SATrends Issue 44                                                                                                                  July 2004

  • Market-driven Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Un guide électronique pour les visiteurs du Centre sahélien
  • Wireless to the rescue of drylands?
  • 1. Market-driven Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa
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    Raising soil fertility is the entry point for ICRISAT and its partners in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to achieve more productive, sustainable systems. Better resource management has to be combined with crop improvement or integrated genetic and natural resource management. Moreover, combining crops, livestock, and trees further helps to manage the risks and generate higher incomes.

    Policies that lead to functioning marketing channels that make agriculture more profitable are thus critical, as are innovations that improve farmer integration into markets. The proposed six key areas that could yield significant impacts are:

    a) The Desert Margins Center
    The UNCCD and ICRISAT are catalyzing the formation of a new Desert Margins Center at ICRISAT’s Niamey Center in Niger, in partnership with the UNCCD, NEPAD, sister CGIAR Centers and national, regional, and international research and civil society partners.

    b) Fertilizer microdosing
    Soil and land degradation in SSA is occurring from under-use of inorganic fertilizer, not over-use. Farmers can profit with even tiny doses of fertilizer. Employing the innovation more than 5,000 farmers in West Africa are using fertilizer for the first time and have been achieving higher yields and incomes for several years.

    c) Institutional innovations in farmer organizations
    Responding to an urgent need to extend credit to poor, small-scale farmers, one example of an institutional innovation is producer groups and/or credit associations that provide inventory credit (or ‘warrantage’ in French). Farmer associations provide loans so farmers can get through the harvest-time cash crunch while still holding onto their crop until prices rise. Effective formats for partnerships among banks, farmers and extension services need to be identified so the model can be scaled-up.
    A demi-lune in the Ecofarm traps water for the tree.


    d) Broadening the markets
    City dwellers are attracted to quickly-prepared, high-quality foods. The processed food industry demands high-quality grains. Research is needed to understand and obtain the necessary grain quality characteristics for cereals, legumes, baking, animal feed, brewing, and other high-value product types. New partnerships need to be built among producers, processors and marketing organizations.


    e) The Dryland Ecofarm

    A new prototype farming system under development by ICRISAT and its partners, depends only on rainfall as a water source, and integrates water conservation and harvesting, soil rehabilitation, and the cultivation of traditional and higher-value crops to offer farmers a way to sustainably increase their production and incomes. Early results suggest that it can generate triple the revenue of traditional systems. This prototype now needs to be adapted, tested and demonstrated on a large scale, and supply and market channels for inputs and produce need development.

    f) The African Market Garden (AMG)
    ‘Market gardens’, small plots that are intensively cultivated and bucket-irrigated to provide vegetables for urban dwellers, are a common sight around SSA. There is enormous potential to expand and improve these systems. Investment in the AMG pays for itself in the first year. When date palms are included, the profit advantage is thirty times. Over 100 pilot AMGs have been established so far in the Sahel.

    For more information contact b.shapiro@cgiar.org

    2. Un guide électronique pour les visiteurs du Centre sahélien
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    Les pluies se sont enfin installées sur le Niger. Les esprits sont maintenant rassurés: récolte il y aura, car la période la plus incertaine est passée, celle entre les semailles et l’ancrage de la mousson, pendant laquelle une période sèche trop longue sur des pousses encore fragiles peut réduire à néant la saison. C’est qu’il y a toujours un pari dans le choix de la date de semis. La majorité des paysans ont semé il y a un mois et demi, certains même il y a deux mois sur la pluie exceptionnelle du 29 avril, où plus de 100 mm d’eau était tombée. Même ce pari-là semble gagné en ce début juillet et la sérénité s’est installée chez les paysans avec les nuages dans le ciel nigérien et un mil qui se renforce de jour en jour. Bien sûr, on ne sait pas de quelle qualité la récolte sera et il reste toujours des dangers, comme ces nuages de criquets qui jouent au chat et à la souris dans les frontières du nord, le chat étant les plus hautes autorités en protection des végétaux des pays concernés, où encore comme ces oiseaux pilleurs de mil qui peuvent se regrouper sur les premiers champs arrivés à maturité, mais il semblerait qu’en ce qui concerne les mois de juillet et août, la quiétude soit de mise.
    Les fermiers peuvent vaquer à leurs occupations sans ce fardeau supplémentaire qu’est l’incertitude.

    C’est donc à l’amorce d’un été paisible que l’ICRISAT-Niamey reçoit, cette année, ses stagiaires, ces étudiants qui ont décidé de profiter des vacances universitaires pour renforcer leurs formations avec un stage pratique. L’ICRISAT-Niamey est heureux d’accueillir 35 stagiaires cette année. Une moitié d’entre eux suit des études scientifiques, tandis que l’autre moitié se répartit entre les secteurs administratifs et techniques. Leurs pays de provenance sont en premier le Niger, puis le Nigéria, le Burkina Faso, la Belgique et l’Algérie, la Finlande et le Japon.

    Le centre sahélien facilite leur intégration cette année avec l’édition d’un petit guide électronique de 12 pages rassemblant des informations succinctes mais nécessaires pour leur bon séjour. L’idée de ce guide n’est pas d’être exhaustif ; il se veut une invitation à découvrir le Niger et le Centre sahélien de l’ICRISAT, à venir connaître et savoir. C’est une main tendue sur le net aux étudiants désireux d’ouvrir leur horizon.

    Des paysans sereins, des stagiaires bien informés mais en premier lieu un Sahel vert, les mois de juillet et d’août s’annoncent bien !

    Pour plus d’informations ou pour solliciter le guide électronique (750 ko, pdf) veuillez contacter m.maruca@cgiar.org
    3. Wireless to the rescue of drylands?
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    New wireless technologies for communication are influencing lifestyles in most parts of the world. SMS is bringing in over US $ 50 billions in revenue to mobile service operators. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous in airports and restaurants. How can the wireless be made to work for the farmer in the SAT?

    Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chennai is well known for his contributions to the world of communications technology. His team has developed a variant of the Wireless-in-Local-Loop (WLL) technology that is now widely used in Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, China and India. His science-park company, n-Logue, has set up nearly 1200 rural kiosks where this technology is used to connect to the internet while simultaneously allowing voice calls to go through. The quality is good enough to allow desktop video conferencing to take place with a village at one end! Ashok's team has encouraged extension experts in South India to interact with farmers using video conferencing on the WLL. There are known examples where standing crops have been saved because diseases were diagnosed early on using video conferencing with experts. As part of the VASAT activities, ICRISAT will collaborate with Ashok's group to develop a system to gather weather data from hundreds of rural locations in real-time and transmit it via rural IT kiosks to a central database ( ashok@tenet.res.in ).

    Ahsan Abdullah, Associate Professor in the Pakistan University for Computing and Emerging Sciences, is developing the practice of Radio Net. The ubiquitous FM radio can be used to deliver control data to a PC which needs a low-cost radio-tuner card. A PC can be loaded with a lot of 'static' information needed by a rural family, and an extension agency can send a radio signal at any time to 'fetch' or display a particular piece of information. Radio, in effect, can be used to trigger a display event in a PC located in a remote rural area so that the local worker is able to get information without complex searches. Abdullah has been invited to write a contribution for a future issue of SATrends ( ahsan.abdullah@nu.edu.pk ).

    Both Ashok and Abdullah participated in the VASAT Workshop on ICT4D good practices (28-29 June) held at ICRISAT headquarters in India.

    For more information contact v.balaji@cgiar.org