Call for sustainable intensification of farming systems in Zimbabwe
Researchers and stakeholders recently came together at a workshop to define the role of agricultural research for sustainable climate-resilient food systems and integrated crop-livestock farming in semi-arid Zimbabwe. Discussions were also held on outlining the priorities of government, NARS and ICRISAT in (i) Farming systems: crop, livestock, irrigation and watershed management; (ii) Scenario development: climate change impacts and vulnerability assessments; and (iii) Impact assessments of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, pathways and foresight. Apart from discussing the results and progress of ongoing projects, participants also deliberated on aligning research priorities with Zimbabwe’s National Development Plans and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
At the workshop, research outcomes of current projects were presented and feedback solicited from key stakeholders about the relevance of the research outputs and their use in future upscaling. Strengthening institutional coordination and development was identified as a major driver of development and area of future research. Another significant insight was that the development of the agricultural sector entails creating the right environment for marketing climate-smart crops and livestock.
Results from the following three projects were presented:
Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe (ZimCLIFS, 2012-2017)
Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms (2013-2017)
Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, Crop Livestock Intensification Project (AgMIP CLIP, 2012-2017)
The workshop provided an important opportunity for stakeholders to contribute to the dialog on sustainable intensification and climate change adaptation in smallholder crop-livestock systems. The deliberations can guide ongoing research and policy development at provincial and national level on enabling conditions for those processes.
On the first day of the workshop, plenary presentations about the three research projects were made.
Highlights of the presentations:
- Crop-livestock integration and irrigation systems technologies are ways to enhance farm productivity and resource use efficiency.
- Research, policy and extension must work together to create conditions under which farming will be more profitable.
- Commercialization of the smallholder farming sector must be supported so that farmers can benefit from more efficient value chains.
- Future climate change impacts on farming must be better understood to facilitate suitable development processes, technologies and markets.
- Clear communication among national, provincial and local levels should lead to research-backed consultative decision making and policy processes.
Structured group discussions were held around:
- How relevant is the information for decision making in your organization? What information is missing? How would you use it?
- What should research/development/policy priorities focus on, since we know the results?
- How and through what type of partnerships can we use this research for scaling up?
Feedback from researchers:
- While the information is relevant, it must be continuously validated, updated and packaged. Various ministries should collaborate synergistically for scaling up climate change adaptations. A forum on research-informed climate change adaptations and impacts needs to be established.
- The assessments need to capture social indicators, be gender-specific, and include analyses on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and indigenous knowledge blended with research.
Feedback from extension officials:
- Research-based information, interventions and initiatives are relevant, but need to be presented to farmers in ways that are easy to understand and implement.
- Models should capture the circumstances of farmers on the ground and include familiar crops and livestock in the smallholder sector. Better coordination and integration of research can help extension services craft meaningful messages and advisories for farmers.
- Information regarding changes in incidences of pests/diseases for crops/livestock as a result of climate change needs to be factored in the models, e.g., the recent fall armyworm infestation.
- More stakeholder consultations across scales, better integration of disciplines and enablement of extension services are factors essential for appropriate climate change adaptation and enabling mechanisms. Institutions should work together for climate change adaptation to be effective.
Feedback from policy makers:
- Research is important at multiple scales. At the farm scale, providing markets to farmers for crops and livestock makes it easier for them to integrate and intensify their farming systems. At a national level, for commercializing the farming sector, there is need for institutional development and a framework for policy integration.
Research can influence programs in multiple ways:
- Suggest new directives in agriculture, e.g. supporting groundnuts as cash crop that is also more climate resilient
- Support targeting and adjustments by agro-ecological zones
- Recommend gender programming, e.g. labor-saving technologies through monitoring irrigation; synergies in crop-livestock systems; and climate-smart commodities, such as goats and groundnuts, that work for women farmers.
On the second day of the workshop, participants visited the Silalatshane irrigation scheme to learn about irrigation technologies, scheme management and innovation platforms. While they heard about the challenges faced by farmers, they also learned about tools that they used to know exactly when to irrigate, ultimately increasing water and soil productivity.
The final day was dedicated to devising a strategy for creation of a collaborative group to develop a proposal for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The discussion of this session focused on designing and packaging research components, partnerships and action items for the proposal. A concept note will be developed a first step towards developing a proposal.
The three-day workshop was held at ICRISAT-Zimbabwe from 27-29 March. Participants (23, including 4 women) included national and provincial policy makers, researchers, extension officials, representatives from international research organizations and an NGO representative.