Interview with Tadele Tefera, Head, icipe Ethiopia Office

What is the background of icipe in Ethiopia?

icipe started its operations in Ethiopia in 1992, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ethiopia subscribed to the icipe Charter. The Centre signed subsequent agreements with various partners like the ministries of agriculture, health, education and science and technology, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, as well as universities, private sectors and non governmental organisations (NGOs). These arrangements gave icipe the mandate to introduce its research and development activities in Ethiopia.

What were the main activities in the first two decades?

As an entry point, in the late 1990s, icipe, with the support of the regional government and the Science and Technology Commission, established a tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis control programme in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS), in Wolayita Zone, Sodo Bedessa District. These activities involved the deployment of 1000 icipe NGU traps, leading to significant reduction of tsetse fly infestation and trypanosomiasis prevalence. As a result, the Science and Technology Commission requested icipe to scale-out the activities to Gurage Zone, Ghibe Valley, in particular the Luke catchment, south-west Ethiopia. Later, in partnership with Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Switzerland icipe expanded the activities to Tolay, Jimma Zone, Oromia Region.

Based on icipe’s success in the control of tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis in Ethiopia, the Centre received requests from the government to initiate interventions for malaria. In 2008, in partnership with Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Switzerland, icipe commenced integratedvector management (IVM) for sustainable control of malaria in Tolay, Oromia Region. Key components included research and demonstration of the effectiveness and impact of the interventions, and capacity building and advocacy of integrated vector management (IVM) at community and policy levels. Between 2013 and 2015, Anopheles arabiensis adult population densities were reduced by 70%, and malaria cases among school children by half.

In 2011, icipe introduced modern beekeeping in Tolay Region in partnership with Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development; and in Tigray Region, through funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The activities included distribution of modern hives, queen excluders and accessories, as well as training. Two honey marketplaces were established to process, package and sell honey. Organic certification of honey and wax has been completed, thus enhancing the marketability and earnings from the products. In 2015, with funding from the European Union, icipe started bee health and pollination research and development activities in Oromia Region, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, and Tigray Region, and the Holeta Bee Research Centre was established as one of four regional satellite stations for bee health in Africa. Other activites included the Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa (CHIESA).

 How has icipe in Ethiopia evolved?

Since 2013, icipe’s presence in Ethiopia has been strengthened tremendously, evidenced by the number of staff (currently, about 90); expansion of geographical coverage to Amhara, Tigray, Benshangul-Gumuz, Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) developmental impacts and recognition by government partners.

The projects implemented during this period by the icipe Ethiopia Office include: Integrated Biological Control Applied Research Program (IBCARP, implemented from 2011-2021, funded by the European Union) to scale-up tsetse fly, fruit fly and push-pull activities; Advocacy for Agroecology, using the push-pull technology as a model (2020-2022, supported by Biovision Foundation); Rice, Maize and Chickpea Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for East Africa (2015-2021, funded by USAID through the IPM Innovation Lab); An integrated approach to mango production (2021-2023, supported by Biovision Foundation); Demonstrating tsetse and trypanosomosis management technologies with pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in Borana, Ethiopia (2020-2022, funded SDC); Combating Arthropod Pests for Better Health, Food and Resilience to Climate Change (CAP-Africa, implemented from 2018-2023, funded by Norad), and Improving food and nutritional security through integrated control of tsetse fly and tick-borne livestock diseases (2019-2023, funded by BMZ/GIZ), in Benishangul-Gumuz Region.

In early 2016, icipe and Mastercard Foundation commenced a partnership to enhance youth employment in Ethiopia through beekeeping and silk farming enterprises. Through the Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey project (YESH project, implemented from October 2015 – November 2021), and the More Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey (MOYESH) project, which commenced in October 2019 and will run until September 2024, 11,877 youth-led beekeeping enterprises and 1,117 youth-led sericulture enterprises have been established, leading to direct jobs for about 144,082 young people, 82,603 of them women. The two initiatives have had a transformative effect on Ethiopia’s apiculture and sericulture sectors, capitalising on advantages while contributing to system-level changes to unlock bottleneck. In December 2023, icipe and the Mastercard Foundation  signed a five-year agreement for a new initiative that will leverage and scale-up these achievements, incorporating an even wider consortium of partners, and a more ambitious goal of directly benefiting 1 million unemployed young people. Dubbed the Mass Youth Employment in Apiculture Programme (MaYEA) in Ethiopia, the programme targets 80% of its employment opportunities to vulnerable, rural, and peri-urban young women, and an additional 10% to people with disabilities and refugees. 

In 2022, icipe  with  the support of Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation (SDC) introduced the Insect-Based Protein Feed Technologies and Practices for Enhanced Poultry Production in Ethiopia (SIPFEEDETH). This initiative is contributing to the emergence of a novel insect-based sector, including the development, in collaboration with the Institute of Ethiopia Standards (IES), of the country's first standard policy for dried insect-based protein feed after being approved by the Council of Ministers. 

What is the contribution of the icipe Ethiopia Office to basic science?

In most of our projects, we include a basic science component. For example, we have students conducting research on fall armyworm, which has led to the identification of natural enemies of the pest in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. These studies are being advanced to determine the most ideal field release conditions for the natural enemies. We also have scholars generating knowledge around the push-pull technology, for example in regard to climate change adaptation and soil fertility improvement. Several students are engaged in research to bring various components like biopesticides, botanical extracts, biological control agents and pheromone traps, to create integrated pest management approach for rice, chick peas, maize, and mango.

What is the impact of the activities of the icipe Ethiopia Office on the Centre’s overall operations?

A good example is the YESH and MOYESH projects, which have increased the number and diversity of partners collaborating with icipe. These include various agencies along the honey and silk value chain, including government, non-government, financial institutions, private sectors, and communities. The MOYESH project has created new experiences in implementing large scale grants, and its target of over 100,000 beneficiaries has enabled us to increase our implementation capacity. This initiative is also providing insights into novel development models, for example, the value chain approach and socioeconomic information on behaviour change of partners, as well as aspects like social capital and knowledge capital. These activities also provide opportunities for a One Health approach, for example, finding synergies such asincluding  push-pull into beekeeping, beekeeping into fruit fly control, and so on.