12) Farmer participatory research creates big impacts in four Asian countries

The ‘Farmer Participatory Improvement of Grain Legumes in Rainfed Asia', a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), was launched in 2002 in China, India, Nepal and Vietnam to improve the stability and productivity of rainfed agriculture through the introduction of the legumes in the system. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, ICRISAT, was the project implementation agency along with national partners including NGOs in each country.

Speaking at the ‘Project Completion Meeting' held at ICRISAT Center, Patancheru from 8 to10 May 2006, Dr William D Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, highlighted the achievements of the project. He said that besides improving legumes productivity in marginal areas through introduction of farmer preferred varieties and integrated crop management technologies, the major achievement of the project was to sensitize policy makers and help develop local capacity in a farmer participatory research and extension approach. Using the example of China, where local and provincial governments have now changed their approach from doling out cash under a poverty alleviation program to capacity building to bring out sustainable rural development, he advocated that other countries should follow a similar approach to derive long-term, sustainable benefits of agricultural research and development. Enthusiastic participation of the farmers in all project activities and their taking over the role of an extension agent in promoting project generated/refined technologies among other farmers from the partner and nearby villages, was a welcome sign of rural empowerment, he stated. Linkage with markets, value addition at the local level and micro-financing were some of the issues that emerged during the project implementation and these needed more attention in future, he emphasized.

Senior IFAD officials, Ms Chase Palmeri, Asia and Pacific Division and Dr Doug Wholey, Advisor, attended the meeting and expressed their satisfaction over the progress made in the project, which has largely achieved its objectives. They commended the linkages developed through this project with IFAD-loan Projects in partner countries impacting on the livelihoods of the poorest among the poor.

In China, introduction of pigeonpea in mountainous areas in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, helped not only in aforestation of bare mountains and in arresting soil erosion, but also provided food, feed, fodder and fuel to poor farmers in the region. New groundnut varieties alone could increase yield by up to 30% and integrated crop management technologies along with polythene mulch up to 70% in Hubei and Guangdong provinces. In India, the project activities were carried out at selected locations in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Some of the technologies adopted by the farmers and now being promoted by them are improved varieties of groundnut, chickpea, pigeonpea, lentil and blackgram and their integrated crop management technologies and seed production, groundnut + pigeonpea intercropping in Gujarat and Orissa and groundnut and simple agronomic practices in tribal areas in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand among others. Groundnut variety ICGV 91114 has won the hearts of farmers in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is also finding acceptance in Karnataka and Gujarat because of its early maturity and ability to withstand long dry spells. The same success story is repeated in Nepal and Vietnam.

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