West Africa

This week in the session of Food Security of the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Diego Valbuena presented the preliminary results of the SLP residue project. Focusing on biomass use and pressures in mixed crop-livestock systems, the main messages of this presentation were that:

  • Mixed systems are dynamic and diverse, with different options and challenges
  • Pressures on crop residues needs to look at both production and demand
  • Trade-offs between livelihoods and ecosystem services can be avoided
  • System research is useful to better understand pressure and options on residue/biomass, but we need more participatory, integrated and coordinate research

The presentation is available on SlideShare:

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

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

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

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.

This Discussion Paper published by EcoAgriculture Partners with support from CARE and WWF-US examines how Conservation Agriculture (CA) might support climate change adaptation and mitigation in the context of smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. It also defines and analyzes a broader approach to CA—including natural resource management and support for human and social capital at the farm, village, and landscape scales—that may increase synergies between food production, ecosystem services, and climate change adaptation. The study concludes by suggesting ways in which new policy priorities and climate finance sources may support the scaling-up of CA in appropriate contexts throughout sub-Saharan Africa, following the mainstreaming of CA that occurred in the Americas in prior decades.

This Discussion Paper is available from the EcoAgriculture Partners

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

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