Myths and cultural practices can block farmers’ acceptance of a new technology, particularly the principles of reduced tillage, residue retention, and cropping rotations that underlie conservation agriculture. This was one observation in a recent visit to farmers in four districts in Ethiopia by Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC) director, Mellissa Wood, and AIFSC Biosecurity and Food Safety Manager, Dennis Bittisnich.
Posts Tagged ‘ACIAR’
Fifteen young scientists from SIMLESA partner and spillover countries were recently trained by the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (ARC-SA) on various aspects of agronomy and innovation learning platforms (ILePs), including conservation agriculture principles, nitrogen fixation, experimental design and field layout, agro-climatology principles, and data collection and analysis.
The International Conservation Agriculture Forum, held at the Ningxia Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences in Yinchuan during 27-31 May, was attended by a significant number of provincial government officials and private sector representatives who joined to discuss national and international partnerships in farming system intensification, mechanization, nutrient-use efficiency, precision agriculture, and training; gain better understanding of what conservation agriculture is; jointly identify needs, priorities, and constraints to broad adoption of conservation agriculture in China; and explore the Cropping Systems Intensification Project for North Asia (CSINA).
The past few weeks have been busy and interesting in China: preparing for the International Conservation Agriculture Forum in Yinchuan and work travels to Beijing, Yangling (Shaanxi province), and Xuchang (Henan province) are a sure way to keep oneself occupied.
Strengthening partnerships in Beijing
I travelled to Beijing during 2-4 May to discuss future cooperation between the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and the China Agricultural University (CAU) at a meeting with Jan Thomas, USQ vice-chancellor, and K.E. Bingsheng, CAU president, accompanied by the USQ delegation and CAU senior professors. What does this have to do with CIMMYT? Part of my mandate in China is to forge new partnerships, especially with universities seeking to expand internationally. This requires putting on the CIMMYT uniform to demonstrate presence and reinforce linkages with old and new colleagues. As a result, we hope to see a memorandum of understanding and the facilitation of staff and student exchanges between these universities, Ningxia institutions, and CIMMYT.
From 29 April to 10 May, 16 agricultural engineers, agronomists, machinery importers, and machinery manufacturers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe took part in a study tour in India organized by CIMMYT, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC). The tour was organized as part of the “Farm Mechanization and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification” (FACASI) project to identify opportunities for exchange of technologies and expertise between India and Africa and strengthen South-South collaborations in the area of farm mechanization. The project is funded by AIFSC and managed by ACIAR.
Over 200 researchers, policy makers, donors, seed companies, and NGO representatives from Africa and Australia gathered in Chimoio, Mozambique, during 17-23 March 2013 for the third SIMLESA (Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa) annual regional planning and review meeting to discuss the project’s progress and achievements, share lessons learned throughout the last three years, and deliberate over better ways to design and implement future activities in the SIMLESA target (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique) and spillover countries (Botswana, Uganda, South Sudan, and Zambia).
If asked “What is the most limiting factor to cereal production in sub-Saharan Africa,” most agronomists would say water, nitrogen, or phosphorus. Could farm power also have a place in this list? From 25 to 30 March 2013, a multidisciplinary group of 40 agronomists, agricultural engineers, economists, anthropologists, and private sector representatives from Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, India, and other countries attended a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, to officially launch the ‘Farm Mechanization & Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification’ project, supported by the Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC) and managed by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The meeting focused largely on planning for activities that will take place in Kenya and Tanzania, but the project will eventually explore opportunities to accelerate the delivery and adoption of two-wheel tractors (2WTs) based conservation agriculture (CA) and other 2WT-based technologies (transport, shelling, threshing) by smallholders in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This project will be implemented over the next four years by CIMMYT and its partners.
For over 10 years, CIMMYT has been working assiduously with the national agriculture research system of Afghanistan to contribute to the war-torn country’s sustainable agricultural growth and research and development. So far, the joint efforts have led to the release of 12 wheat, 4 maize, and 2 barley varieties. As wheat and maize together account for about 84% of cereal acreage and production in Afghanistan, the work continues. During 5-7 March 2013, CIMMYT director general Thomas Lumpkin visited Afghanistan to observe CIMMYT activities and initiate a dialogue on further cooperation.
In Timor-Leste, maize is the main staple crop grown by 88% of farming households. However, availability of quality seed of improved maize varieties is a major bottleneck for enhancing crop production and productivity. Experiences gained through the Seeds of Life program within the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) indicated that there was a significant yield advantage of MAF-released maize varieties over the local varieties under farmer management practices. The MAF recommended an improved open-pollinated maize variety Sele, originally LYDMR (Late, Yellow, Downy Mildew Resistant) introduced by the CIMMYT Asian Regional Maize Program, whose yield is 47% higher than that of traditional maize varieties (average result from 1,091 on-farm demonstrations trials during 2006-10).
South Sudan, Africa’s newest country, is set to benefit from the project “Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems in Eastern and Southern Africa” (SIMLESA), following fruitful discussions between project representatives and South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF). Project coordinator Mulugetta Mekuria and agronomist Fred Kanampiu met with George Leju, Director General of Research, Training, and Extension Services, Cirino Oketayot, Executive Director of Research, and Luka Atwok, maize breeder, in Juba on 6 June 2012. Mekuria gave an overview of the project’s vision, focus, and accomplishments to date and explained how SIMLESA’s experiences can reach and benefit South Sudan. The opportunity for collaboration was first discussed in Rwanda in October 2011 and since then Atwok has attended a series of SIMLESA-organized trainings and workshops.
Leju welcomed the proposal and thanked CIMMYT and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR, which funds the project) for considering South Sudan as a beneficiary of the work. “SIMLESA resonates well with the MoAF strategic plan as it addresses the core challenges of the country, which has emerged from war,” said Leju. Oketayot highlighted South Sudan’s research structure, current priorities, challenges, and areas that need support, including an urgent need for capacity building. He also emphasized the importance of maize and legumes in the country’s farming systems and the potential impact of SIMLESA on these systems.
“ACIAR has availed initial funding for spillover activities,” said Mekuria. “The idea is to ensure that SIMLESA research results are quickly scaled out to countries like South Sudan and improve food security there.”
South Sudan scientists will join SIMLESA capacity building activities, attending core country and regional training events. “The project will also facilitate their travel to target country sites for activities like field days, so they get first-hand experience,” said Kanampiu. The first such capacity building initiative is planned for August this year, when CIMMYT will hold a workshop on basic agricultural research design and implementation. In addition to a very productive meeting, Leju and Oketayot were also delighted to receive an information pack full of background on SIMLESA, as well as shirts and baseball caps.