15 October 2014 marks the sixth celebration of the International Day of Rural Women, a United Nations (UN) day dedicated to recognizing “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” CIMMYT and the CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT acknowledge the importance of understanding and recognizing the important role of women in agriculture, and is committed to the inclusion and participation of women – especially rural women – in its research and programs.
Staff members of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) are developing and implementing projects aimed at improving agricultural production and standards of living for farmers in South Asia, with excellent results. At their “Seed Summit for Enhancing the Seed Supply Chain in Eastern India” meeting in Patna, Bihar on 14-15 May they worked to design solutions to improve the delivery of high-yielding seed varieties in eastern India, a region that has traditionally suffered from lack of access to these varieties and low seed replacement rates. The meeting, which included over 60 seed experts from the government, research and private sectors, focused on topics such as better-targeted subsidies on seeds, improved storage infrastructure and stronger extension systems to increase accessibility and adoption of improved seed varieties.
The roundtable “Sustainable Intensification in South Asia’s Cereal Systems: Investment Strategies for Productivity Growth, Resource Conservation, and Climate Risk Management” was held on 19 May in New Delhi. It brought together 20 firms and entrepreneurs to build collaborative action plans and joint investment strategies under CSISA to identify new product tie-ins, joint ventures, technical collaborations and shared marketing channels in order to bring high-tech farming ideas to India’s risk-prone ecologies.
In India, CSISA seeks to increase crop yields through the provision of more accurate, location-specific fertilizer recommendations to maize and rice farmers with the “Crop Manager” decision-making tool. The web-based and mobile Android application uses information provided by farmers including field location, planting method, seed variety, typical yields and method of harvesting to create a personalized fertilizer application recommendation at critical crop growth stages to increase yield and profit.
CSISA-Nepal has initiated a series of participatory research trials in farmers’ fields, in order to promote maize triple cropping, the practice of planting maize during the spring period after winter crop harvesting, when fields would usually be fallow. The practice, while proven to be highly remunerative, is not widely popular. The trials seek to determine optimum management practices for maize in order to encourage triple cropping and to generate additional income for farmers.
Greater gender equality in agriculture is also an important goal of CSISA, supported through the creation of Kisan Sakhi, a support group to empower women farmers in Bihar, India by “disseminating new climate-resilient and sustainable farming technologies and practices that will reduce women’s drudgery and bridge the gender gap in agriculture.” A CSISA-Bangladesh project has already had a positive impact on the lives of rural women, providing new farming and pond management techniques that have helped them to greatly increase the productivity of their fish ponds and gain new respect within their families and communities.
To learn more about recent CSISA accomplishments please see the August newsletter here.
This article was originally published on the CIMMYT blog.
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M.L. Jat, senior cropping system agronomist in the Global Conservation Agriculture Program at CIMMYT, in collaboration with Hirak Banerjee, Rupak Goswami, Somsubhra Chakraborty, Sudarshan Duttac, Kaushik Majumdar, T. Satyanarayana and Shamie Zingore, recently published a study examining the socio-economic determinants of yield gap in maize. The study, “Understanding biophysical and socio-economic determinants of maize (Zea mays L.) yield variability in eastern India” was published in the NJAS -Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences and was made possible by a grant from the Maize CRP. The term “yield gap” refers to “the difference between actual yields and potential yield,” potential yield being “the maximum yield that can be achieved in a given agro-ecological zone.”
The purpose of the study was to investigate the key factors limiting maize productivity in the Malda and Bankura districts of the Indian state of West Bengal, in order to develop effective crop and nutrient management strategies to reduce the yield gap in the region.
The study compared the maize yield and socio-economic situation of farmers in the region and found that factors such as the caste or ethnic origin of farmers, availability of family labor, land ownership, use of legumes in cropping sequence, irrigation constraints, type of seed used, optimal plant population, labor and capital investment and use of organic manure had strong correlations to the maize yields farmers were able to achieve. The authors of the study hope that this information can facilitate the development and introduction of appropriate typology-specific crop management practices, in accordance with the needs of farmers and the socio-economic factors affecting their productivity, which could help to increase maize yields and reduce the yield gap for the region’s farmers.