Ethiopian researchers gathered at the Ethiopia Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) Melkassa Agricultural Research Center and in Adama for a week of sessions focused on sharing updates, asking challenging questions and collaborating on the future potential for sorghum across the value chain.
The week began with the sorghum researchers working across various EIAR initiatives providing research and project progress. The SMIL team brought together researchers from West Africa and members of the SMIL External Advisory Board (EAB) to promote cross-learning and advice from past experiences. This session was hosted at the Melkassa Agricultural Research Center (MARC). Additionally, the visiting researchers were able to learn more about the work at MARC on sorghum, machine threshing, and seed cataloging for a continued focus on preserving the biodiversity of sorghum in its birthplace across Ethiopia.
Mid-week, the focus shifted to the SMIL Annual Meeting for all researchers and stakeholders involved in SMIL-funded research and initiatives. Updates were shared by Tim Dalton, SMIL Director, and Nat Bascom, SMIL Assistant Director, in addition to detailed updates on progress by the project research teams. Again, the West African and EAB teams interacted and shared questions and learning with presenting researchers. The group also learned about three niche market projects filling in-market opportunities identified. These projects are: Characterization and functionality of fermented sorghum and enset flours, Promotion of orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) Blended Sorghum Injera in Eastern Hararghe, Ethiopia and Development and promotion of sorghum forage technologies in Ethiopia.
The sessions were capped with a presentation from Stacy Mayo-Martinez, a SMIL communications and marketing consultant, about evaluating audiences and effectively sharing research results and impact. This presentation is the initial step in ongoing support and tools the SMIL team will create to support the country teams through the conclusion of SMIL in July. Find the presentations from the meeting here: https://smil.ksu.edu/2023-smil-annual-meeting-ethiopia.
The capstone of the week of collaboration was a Sorghum Value Chain Workshop coordinated by the Ethiopian Agriculture Transformation Institute (ATI). This workshop is a multi-phased project funded by SMIL and supported by EIAR. The workshop brought together stakeholders from across the industry, including farmer associations, processors, food producers and universities. The day was grounded with background information on the current outlook of sorghum production and an evaluation of the current and potential growth industries for sorghum utilization in Ethiopia. The report was met with discussion from those younger and more experienced across the industry. Afternoon breakout sessions focused on feed, processed food, and beverages. The next step is to take the industry input and direction and provide recommendations back to the industry.
Conversations and collaboration were not limited to the planned sessions as much cross-pollination and new connections were happening before and after sessions and during breaks. We look forward to more productive conversations and collaboration between Ethiopian researchers and West African researchers and stakeholders during the SMIL annual review meetings in Niamey, Niger in late February.