Women and youth help lead efforts to adopt climate-friendly farming and safeguard indigenous maize yields
Farmers walk through a field that has been cleared by slash and burn agriculture in the Yucatan peninsula. Photo: Maria Boa/ CIMMYT
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has been hard hit by drought and extreme weather events related to climate change in recent years, exacerbating local poverty and food insecurity. In addition, slash-and-burn agriculture techniques have led to environmental degradation and contribute to climate change. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is working to help indigenous Mayan farming families in the Yucatan peninsula adapt to and mitigate climate change, increasing maize yields and food security while minimizing negative environmental impact. This comes as world leaders mull a crucial decision on agriculture at the UN Climate talks in Bonn, a decision that could support farmers everywhere to take similar actions.
Transcending the boundaries of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, lie the Eastern Gangetic Plains (EGP), fertile lands home to 300 million people, highly dependent on agriculture for their food security and livelihoods. The EGP area is crucial to future food security in South Asia, where production of rice, wheat and maize must respectively increase by about 1.1, 1.7 and 2.9 percent each year to meet food needs in 2050. Yet due to a lack of agricultural development, today the EGP contains the highest concentration of rural poverty found anywhere in the world.
CIMMYT, Washington State University and Total Land Care (TLC) recently published a series of extension bulletins to spread awareness of the benefits that different conservation agriculture (CA) techniques could have for farmers in Malawi.
The study, “Sustainable Intensification and Diversification on Maize-based Agroecosystems in Malawi,” took place over three years in the districts of Nkhotakota and Dowa, and was sponsored by MAIZE CRP through a Competitive Grants Initiative.
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.