Livelihoods


“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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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

FARA releases a report examining the experiences of 21 case studies covering a wide range of African farming systems over broad geographic and historical landscapes. This review seeks to assess the usefulness of innovation systems approaches in the context of IAR4D in guiding research agendas, generating knowledge and use in improving food security and nutrition, reducing poverty and generating cash incomes for resource-poor farmers. The report draws on a range of case studies across Sub-Saharan Africa to compare and contrast the reasons for success from which lessons can be learned.

The report is available from the FARA website

Last couple of years the Livestock Policy Initiative of IGAD (IGAD-LPI) in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia (MoFED), has revisited estimates of livestock’s contribution to the Ethiopian economy, through three studies, which conclude that the contribution of livestock in the Ethiopian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and to the wider economy is much higher than previous estimates.

The whole post and study reports are available from the IGAD-LPI blog

Stockholm Resilience Centre is looking for input, comments and suggestions on the commissioned report by Hivos and Oxfam Novib: “Agricultural biodiversity, smallholder farmers, and adaptive capacity – status of knowledge in the context of resilience and transformations”.

The report aims “to identify knowledge gaps related to biodiversity conserving agricultural production and marketing systems, to reduce risks and improve the livelihoods of rural people living in poverty”. Inputs should be addressed to Pernilla Malmer.

The draft report and annexes are available from the PAR website

Drylands cover 41 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface. The urgency of and international response to climate change have given a new place to drylands in terms both of their vulnerability to predicted climate change impacts and their potential contribution to climate change mitigation. This book aims to apply the new scientific insights on complex dryland systems to practical options for development. A new dryland paradigm is built on the resources and capacities of dryland peoples, on new and emergent economic opportunities, on inward investment, and on the best support that dryland science can offer.

The complete document is available from the IUCN website

SLP was part of the 5th WCCA & 3rd FSD held in Brisbane, Australia last week. Diego Valbuena (SLP Postdoc Scientist) gave an overview on the crop residue use in different mixed crop-livestock systems across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This presentation reflects the current analysis and synthesis of the village-level data of the SLP Crop Residue project. The main points of this presentation were that:

  • Crop residues in mixed systems are fundamental resources for short-term objectives, especially for livestock feed.
  • Residues as mulch is not a common practice, mainly occurring in regions with relatively very high crop production or with high crop production and relatively low feed demand. In regions with high pressure on residues, an increase of agricultural production is needed.
  • There are no silver-bullets: each region has its own potential, challenges & options for more sustainable agriculture.

Finally, the presentation shows the next steps of the SLP Crop Residue project.

The presentation is available from the Slideshare website

The Volta Basin Development Challenge (VBDC) aims “to strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably for multiple uses.”.

One way by which to do this is to increase crop and livestock productivity through Rainwater Management Strategies (RMS) and improve water productivity at the farm level.

Another solution is to implement Innovation Platforms (IPs) that are multi-actor systems. These platforms provide a mechanism to facilitate learning, sharing and communication amongst value chain actors, including farmers, to promote joint action and stimulate innovation. IPs also create common ground for different actors with varied interests and challenges to identify opportunities to enhance their benefits in a given value chain. Membership is based upon peoples’ interest and need to improve the value chain for their own benefit.

The IP approach involves dynamic and fluid platforms of multiple actors at various levels that support action learning and strategies for scaling up and out. Through the Volta BDC project on integrated management of rainwater (V2), the CPWF is working with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) in Burkina Faso and Ghana to develop appropriate innovation platforms around identified crop-livestock value chains.

The complete document is available from the CPWF website

Read in ICRISAT SatTrends Issue 100

Success of innovation platforms in southern Africa
Appropriate partnerships bring about change in southern Africa

Given the recent economic crisis, the expectation is that there isn’t much money changing hands in rural Zimbabwe. However, data from Gwanda district in Zimbabwe shows that this is definitely not the case. The first and only goat auction sales pen established with ICRISAT’s support generated US$ 53,000 during 2009.

Nhwali auction in Gwanda
Goats being auctioned at the Nhwali auction in Gwanda, Zimbabwe
.

These figures clearly indicate the potential of livestock to contribute to household incomes in rural Zimbabwe. The production and marketing of goats is a viable business opportunity and can generate a reasonable income for the smallholder farmer in southern Africa – given the right circumstances, or in many cases the right partnerships.

In Gwanda, the creation of a sales pen and the formalization of goat sales through regular auctions generated such circumstances. This facilitating environment fostered successful relationships between buyers and sellers and instilled confidence in markets.

In the case of Namibia, public-private partnerships generated the right conditions for boosting livestock production and marketing. AGRA, a national agricultural input supply cooperative, recently established an outlet in Hoachanas near the sales pen. Farmers are benefiting from the proximity to inputs and information. This will ultimately increase the productivity of their herds and result in higher incomes.

The key to these successes has been partnerships. The Livestock and Livelihoods project has been testing the use of innovation platforms as a tool to facilitate dialogue between the main players in the value chain to identify bottlenecks and opportunities in production, marketing, and the policy environment. One of the outcomes of engaging in this process is the creation of appropriate partnerships for change.

The innovation platform approach has shown that there are two critical elements for building successful partnerships:

  • Initial facilitation: Successful partnerships are not formed on their own. Someone, usually from the public sector, must take the onus upon themselves to establish the initial dialogue for partnership. They create the buy-in of potential partners, promote ownership of the process, and establish a basis for negotiations. Facilitators should also address the costs
    of creating partnerships.
  • Flexible and open collaboration: Flexibility in the structure of collaboration is required as are well-developed channels of communication, arbitration, monitoring and evaluation, and sound financial management.

Successful partnerships exploit the complementarities and comparative advantages of those involved. They can encourage local innovations and area-specific solutions to improve livestock production and marketing. Moreover, investments from the private sector can alleviate pressure from overburdened government support services and stimulate increased use of inputs, information flow and generate tangible benefits at the market place.