Lulseged Desta, landscape ecologist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), introduces himself and his work with the program. It is one of a series of portraits of key people in Africa RISING.
Tell us about your background
I have a BA in geography from Addis Ababa University, a masters degree in applied remote sensing and GIS from Cranfield University, UK and a PhD in landscape ecology and natural resource management from the University of Bonn, Germany. I started my career at the Mekelle University as a lecturer and I was a postdoc with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn before joining CIAT as landscape ecologist.
Give us a brief overview of what you do in your current position
In the Africa RISING Ethiopian highlands project, I am involved in identifying and implementing integrated land and water management options to restore degraded areas and improve overall system productivity. I cover different areas including spatial analysis, landscape modelling, erosion and degradation, sustainable land management, landscape restoration, socio-ecological modeling and agronomy.
What would you say most motivates you in your work?
I  motivated by the work of analysing landscape processes handling and spatial dynamics including ‘landscape-plot level process integration’. More specifically I enjoy working across disciplines because it gives me different perspectives. In addition to this, I feel happy when I am engaged in applied research activities.
What do you think is unique about Africa RISING?
This program is unique because if applies sustainable intensification in an integrated manner and because of its collaboration approach which brings together CGIAR centres and local partners at different levels in systems research. If the program successfully accomplishes its goal, it will provide key inputs on how system research can be developed and implemented.
What are the biggest challenges in the program and how do we deal with them?
The major challenges I see are in coordinating different CGIAR centres’ activities and trying to answer systems-related questions such as defining sustainability and developing indicators to measure it. But the experience we have so far is helping to produce interesting outputs and recommendations.
What are some of the main achievements of Africa RISING?
The main achievements of the program is the joint implementation of programs by different centres. There are also key outputs in terms of landscape planning—marrying sustainable land management (SLM) options with alternatives for livestock feed, guidelines to develop fertilizer input recommendation and development-related outcomes on how farmers are benefiting from SLM, irrigation, forages and agroforestry.
What gives you hope looking at a possible second phase, based on the first phase?
For such a big and complex project, the first phase covers strategizing, learning and understanding socio-ecological processes that can help implement intensification in a sustainable manner. As a result, the second phase will be pulling the knowledge and experience into action and at scale. I think we are now at a stage of knowing which technologies could work well and where. Therefore the second phase will be the time to ‘roll-out’ and test these in different socio-ecological and political domains and to conduct integrated interventions considering the ‘landscape-farm-plot’ continuum.

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