Posts Tagged ‘smallholder farmers’

New publications: Understanding changes in farming systems to propose adapted solutions

Researchers identify national policies, climate and soil fertility changes, population increase, and urban expansion as the major drivers of farming systems change in the Hawassa area of Ethiopia.

By Frédéric Baudron and Natasha Nagarajan

Farming systems are moving targets. Agricultural Research and Development (R&D) must understand where they come from and where they are going to offer solutions that are adapted. This is one of the main objectives of the Trajectories and Trade-offs for Intensification of Cereal-based systems (ATTIC), project funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Farming System Ecology group at Wageningen University & Research.

recent study led by Yodit Kebede — who obtained her PhD last year under the ATTIC project — examined the drivers of change affecting smallholder farming in southern Ethiopia, farmer’s responses to these changes, and consequences for agricultural landscapes.

As in many parts of the developing world, small farms in southern Ethiopia have become smaller. Population increase and urban expansion have been major drivers of this change. Population has been increasing over 3% annually in Ethiopia, the second most populated country in Africa. Grazing areas and forests were converted to cropland, putting stress on the availability of livestock feed and fuelwood.

Farmers responded to these changes through three broad trajectories: diversification — mixed cropping and intercropping, particularly for the smallest farms —, specialization — often in high-value but non-food crops — and consolidation — maintenance or increase of farm area. Each of these trajectories has its own specific R&D needs, although farms following a consolidation trajectory are often favored by R&D programs. The same three trajectories can be identified in many rural areas where rural transformation has not taken place yet, in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

The loss of grassland and forest produced a landscape more susceptible to erosion and loss of soil fertility. However, all outcomes from these landscape changes may not be negative. Another study conducted by the same authors in the same study area demonstrated that an increasingly fragmented agricultural landscape may lead to increased pest control by natural enemies.

While aiming to mitigate against negative outcomes from landscape changes — for example, land degradation — policies should be careful not to inadvertently reduce some of the positive outcomes of these changes, such as increased pest control. As concluded by the study, “a better understanding of interlinkages and tradeoffs among ecosystem services and the spatial scales at which the services are generated, used, and interact is needed in order to successfully inform future land use policies”.

Read the full study:
Drivers, farmers’ responses and landscape consequences of smallholder farming systems changes in southern Ethiopia

Research opportunities and partnerships are key to sustainable intensification of maize in South East Asia

Maize production is increasing in several South East Asian countries as farmers respond to changes in consumer preferences and diets. An increasingly popular cash crop in the region and suited to cultivation by smallholder farmers, maize is nonetheless subject to unpredictable markets and may be associated with negative environmental externalities where appropriate production practices are not used. Some countries in the region have experienced a dramatic increase in maize production in recent years, followed by a decline, highlighting the importance of linked economic and agronomic research that addresses the rapid pace of change in the region. Delegates from across South East Asia gathered recently to explore ideas and opportunities for key research issues on the sustainable intensification of maize in smallholder farming systems in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, during a meeting held from November 9 to 11, 2018, in Siem Reap and in maize growing areas around Battambang, Cambodia.

The meeting was jointly organized by the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) through their Sustainable Intensification Program (SIP) and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE).

Participants during the field visit in north eastern Cambodia.
Photo: Leo Rusinamhodzi/CIMMYT 

Drought tolerant maize wins 2012 UK Climate Week Award (SI-4)

More than 2 million farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are growing the new varieties for more food and income.

EL BATAN, Mexico, 12 March 2012.
Known as “Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa” (DTMA), the winning initiative is responsible for the development and dissemination of 34 new drought-tolerant maize varieties to farmers in 13 project countries—Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—between 2007 and 2011. An estimated 2 million smallholder farmers are using the drought-tolerant maize varieties and have obtained higher yields, improved food security, and increased incomes.