January 2011

From 9-10 December 2010, Researchers in a project carrying out four regional cases studies of ‘crop residue trade-offs in crop–livestock systems’ met in Addis Ababa to review progress and plans.

We recorded the reporting back sessions that discussed lessons and gaps related to the content focus of the project, the process followed so far, and the tools used.

In this video, Alan Duncan reports on the content discussions. Some ‘gaps’: Are the survey tools capturing sufficiently the higher-level policy and institutional environment? Are we capturing more open questions about how farmers make decisions? On the lessons: we need to better integrate the social with the technical; and we need to keep our eyes on the global drivers, as well as the regional ones. View the video

In this video, Diego Valbueno reports on the discussions of the process lessons and gaps. First, such a regional study needs someone to really facilitate coordination, harmonization and information sharing (among the regions and not just between regions and the central project coordination). We needed a common understanding of the tools we are using, and why. Very important – how are we going to disseminate information – to farmers, to policy? Are there some better ways in which we could have developed our framework and instruments? Perhaps we could have had a better picture of our analysis steps before we devised our data collection instruments? View the video

In this video, Nils Teufel reports on the tools and technical software used in the project, including SPSS, CSPRO, Google Earth. A big issue across the tools was training and we need to, for instance, draw on people with specialist knowledge across the project. Data management and archiving was discussed and some lessons from the questionnaires and survey tools were derived. View the video

More on the meeting

SLP projects are presently conducting household surveys in 9 different countries. To gather and/or enter those data we are exploring the use of CAPI (computer assisted personal interviewing) to replace paper based interviews. The advantages of CAPI over PAPI (paper and pencil interviewing) are: faster flow of data between enumerators and regional/central offices, skip the entering data process, an improved error-tracking process and reduced use of paper. Yet, several challenges need to be addressed, including: capacity building, acquisition of technological gadgets, battery requirements and establish/use reliable communication channels to transfer information.

Two main tools have been identified: Surveybe and CSPro. Surveybe is a commercial, very user-friendly software package. CSPro is a public-domain software hosted by US Census Bureau. We want to assess both software packages to see whether they cover our needs. We might not have the resources to implement computerized surveys in all the regions for the present projects. Still, we will try to test it in East Africa and by developing the questionnaire in CSPro, we will be able to use the platform across regions to enter the data gathered on paper in the field. CSPro was tested this week in Ethiopia (see photo below).

Hailu Diressie (MSc student from Wageningen University) interviewing a farmer in a village nearby Ginchi

The corporate report looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

The report synthesizes results of a study, ‘Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystem services and human well-being to 2030,’ being published in book form in 2011. The study was a collaborative endeavour conducted by a group of scientists in centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The study was funded and coordinated by the CGIAR’s Systemwide Livestock Programme and led by Mario Herrero, a livestock systems analyst at the International Livestock Research Institute.

The SLP study shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today, and is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Read the report in pdf

The 2011 State of the World edition from Worldwatch was released yesterday.  It is reported to give a compelling look at the global food crisis, with particular emphasis on global innovations that can help solve a worldwide problem.

Read more

The pdf version costs $19.95! Why isn’t that document a free public good?