CIMMYT


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.

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Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) analysed potential trade-offs in maize residue use as soil mulch and livestock feed in mixed crop-livestock systems in Kenya. Based on survey data, researchers found that both the proportion and quantity of maize residue used for soil mulch and livestock feed are strongly affected by agro-ecology and livestock holding. Farmer knowledge about alternative use of crop residues and farmer perception of soil erosion risk positively affect the amount of residue farmers retain on maize plots. Results imply that crop residue use as soil mulch in conservation agriculture is challenged in mixed crop-livestock systems and particularly by smallholder farmers owning cross-bred and exotic dairy animals. In general, reducing the demand for crop residues as livestock feed through the introduction of alternative feed sources, better extension services on the use of crop residue as soil mulch and designing agro-ecology specific strategies and interventions could facilitate the adoption and expansion of CA-based practices in mixed crop-livestock systems.

The whole document is available from the AgEcon website

A recent article in INSIGHTS* describes why “no-till cultivation is a key element in conservation agriculture and is one of many practices designed by farmers, extension agents, and scientists to make agriculture more sustainable. While these practices are increasingly used by large-scale and commercial farmers in developed and developing countries, adapting them for small-scale and poor farmers has been a harder sell.”

The whole article is available from the INSIGHTS website

*INSIGHTS is the magazine of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

“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

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

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is looking for for an innovative, results-oriented scientist with excellent skills in agricultural innovation to facilitate technology adoption and maximize CIMMYT’s impact. The scientist will work as a member of CIMMYT’s Global Conservation Agriculture Program (CIMMYT-GCAP), and will play a key role in a large multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team. The selected scientist will work closely with CIMMYT’s research teams in the different regions where innovation approaches are implemented, and will partner with advanced research institutes, national research and extension programs, NGOs and private sector stakeholders. He/she will be responsible for reinforcing/evaluating and redesigning, if necessary, multi-stakeholder approaches for the co-development and increased adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in Latin America, East and Southern Africa, and South Asia.

The complete description is available from the CIMMYT website

Last week, the crop residue trade-offs project team met in Addis Ababa to take stock of the data collected across all four regions (South Asia, Southern Africa, West Africa and East Africa). The idea was to see how we could build on and use the data collected towards practical solutions on how residues could be used better for livelihoods and the environment. Another key discussion point was about how the research momentum on crop livestock systems built up during the lifetime of the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Program (SLP) could help to shape the new CGIAR Consortium Research Programs (CRPs), especially the ‘system CRPs’,1.1 and 1.2, which are meant to integrate research results from all other CRPs).

The workshop included representatives from the four regions where SLP works as well as guests from different institutions: CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas), ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture), ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), the University of Minnesota in the US and finally from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Taking stock of phase I

Phase I of the crop residue trade-offs project developed a description of residue use and identified determinants of use and potential effects of different uses for livelihoods and the environment. This was based on a socio-economic analysis of 12 study sites across the SLP regions, based on village and household level surveys. The first day of the workshop included an update on the progress of each region, identification of major lessons on both process and content and an overview on the current data analyses. Most regions have finished data entry and are busy cleaning data from errors and missing information.

General lessons are: residues are mostly grazed or fed; trade-offs depend on both production and demand, but they are still more evident in low intensive agricultural sites; the participation of farmers and other stakeholder is essential to identify potential Technological, Institutional and Policy options (TIPs). Regional reports should be ready by end of March 2012. These will include a general descriptive analysis, as well as simple econometric approaches to identify determinants of crop residue use.

From diagnosis to action: phase II

Phase II aims to identify promising TIP options to reduce trade-offs in crop residue use. A consultation with external ‘experts’ and unfolding SLP internal discussions seemed to agree that a more participatory approach will bridge the diagnostic phase I into a more practical phase II. The SLP does not have either the resources or the long term timeframe to embark on action research, therefore phase II should be seen as a transition phase that can help link SLP research to ongoing and new projects or to develop new proposals to go beyond diagnosis.

On the last day of the workshop, we started with a description of CRP 1.1 and 1.2 and went on to discuss how SLP can share some experience on systems research and institutional collaboration, which have been major SLP principles. Additionally, a work plan for 2012 for Phase II was mapped out. Phase II will focus on well-defined consultations with farmers and other stakeholders in the different regions to identify promising TIPs, and to enrich the already quantitative description of crop residue uses and trade-offs with a more qualitative analysis across study sites and households in mixed crop-livestock systems.

This workshop marked the beginning of the last year of the SLP and the crop residue trade-offs project. We hope to keep enriching the research of the CGIAR centers and projects with experiences in system analysis and intra-CGIAR collaboration. We also plan to make full use of the time remaining to move into a more action-oriented mode. We will identify promising TIPs that will tackle trade-offs in biomass use to the benefit of the livelihoods of the rural poor and the long term sustainability of rural regions in the developing world.

1. Agricultural Systems/Climate Change Mitigation
Achieving sustainable food security in a world of growing population and changing diets is a major challenge under climate change. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is looking for an innovative, results-oriented young scientist with excellent skills in agricultural systems analysis and modeling. The scientist will work as a member of CIMMYT Global Conservation Agriculture Program (CIMMYT-GCAP), and will play a key role in a large multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team. The selected scientist will work closely with CIMMYT’s research teams in the different regions where systems research is conducted, as well as partners in advanced research institutes, national research programs, and the CCAFS (CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) community. He/she will be responsible for evaluating the potential impact, in the Indo Gangetic plains, of improved agricultural management practices, including conservation agriculture, to mitigate climate change. The position is supported by the CGIAR Research Program (CRP7-CCAFS) and other donors.

The complete description of this position is available from the CIMMYT website

2. Agricultural Systems/Climate Change Adaptation
Achieving sustainable food security in a world of growing population and changing diets is a major challenge under climate change. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is looking for an innovative, results-oriented young scientist with excellent skills in agricultural systems analysis and modeling. The scientist will work as a member of CIMMYT Global Conservation Agriculture Program (CIMMYT-GCAP), and will play a key role in a large multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team. The selected scientist will work closely with CIMMYT’s research teams in the different regions where systems research is conducted, as well as partners in advanced research institutes, national research programs, and the CCAFS (CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) community. He/she will be responsible for assessing the potential of conservation agriculture as an adaption measure to climate change in the Indo Gangetic plains and East Africa, in coordination with similar studies in South Asia region and in East Africa. The position is supported by the CGIAR Research Program (CRP7-CCAFS) and other donors.

The complete description of this position is available from the CIMMYT website

The co-location of WCCA and FSD, with input from Landcare, provides a great opportunity to explore the application of conservation agriculture practices and principles in a systems context with broader environmental awareness. The common objective is the design of more productive, economic, and sustainable farming systems to meet the challenges of expanding population, global change, and environmental degradation.

Our objective in program design has been to provide a stimulating Congress for all, regardless of participant’s background – high or low resource, scientist or farmer, and regardless of speciality –Conservation Agriculture, Farming Systems Design or Landcare. By mixing traditional oral/poster paper presentations, with workshops, “so what” sessions and the field day we have tried to balance specialist requirements with opportunities for broader discussion between people with different backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives.

Pdf document available from the WCCA website

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