In Mozambique, results of recent research show that groundnut yield on farmer-managed on-farm research plots averages 1.6 t/ha whereas yield under farmer practice is only 0.4 t/ha. The same is true for pigeonpea, where yield on farmer-managed research plots is 1.2 t/ha, as opposed to 0.7 t/ha under regular farmer practice.
What can be done to bridge this yield gap? This constituted one of the major deliberations at the National Workshop on Scaling Technologies to Meet Mozambique’s Agricultural Productivity Goals, held in Nampula on 6-8 August. The workshop was designed to discuss issues around promoting better access to and use of existing technologies and to identify the most promising ones for scaling up in Mozambique.
In his opening address, Mr Alexander Dickie, USAID Mission Director for Mozambique, said that the country had set the goal of increasing food production by 70% by 2015. “Many technological innovations are needed to increase agricultural production to meet this goal. The various strategic corridors from Mozambique to Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and overseas markets would make Mozambique a lead player in food security in the region,” he stressed.
Mr Antonio Limbau, Vice-Minister of Agriculture for Mozambique, officially opened the meeting. “Agriculture is the main pillar for economic development in the country and increasing production is the key to guarantee food security,” he said. “We hope that this meeting will provide us with options of scaling up production-enhancing technologies and improving food security in our region.”
A series of presentations on oilseeds, pulses, roots, tubers, cereals and cross-cutting issues such as the economics of technology adoption provided the participants with a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities of the different value chains currently functioning in Mozambique. With this understanding, the participants formed into groups to identify scalable best-bet technologies and develop an action plan.
The technology options identified included vaccinating chickens against Newcastle disease, disseminating new varieties of cassava, sweet potato and Irish potatoes, and facilitating seed systems of legume crops using models such as the Community Seed Banks and Revolving Seed Funds. These technologies and approaches will serve as the priorities with the most promise to increase the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector in Mozambique. A special Task Force will be formed to synthesize the outcomes of the meeting and narrow down options that will be considered for funding by donors.
The meeting was organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Close to 100 participants from Mozambique’s national research program, the Institute of Agricultural Research for Mozambique (IIAM), CGIAR centers such as ICRISAT, International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Potato Centre (CIP) and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the private sector, universities in Mozambique, International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) attended the meeting.
ICRISAT-Lilongwe was represented in the workshop by Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa; Mr Oswin Madzonga, Senior Research Technician; and Ms Veronica Guwela, Scientific Officer.
With science-based innovations as the best bet in the fight against poverty and hunger, ICRISAT and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) commit to a stronger partnership in up-scaling and commercializing cutting-edge innovations to improve the livelihoods of marginalized rainfed communities in the Philippines.
“Up-scaling technology to elevate the agriculture enterprise with smallholder farmers as the ultimate beneficiaries is vital in attaining sustainable food and nutrition security and improved livelihoods for the country’s rural poor,” said Director General William Dar in his message at the opening program of the 9th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held in Manila, Philippines on 8 August.
“At ICRISAT, improving access to markets and establishing efficient value chains is at the core of our research-for-development initiatives. We call our approach Inclusive Market-Oriented Development or IMOD, specifically aimed to benefit the poor by moving them from impoverished subsistence farming to prosperous market orientation,” Dr Dar highlighted. He then proposed five areas along the IMOD approach for the Philippine government to put more investment on and ensure that the poor, smallholder farmers benefit. These areas include: revitalizing dryland or rainfed areas which over 5 million households are dependent upon; up-scaling applied research; capacity building and knowledge sharing; strong public-private partnership; and use of modern genomics to develop high-yielding, nutritious and resilient crop varieties.
The four-day event, organized by DA-BAR’s National Technology Commercialization Program, showcased DA-BAR’s technology and product exhibits on high-value crops, natural products for health and wellness, organic agriculture, climate change adaptation, livestock and fisheries. “With a total of 107 exhibitors this year, we encourage our partners from the different regions of the country to look for possible markets for their products, hence, establish linkages with other networks,” said DA-BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar in his welcome remarks.
The highly successful exhibition was visited by thousands of stakeholders from various national and regional agencies, research institutions, local governments, private sector, development organizations, and state colleges and universities. Seminars and meetings on business matching for partnerships and other ventures for possible agricultural enterprises were also held.
Prominently featured as one of the exhibitors at the event, ICRISAT’s booth on “The DA-BAR – ICRISAT Partnership: Making Life Better for Smallholder Farmers” served as an effective platform for active interaction and engagement with Philippine partners and stakeholders. The exhibit mapped out the strategic partnership between the DA-BAR and ICRISAT focused on introduction of ICRISAT-bred materials of sorghum, pigeonpea, peanut and groundnut; community-based watershed management, policy advocacy, capacity building and other cutting-edge innovations on rainfed agriculture.
The lives of hundreds of smallholder farmers in the small village of Padasoli in Jaipur district, 29 kilometers from the state capital of Rajasthan – and long affected by frequent droughts and marginal lands – are changing. Women farmers, in particular, are reaping the benefits from improved and sustainable pigeonpea production, with the promise of food and nutrition security and a better quality of life for their families.
Munni Devi, a pigeonpea farmer, says the introduction of improved cultivars into the village has spelled a complete turnaround in her life. “Before, I was cultivating sorghum and mungbean in my 4 acres of land, with very low yield and return (` 8,000-10,000/year). Now with pigeonpea, I earn about ` 70,000 per hectare/year. A small portion of the produce we eat at home, while the majority is sold to the market,” she says. Munni, a widow living with and helping support her extended family, is a progressive woman farmer leader participating in ICRISAT’s collaborative project on pigeonpea production with the Agricultural Research Station (ARS), Durgapura, Jaipur.
Aside from the significant increase in income from pigeonpea production, pigeonpea is considered a ‘wonder crop’ by the women in the village because of its multi-purpose use. “We use pigeonpea in making pakoda, dal and other food preparations, while the leaves, pod shell and broken seeds we use to feed livestock, and the dried stalks we use as firewood for cooking,” says Munni.
Pigeonpea cultivation has provided a great relief to rural women in Padasoli by way of eliminating the drudgery of collecting fuel wood from nearby forest areas. Now the whole village is using dried pigeonpea stalks as fuel wood.
Known as the “poor people’s meat” because of its high protein content (usually between 18 to 25% but can reach 32%), pigeonpea has also become a sustainable, inexpensive source of protein especially for the children in the village.
“Before, we could not afford to buy dahl for our everyday meal. Now, with the availability and affordability of dahl in the village, I can prepare and serve my children with dahl anytime,” says Prem Devi, a young mother of four – ages 3, 5, 8 and 10.
Pigeonpea is the second most important pulse crop in Rajasthan but it is cultivated on limited land due to non-availability of suitable varieties. To enhance the production of pigeonpea in the state, a project ‘Enhancing Livelihoods of Resource-Poor Farmers of Rajasthan through Introduction of Eco-friendly Pigeonpea Varieties’ is now being implemented by ICRISAT in collaboration with the ARS, Durgapura of the Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University (SKRAU).
In 2012, ICRISAT’s ICPL 88039 variety was introduced to four districts of Rajasthan (Jaipur, Alwar, Karauli and Dausa) along with nutrient management packages suitable to the areas. Yields of around 1,900 kg/ha were recorded in the fields where manure (Neem plus) was used as a basal dose.
In Padasoli village in Jaipur district, a total of 177 pigeonpea demonstrations were conducted in the village, producing 202 tons of grain with an average yield of 1,140 kg/ha.
Pigeonpea producers were also linked to local markets where farm produce is being directly sold at a good price. The project has installed four mini-dahl mills in the villages leading to value-addition of the farmers’ produce. Some selected farmers were also trained in grading and dahl making, which has helped them earn more profits from the crop.
In an important project activity, a group of villagers were trained in quality seed production, and in 2012 they sold over 10 tons of seed to a private seed company at a premium price of ` 45/kg.
The project’s range of activities from seed distribution to marketing and consumption is an example of how ICRISAT’s IMOD strategy functions, and serves as a model for other villages to follow.
Documenting the success stories in Padasoli was a team from ICRISAT’s Strategic Marketing and Communication led by its Director, Joanna Kane-Potaka, along with Cristina P Bejosano, Alina Paul-Bousset, Jerome Bousset and PS Rao, who trooped to the village on 7 August to interact with the farmers and shoot video footages. The group was accompanied by Dr SJ Singh, Principal Investigator and Scientist-in-Charge of ARS Durgapura and Dr KB Saxena, ICRISAT Principal Scientist - Pigeonpea.
Many smallholder farmers in the parched Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions in India swear by a five-point program that has transformed their lives and brought smiles to their lips. The HOPE project’s five-point package of practices consisting of in-situ moisture conservation, use of improved cultivars, wide row spacing, use of fertilizers at sowing, and insect-pest management, has brought home to about 33,000 farmers the importance of a science-led approach in improving yields in the region, known as the sorghum bowl of India.
During 2012-13, Maharashtra had about 30-60% less than normal rainfall (about 400 mm). The failure of rains after the sowing of postrainy sorghum led to severe shortage of protective irrigation and drinking water. With the dissemination of rain water harvesting and in-situ moisture conservation techniques, supply of improved varieties and sharing of improved crop production technologies under the project, sorghum yields have significantly increased. The program was implemented in close partnership with state and national institutions such as the Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) and the National Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR).
As part of the Government of India’s Food Security Mission, 1 kg of sorghum seed is given to needy persons at ` 1, compared to its market price of ` 30. During the last four years (2009-10 to 2012-13), project activities have focused efforts in Sanpuri (Parbhani District), Limbaganesh (Beed District) and Wakulni (Jalna District) in the Marathwada area; and Hivare Bazar (Ahmednagar District), Borkarwadi (Pune District) and Aurad (Sholapur District) in Western Maharashtra, where about one-third of the targeted area is now sown to improved varieties, compared to just 10% before the project began.
Owing to the five-point program, the last three years have seen over 25,000 project farmers increasing sorghum grain yields by 35-52% and fodder yields by 27-34% compared to the use of local practices.
Sharing their experiences on the project interventions, farmers Bhausaheb Gaikwad and Raju Sayyed from Ahmednagar Taluq said that under rainfed conditions, they used to harvest only 500-750 kg/ha. The adoption of improved cultivars and use of management practices introduced by the HOPE project, according to them, had resulted in yield levels of 2000-2500 kg/ha.
Farmers like Bappasaheb Gavane (Savargaon), Yogesh Yempure (Udand Vadgaon), Rajesh Deshmukh (Nandakheda) and Naresh Shinde (Sanpuri) have managed to raise very good crops from improved varieties like Parbhani Moti and Akola Kranti. They are highly pleased with the higher grain and fodder yields from improved varieties and cultivation technology with in-situ moisture conservation under water-scarce conditions.
For these smallholder farmers in the two parched regions constantly battling drought, the project interventions have brought them hope of a better livelihood and a prosperous future.