A CIMMYT project working in the rural districts of Jharkhand, India, is encouraging farmers to grow maize and use conservation agriculture practices to adapt to decreased rainfall and a changing climate. CIMMYT’s Sustainable Intensification of Smallholder Maize-Livestock Farming Systems in Hill Areas of South Asia project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Posts Tagged ‘Conservation Agriculture’
CIMMYT and leading agribusiness Syngenta México signed an agreement this month to work together in efforts aimed at sustainably increasing crop production in Mexico while protecting the environment and contributing to food security.
Syngenta will collaborate with CIMMYT to do research on conservation agriculture in four experimental platforms. The new project follows the same logic and goals of MasAgro, the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture, which CIMMYT implements in coordination with Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Food (SAGARPA). MasAgro aims to build the capacities of small-scale farmers to encourage the adoption of sustainable farming practices and technologies that may help increase maize and wheat output, in line with Mexico’s recently announced “Crusade Against Hunger.”
To achieve food security, smallholder farmers in Southern Africa require access to improved seed and inputs for higher yields. “Seed is one of the key movers in agricultural development,” says John MacRobert, New Seed Initiative for Maize in Southern Africa (NSIMA) leader, indicating the importance of going beyond developing improved seed varieties to encompass their dissemination, promotion, and adoption in developing strategies around seed development. These issues, together with NSIMA’s to date progress (the project is in its third phase) and strategies for the next phase, were discussed at a meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, during 7-9 August 2013. About 50 participants from institutions collaborating on the project led by CIMMYT and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) were present; among them were representatives from national agricultural research institutes, seed companies, and institutions of higher learning from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
In June 2013, ML Jat (Global Conservation Agriculture Program) and research teams in Bihar and Haryana, India, welcomed CIMMYT gender specialist Tina Beuchelt and gender consultant Cathy Farnworth to discuss integration of gender perspectives into their daily research routine. The visit was triggered by the request from the CRP on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) to enhance women’s access to and use of agricultural and climate-related services and information (IDO5).
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.
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 Global Conservation Agriculture Program (GCAP) works closely with partners all over the world toward an ultimate vision of widespread use of sustainable systems by smallholder farmers, based on the principles of conservation agriculture (CA). Our key partner in Africa is the African Conservation Tillage Network (ACT). We asked their Executive Secretary, Saidi Mkomwa, about the current status and future of CA in Africa.
ACT was established in 1998. Has Africa seen a big change in CA adoption since then?
Mkomwa: The adoption rate isn’t very big, but we think it’s good. It took Brazil 17 years to get the first one million hectares under CA; it’s been a shorter time in Africa and we have almost reached one million hectares already. It is happening at a slower rate than we would want, but it’s getting there. We have seen partial adoption of CA principles across the continent. For example, during one of our exchange visits to Zambia, we met a woman – we nicknamed her Barefoot Woman – who had no shoes but she was rich and she was proud to be a farmer. She wasn’t practicing all three principles, only reduced tillage combined with some mechanization, but it’s a start.
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.
After months of discussions and debates on the scientific evidence regarding conservation agriculture for small-scale, resource-poor farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, a group of 40 scientists reached a consensus on the goals of conservation agriculture and the research necessary to reach these goals. The discussions leading to the signing of the Nebraska Declaration on Conservation Agriculture on 5 June 2013 began during a scientific workshop on “Conservation agriculture: What role in meeting CGIAR system-level outcomes?” organized by the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, during 15-18 October 2012. Several CIMMYT scientists contributed to the Lincoln workshop and the subsequent draft of the convention. “Not every participant agreed to sign. It went too far for some conservation agriculture purists and not far enough for others. This is usually the case when a consensus between 50 scientists and experts is sought,” said Bruno Gerard, director of CIMMYT’s Global Conservation Agriculture Program (GCAP), pointing to an interesting read in that respect, ‘Conservation agriculture and smallholder farming in Africa: The heretics’ view’ by Giller et al. (2009).