Decoding sustainable development pathways of Ethiopia: Key takeaways from the 2023 FABLE Ethiopia workshop

With a rapidly growing population and unresolved food security issues, Ethiopia is continuously seeking an effective pathway towards sustainable development.

Authors: Yonas Getaneh, Kalkidan Mulatu, Yodit Balcha, Degefie Tibebe, and Yirgalem Nigussie.

This blog was originally published in the Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT website.

The recent Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-Use, and Energy (FABLE) workshop, held from 31st July – 2nd August 2023, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, provided valuable insights into the potential of the FABLE-Ethiopia country team to assess the synergies and trade-offs of different national development targets and identify sustainable pathways . During this event, we explored the lessons learned and the potential of the FABLE calculator for creating a more sustainable future. At the start of the workshop, Professor Beyene Petros, the director of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) stated that:

“The objectives of FABLE are truly inspiring, as they encompass cross-cutting issues relevant to many research divisions within our institution. We address a range of critical issues, including food security, agricultural production, climate change, environmental degradation, land use change, deforestation, and other related concerns. However, many of these issues stem from policy gaps and undefined development objectives. For instance, the lack of a land use policy is driving unsustainable utilization of natural resources in the country. We hope to get insightful findings from the FABLE activities, to support us in addressing these issues.”

The FABLE Consortium and Scenathons

The FABLE consortium is a global network of national teams made up of local research and policy organizations that work together to develop national-level food and land-use strategies aligned with global goals. There are currently 23 FABLE member countries, with more countries joining each year. FABLE's member countries participate in FABLE Scenathons ('Scenario-Marathons') where national development pathways are combined with development plans, for the rest of the world to see the cumulative effect of these pathways towards global sustainability goals by mid-century. This process helps countries to see how they contribute to achieving global food, biodiversity, forest, climate, and water security goals, and where stronger international collaboration and ambitions are needed to achieve these objectives.

As part of the FABLE consortium, Ethiopia’s FABLE team has contributed valuable insights - notably through the PSI, at inception. The group has contributed to the global Scenathon databases by developing Ethiopia's participation, and the group has also published insightful scientific findings on the nation's Food and Land use pathways, using the FABLE calculator results.

Since the initial FABLE Scenathon report, the FABLE calculator has been remarkably transformed into a cutting-edge, multisectoral development assessment tool. The 2023 Ethiopian FABLE team assembled to re-examine the county's development plans, updating the calculator and sharing the results with relevant stakeholders and institutions. The team consisted of researchers from the Policy Studies Institute, Ministry of Water and Energy and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

The 2023 FABLE Ethiopia workshop: Guiding the promising journey of emerging country teams

Dr. Wuletawu Abera, a Senior Scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International - CIAT, has expressed keen interest in collaborating with the FABLE consortium and team through the Nexus Gains initiative. He shared his perspective, stating,

"One of the CGIAR initiatives, Nexus Gains, is endorsing this collaboration and the endeavors of FABLE, recognizing it as a valuable tool for conducting foresight, evaluating trade-offs, and analyzing synergies among crucial indicators within the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem (WEFE) framework."

Within that context, the global and country FABLE teams collaborated in conducting a three day capacity-building training and customization of the FABLE calculator within the Ethiopian context. The FABLE Secretariat, namely Katya Pérez Guzmán (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Alliance BI-CIAT) and Maria Diaz (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network), co-facilitated the workshop from July 31 to August 2, 2023, in Addis Ababa. Twelve experts from the country team, representing PSI, the Ministry of Water and Energy, and Alliance BI-CIAT, participated. The core objectives of the workshop were to enhance the capacity of the country team in utilizing the FABLE calculator, to delve into Ethiopia's development pathways across different scenarios, and to collaboratively identify stakeholders to engage with to inform FABLE Ethiopia's ongoing initiatives.

2023 FABLE Ethiopia workshop participants eagerly putting the FABLE calculator to the test. (Credits: Yonas Getaneh)

The workshop focused on three core objectives: an informative technical session on the FABLE calculator, lively discussions on Ethiopia's development pathways, and a stakeholder mapping activity. During the technical session, participants eagerly put the FABLE calculator to the test the different scenarios for Ethiopia's development, with a focus on the Food, Land, and Biodiversity modules. This was done with special attention to the competition on land from conflicting national targets set for production, restoration, and conservation from agriculture, forestry, and biodiversity sectors. Some of the evaluated targets are national landscape restoration targets under the AFR 100 regional goal, national level food and nutrition strategy targets developed by the Ethiopian public health institute, and the national protected area expansion targets by the Ethiopian biodiversity Institute. In addition, the government is interested to see the position of agroecology in the development trajectory of the country. In this regard, the team shared views and envisages to develop scenarios that considers the contribution of agroecology in the development of optimized sustainable agricultural development pathways of the country.

Participants being guided during the 2023 FABLE Ethiopia workshop (Credits: Yonas Getaneh)

In the discussion sessions, participants explored Ethiopia's development pathways across different scenarios, which were developed based on a literature review to represent different possible futures for the country. Participants then discussed the challenges and opportunities in measuring the progress of these pathways using the FABLE platform. Finally, the team set in motion a comprehensive framework for stakeholder consultation. This framework will be used to ensure that FABLE Ethiopia's ongoing initiatives are informed by the needs and priorities of all stakeholders. The workshop was then concluded by setting the way forward to future activities of the FABLE Ethiopia team.

Maria Diaz, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Manager of the FABLE Consortium, commented:

“As the FABLE Secretariat, we are truly inspired by the collaborative efforts of the FABLE Ethiopia team in their pursuit of sustainable development pathways. The 2023 FABLE Ethiopia workshop exemplifies the power of interdisciplinary cooperation in addressing complex challenges. This event has showcased the potential of the FABLE calculator as a transformative tool for shaping Ethiopia's sustainable future. We look forward to witnessing the continued progress and impact of Ethiopia's contributions within the global FABLE consortium."

Meet the FABLE Ethiopia team