism about the outcome of the retreat noting that staff should use the opportunity to reflect on how to be more efficient and effective in their work.

Million Getnet (ILRI; front space) explains a point to colleagues during Africa RISING Ethiopian Highlands project review, planning and retreat  meeting held in Bahr Dar, Ethiopia on 3-5 February 2020. Photo credit: Haimanot Seifu/ILRI
Million Getnet of ILRI (front) explains a point to colleagues at the retreat (photo credit: Haimanot Seifu/ILRI).

On the first day of the meeting, participants focused their discussions on reviewing progress and achievements of 2019 activities and then, in the second and third day, focused attention on planning for project actions in 2020. It was evident from the numerous discussions that a substantial amount of activities had been successfully implemented in 2019.

Noteworthy highlights of the presentations included:

  • A significant increase in farmers’ and local partners access to livestock feed and forage varieties evaluated by the project was reported during the meeting. Innovative partnership arrangements were also unveiled with local universities like Raya University and Wukro Saint Mary College in Tigray Region where students were also evaluating some of the forage varieties. To address the challenge of access to forage seed, the project team also shifted the seed multiplication approach from individual farms to farmers training centres (FTCs). As for seed multiplications, in all sites there seem to be impressive shift from informal seed production, where farmers exchanges seeds in  traditional ways, to a formal seed multiplication system through seed enterprises and unions.
  • There was also an impressive number of capacity building trainings for farmers which were organized in 2019 across the four sites in Amhara, Oromia and Tigray regions. These training ranged from feed and forage development, building improved feed troughs, to seed production.
  • Several high-level events to engage national policymakers at regional and zonal government levels were also organized to mobilize support for project activities with the aim of reaching more farmers with Africa RISING validated technologies.
Colleagues participating in team building. Photo credit: Haimanot Seifu/ILRI
Colleagues participating in a team building exercise (photo credit: ILRI/Haimanot Seifu).

The meeting ended with a planning session in which partners presented their forecasts of the next production season (2020). Each partner highlighted how they will adjust their approaches to improve areas of agricultural production, support the establishment of a farmers’ academy and use digital media to enhance Africa RISING support in Ethiopia.

Read notes from meeting

See pictures from meeting

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