Intensification


CIMMYT and Wageningen University are looking for three highly motivated and inquisitive PhD candidates to investigate the development trajectories of cereal-based systems in Mexico, South Asia and Ethiopia, major drivers of change, and impacts on agroecosystem processes across spatial and temporal scales. This knowledge will be used to analyse and explore how promising technological and institutional innovations targeting sustainable intensification can more effectively improve rural livelihoods and environmental quality in these agro-ecosystems to better inform development actions and policy.

For more information click here

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded CNFA (a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating economic growth and improving rural livelihoods by empowering the private sector) a contract to implement the Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Growth Project (AGP-LGP) over the course of five years.  As part of USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative, AGP-LGP will foster growth, create jobs for rural households, and reduce hunger and malnutrition through increased competitiveness of selected livestock value chains in meat and dairy. The project is a key USAID contribution to the Government of Ethiopia’s Agricultural Growth Program (AGP), whose objective is to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crop and livestock products in targeted woredas with increased participation of women and youth.

More information from the CNFA website

The FAO has published the paper: Crop residue based densified total mixed ration: A user-friendly approach to utilise food crop by-products. In this publication, the authors argue that “crop residues are valuable resources since they form a bulk of ruminant feed in many tropical countries. Due to lack of effective management of these resources, unfortunately they are being burnt in some countries, causing environmental pollution. The digestibility of crop residues and other low quality forages can be increased through the action of rumen microbes by strategically mixing nitrogen and minerals that are deficient in these feed resources. The increase in digestibility of crop residues and low quality forages, in turn also increases their intake. Both these phenomena enhance the efficiency of nutrient utilization from these feed resources in animal food chains.

To achieve this, the present paper discusses a technology based on the formation of a complete diet in the form of densified feed blocks or pellets from straws mixed with minerals, oil seed cakes and other agroindustrial by-products. The methods for preparation of such total mixed rations, their use and impact have been presented. It is hoped that this technology will enhance income of farmers, decrease environmental pollution and help alleviate shortage of good quality feeds in tropical countries. In addition, the feed produced in the densified form as blocks or pellets could also provide complete feed to livestock in emergency situations. Public-private partnership is expected to enhance the application and impact of this technology”.

This publication is available from the FAO website

“The ‘Second Phase’ of the SLP crop residue project has begun in Ethiopia and Bangladesh and will continue in Zimbabwe and Niger shortly. In this phase of the project, a participatory and collaborative approach is being taken in order to understand constraints faced by farmers and other stakeholders, and to generate knowledge that can inform future action.

The work, led by Dr Beth Cullen (ILRI) in collaboration with other researchers from ILRI, ICRISAT, IITA, CIMMYT and local partner institutions, has consisted of presenting highlights from survey work to farmers from selected villages in each of the sites of the SLP crop residue project. Basic graphs were prepared to help farmers visualize the results and these acted as a starting point for further discussion. Topics covered included: cropping patterns, crop residue use and competition, feeding strategies and livestock productivity, impact of technologies such as fertilizer, improved seed, herbicide and pesticides, income sources, mulching and soil fertility, access to information and extension services. Discussions with farmers helped to probe these subjects in more depth in order to better understand dynamics of crop residue use and decision making processes at farm level.  This process has generated important qualitative information which will be used to fill gaps in the quantitative data collected so far.

Dr Elahi Baksh from CIMMYT discussing survey results with farmers in Bangladesh (photo: Beth Cullen).

 

After in-depth conversations with researchers about the results, farmers were asked to think about their plans and visions for the future. They were presented with four options: intensification, diversification, specialization and out of farming. Farmers voted for their preferred future option and were asked to explain the reasons for their choice. Choices were influenced by factors such as livestock numbers, land size, access to markets and roads. Farmers were then asked to brainstorm the main constraints they face, to prioritize these constraints, identify root causes and potential solutions. Challenges varied from village to village, but consistent themes also emerged. At the end of the exercise farmers expressed thanks to researchers for feeding back the survey results and for involving them in further discussion.

After working at village level a stakeholder workshop was arranged to bring together experts including crop and livestock experts from local agricultural bureaus, extension coordinators, local extension agents, staff from national research centers, researchers from local universities and NGO representatives. Farmers from selected villages were invited to join the discussions, they valued being part of the process from start to finish as well as the opportunity to engage in dialogue with other stakeholders. Results from the survey and farmers feedback were synthesized and presented to stakeholders for their comments. Stakeholders were then invited to consider three key challenges and identify technical, institutional and policy options for improving livelihoods and ensuring longer term system sustainability.

 

A group of stakeholders working together to identify ‘TIPs’ in Ethiopia (photo: Beth Cullen).

 

The combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches and exchanges between researchers, farmers and other stakeholders has yielded valuable results. These results will be communicated in a series of reports and briefs to policy makers, researchers and the various partners and stakeholders involved in the research. SLP researchers will also consider how the collaborative research process and the findings could help to inform and be integrated into ingoing research, particularly the new CGIAR Consortium Research Programs (CRP’s)”.

By Dr. Beth Cullen

The CGIAR Research Programme on Maize (MAIZE) wants to extend its current partnerships to capture a wider range of innovative ideas, increase the quality of the research, and integrate the skills of the most able and well-connected members towards their Vision of Success.

The MAIZE Competitive Grants Initiative allow scientists world-wide to apply for funds to support research and capacity­‐building activities that will make a significant contribution to the vision of success of MAIZE. Concept Notes are sought for one or more of the priority research areas including:

  • Socioeconomics and policies for maize futures
  • Sustainable intensification and income opportunities for the poor
  • Smallholder precision agriculture
  • Stress tolerant maize for the poorest
  • Towards doubling maize productivity
  • Integrated post-harvest management
  • Nutritious maize
  • Seeds of discovery
  • New tools and methods for NARS and SMEs

The full description of the call is available from the MAIZE website

AFRICA RISING Program (Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation) is part of the Feed the Future Initiative of USAID. This initiative is funding three projects in West Africa, Ethiopian Highlands, and East and Southern Africa. The project in the Ethiopian Highlands is ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands’, led by ILRI.

ILRI seeks to recruit a Project Coordinator to coordinate and manage the project (about 40% time) and provide scientific input into project implementation (about 60% time). The deadline for applications is the 18th May 2012.

The vacancy description is available from the ILRI website

Last month the Montpellier Panel presented the report on ‘Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture’. The report’s vision states:

“The challenge is to generate agricultural growth that produces enough food, ensures it is accessible to all, is inclusive of the most vulnerable and is resilient, and hence able to withstand the increasing multiple stresses and shocks that afflict the world.

To this end, we believe the priority should be supporting the creation of:

  • Resilient markets that enable farmers to increase production and generate income through innovation and taking risks, while ensuring food is available at an affordable price.
  • Resilient agriculture that creates agricultural growth out of knowledge and innovation, while simultaneously building the capacity of smallholder farmers to counter environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Resilient people who are able to generate diverse livelihoods that provide stable incomes, adequate nutrition and good health in the face of recurrent stresses and shocks.

To achieve these goals we will also need political leadership that demonstrates the necessary vision and will”.

The report is available from the Imperial College London website 

This week Nature discusses about increasing food production in Sub-Saharan Africa by using fertilizer (supported by subsidies) or by implementing more sustainable ways such as conservation agriculture, “fertilizer trees” and legumes. The Editorial concludes that “For now, that has to mean improved access to fertilizers, because the choice between food and famine is an easy one”. Maybe the opportunities are in combining both approaches, depending on the farm/local conditions and socio-economic and biophysical context.

The editorial and article are available from Nature website

This week in the session of Food Security of the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Diego Valbuena presented the preliminary results of the SLP residue project. Focusing on biomass use and pressures in mixed crop-livestock systems, the main messages of this presentation were that:

  • Mixed systems are dynamic and diverse, with different options and challenges
  • Pressures on crop residues needs to look at both production and demand
  • Trade-offs between livelihoods and ecosystem services can be avoided
  • System research is useful to better understand pressure and options on residue/biomass, but we need more participatory, integrated and coordinate research

The presentation is available on SlideShare:

The first peer-reviewed publication of the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) crop residue project is now on-line in Field Crops Research. This paper describes the options and challenges of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in mixed systems by comparing 12 study sites in 9 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Results illustrate that “despite its potential benefit for smallholder farmers across the density gradient, the introduction of CA-based mulching practices appears potentially easier in sites where biomass production is high enough to fulfil existing demands for feed and fuel. In sites with relatively high feed and fuel pressure, the eventual introduction of CA needs complementary research and development efforts to increase biomass production and/or develop alternative sources to alleviate the opportunity costs of leaving some crop residues as mulch”.

This is the result of collaborative research of different CGIAR centers and other institutions: SLP, ILRI, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, IITA, CIP and Wageningen University.

The article is available from Field Crops Research

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