IITA


“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

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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

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.

Smallholders in mixed crop–livestock systems make up a large proportion of the farming enterprises in developing countries. In these systems, crop residues are an important component of production since they have multiple uses including livestock feed, construction materials, cooking fuel and organic fertilizer for the fields.

Mixed crop–livestock systems are very dynamic and are evolving rapidly in response to external drivers such as demographic pressure, development of urban markets, climate variability and climate change. In addition, recent interest in biofuels has further implications for land use and resource allocation.

This study aims to improve understanding of the tradeoffs among different crop residue uses in cereal-based systems in four regions: millet-, sorghum-, and maize-based systems in West Africa; maize-based systems in eastern Africa, maize- and sorghum-based systems in southern Africa; and wheat/rice-based systems in South Asia. The major trade-off in most systems is the short-term benefit gained from using crop residues to feed livestock versus the longer-term benefit gained from leaving crop residues in the field to improve soil fertility and control erosion.

The study focuses on decision-making processes at the farm and household level and the findings will capture the diversity and contrasts as well as recent changes in crop residue uses at various scales. The results will help decision makers to target technical, institutional and policy options to improve livelihoods, without compromising the long-term sustainability of these farming systems.

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From Science Blog 26/08/10

Cattle grazing maize residues after harvest in Zimbabwe. Photo: Sabine Homann

As climate change intensifies drought conditions in Africa and sparks fears of a new cycle of crippling food shortages, a study released today finds widespread adoption of recently developed drought-tolerant varieties of maize could boost harvests in 13 African countries by 10 to 34 percent and generate up to US$1.5 billion in benefits for producers and consumers.

Read the full story

SLP Comments: Benefits of drought tolerant maize by-products/crop residues should also be addressed as the technology is mainly targeting mixed crop-livestock smallholders

The final report of the SLP projet Balancing livestock needs and soil conservation: assessment of opportunities in intensifying cereal–livestock systems in West Africa led by IITA in collaboration with ICRISAT and ILRI is now available on line

Photo: Tahirou Abdoulaye (IITA)

The general objective of the project was to identify key areas where research can make a difference in balancing trade-offs among livestock, soil, and crops, while taking advantage of synergies in evolving crop–livestock systems. The project focused on the identification of socioeconomic factors influencing decision-making on crop residue uses, quantification of trade-offs in using crop residues as soil amendment or livestock feed, and the identification of entry points for improving the productivity of cereal–legume–livestock systems.