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“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 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

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 

The authors identify a set of development priorities for agriculture that cut across West and Central Africa at both the country and regional levels to achieve economywide growth goals in the region. To do this we adopt a modeling and analytical framework that involves the integration of spatial analysis to identify yield gaps determining the growth potential of different agricultural activities for areas with similar conditions and an economywide multimarket model to simulate ex ante the economic effects of closing these yield gaps. Results indicate that the greatest agriculture-led growth opportunities in West Africa reside in staple crops (cereals and roots and tubers) and livestock production. Contributing the most to agricultural growth in the Sahel are livestock, rice, coarse grains, and oilseeds (groundnuts); in Coastal countries, staple crops such as cassava, yams, and cereal seems to be relatively more important than other subsectors; and in Central Africa livestock and root crops are the sources of growth with highest potential. Results also point toward an essential range of policies and investments that are needed to stimulate the productivity growth of prioritized activities. These include developing opportunities for regional cooperation on technology adaptation and diffusion, strengthening regional agricultural markets, exploiting opportunities for greater regional cooperation and harmonization, diversifying traditional markets, and enhancing linkages between agricultural and nonagricultural sectors.

The complete report is available from the IFPRI 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.