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

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is looking for a dynamic Deputy Director General – Research is required to provide strategic scientific leadership, manage change at many levels and seize the opportunities presented by renewed and high-level interest in agricultural development and a dynamic global livestock sector in developing countries.

Complete information of this vacancy is found here

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

By Sabine Homann-Kee Tui (ICRISAT, Bulawayo):

Part of the SLP team met in ICRISAT-Bulawayo from 28 November to 4 December to discuss research results and outputs of the crop residue project for the Southern African region. One of the main activities of the week were two workshops in Nkayi to review preliminary study results on the current state of crop livestock systems and crop residue utilization and discuss options with farmers and other stakeholders. The first workshop was held in one of the eight study villages, Sibangilizwe, where land use seemed the most intensive. Around 20 farmers of different ages, gender and herd sizes attended the meeting. The farmers first discussed the SLP survey results and then divided into two groups to discuss means to a) improve crop production and b) improve livestock production.

For crop improvement, access to improved seed and agricultural knowledge were emphasized. For livestock access to inputs and information on animal health and feed were of major concern. Exploring the option of improving cropping technologies to produce more and higher quality crop residues was viewed as an important solution to address livestock feed shortages. A final exercise clearly showed that farmers prefer to intensify the existing croplands and livestock above croplands and livestock expansion, take up new products for niche markets and commercialize, and move out of agriculture.

The following day, another workshop was hosted by local government (Rural District Council). Participants included farmers from a different village as well as from district and provincial level support services (Agricultural Extension Services, Department of Livestock Production and Development, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Irrigation, Environmental Management Authority) and NGOs. A delegation, preparing a project proposal for submission to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), also joined the meeting.

The participants discussed promising technical, institutional, policy options with regards to crop livestock intensification. Methods to improve soil fertility, crop diversification for food and feed and fodder crops were identified as important possibilities to explore. This needs to be supported by multidisciplinary teams that can capacitate service providers on supporting crop-livestock intensification and train farmers on the relevant technical issues. Local bylaws need to be strengthened for better use of cropland and rangeland. Crop and livestock markets should be resuscitated, sensitizing private sector about the existing market potential among smallholder farmers, improving linkages between input and output markets and knowledge on how farmers can make best use of these markets. Effective forms of facilitating communication among stakeholders, particularly research, extension and development, should be institutionalized for these purposes, with access to information highlighted as key requirement to enable farmers to embrace change.

The SLP team will use the experience (results and process tested) from the Nkayi workshops to inform the development of research tools across the SLP sites, especially to further study the institutional frameworks and options and for developing future research proposals.

Interesting initiatives of two major donors for agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Last October the Australian Government announced that will provide AUS 36 million to establish a new Australian International Centre for Food Security led by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The centre aims to boost food production in Africa, through the provision of research and technical expertise. The initiative would expand the work of ACIAR, particularly and initially in African countries, but with scope to broaden its geographic reach.

The complete initiative is available from the ACIAR website

Early this month, the Gates Foundation announced a new agricultural policy that will focus on only few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda) and South Asia (Bangladesh, and Bihar and Orissa States in India). The new strategy will focus not just on technological interventions to reduce productivity gaps in certain crops but also the infrastructures, institutional reforms and policy changes required to improve productivity.

A description of this strategy is available from the SciDev Net website

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 Landscapes for People, Food and Nature is an international collaborative initiative that aims to scale up successful strategies that simultaneously improve livelihoods, conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, and feed the world while helping to address climate change. This integrated approach combines interests across multiple sectors to improve landscape management.

Dialogues of this three year collaborative initiative will start in an international forum in March 6-10th 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. Co-organizers include Biodiversity International, Conservation International, EcoAgriculture Partners, FAO, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, UNEP, UNU-IAS and the World Agroforestry Centre.

The complete description of the initiative is available here

Africa Development Indicators (ADI) 2011 is the latest set of data from the World Bank on social and economic conditions across the continent and provides the most detailed collection of data on Africa. It contains macroeconomic, sectoral, and social indicators, covering 53 African countries. The ADI is designed to provide all those interested in Africa with a focused and convenient set of data to monitor development programs and aid flows in the region. It is an invaluable reference tool for analysts and policymakers who want a better understanding of the economic and social developments occurring in Africa.

The complete document is available from the World Bank website

According to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), some 200,000 dairy farmers in East Africa have invested in fodder shrubs and are reporting an increase in milk yields of at least 1-2 litres of milk per animal per day. Almost half the farmers who have adopted the shrubs are women.

The whole article is available from the New Agriculturist