Vital Signs prepares a baseline assessment for Ethiopia

  • May 29, 2018
  • Posted by: Tabby Njunge

By Monica Nooon and Tabby Njung'e

On May 18, 2018, CI's Vital Signs organized a stakeholder workshop in Addis Ababa, to understand baseline data needs for sustainable agriculture, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in Ethiopia. The workshop brought together various stakeholders from development, research and government institutions to discuss existing datasets on agriculture, livelihoods and conservation in Ethiopia, gaps on existing data and availability of sources and quality of these data. 

With support from the Packard Foundation, CI’s Vital Signs is implementing an Agriculture, Livelihoods, and Conservation (ALC) initiative to establish baselines for Ethiopia. The project is envisioned to contribute to development of data-driven policy, and evidence-based approaches for sustainable production. As part of this work, Vital Signs is compiling datasets to inform baseline assessments to map areas where investments in sustainable agriculture can be prioritized to improve livelihoods and conserve threatened biodiversity. So far, draft atlases for Ethiopia have been developed ( These atlases provide information on livelihoods and production systems, socioeconomic variables disaggregated by gender, and natural capital essential for sustaining humans and wildlife, and are being updated with additional datasets as they become available. The data assessment once completed, will be used to inform programs and the government on sustainable farmer livelihood interventions in Ethiopia.

The program commenced with opening words from Dr. Peter Alele, Director of Vital Signs who described the mission of Conservation International (CI) and Vital Signs. Etenesh Asfaw, ALC Specialist from the Packard Foundation gave introductions on the foundation’s work in Ethiopia over the last 20 years which has previously focused on reproduction health and population. The foundation has recognized the need to help these populations to come up with a sustainable livelihood option and agriculture been a main threat to conservation hence the ALC initiative.

After a thorough review of the draft baseline atlas and functionalities, participants suggested a set of data on agriculture, biodiversity, socioeconomic aspects that they would like added. Water resource availability and distribution was noted to be key given the changing climate and increasing demands including for irrigation purposes.

In general, there was an expressed need for the capacity to collect, manage and analyze data and communicate across sectors and institutions. There may be a lot of data available, but it is not updated regularly, in a usable (digital) format, nor is it maintained or collected in a standardized format. The best available datasets often come out of partnerships with larger agencies (UN, CIAT, ISRIC, ATA etc.). At the end of the workshops, the participants also suggested the possibility of having an offline version.

Moving forward, Vital Signs will finalize on the draft atlas through adding datasets received from identified partners narrowing on South western Ethiopia- an area of interest to the foundation as well conduct online webinar trainings.

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