Livestock and Livelihoods: Boosting Incomes and Productivity

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 16, 2015

harvesting grn fodder_origLivestock provides an important complement to cereal farming-based livelihoods in South Asia and can increase incomes for millions of crop-livestock farmers. In collaboration with other CSISA partners, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been helping crop-livestock farmers to boost income and milk production by increasing the availability of fodder, promoting efficient use of cereal residues and improving the quality of supplementary feeds in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

ILRI applied the lessons learned during CSISA Phase I regarding multi-disciplinary R&D, working in innovation hubs, adapting technologies for new contexts and forming strategic partnerships in CSISA Phase II in order to intensify the uptake of locally adapted feed interventions and strengthen farmer linkages with input (including service) and output markets. ILRI explored business opportunities in CSISA’s new hub in Odisha, as well as new sites in Bihar, south-west Bangladesh and the far west of Nepal.

Crop-livestock Farmers Benefit from New Technologies

In Phase II, ILRI focused on technology development and adaptation, as well as capacity development among partners for the uptake and scaling out of proven technologies and best practices. Tangible impacts included higher milk yield (10-14 percent) and better milk quality (1-3 percent higher fat content), which translated into higher income from milk sales (additional US$ 50-150/animal/year) and/or reduction in feed costs (30 percent savings from less waste due to chopping, for example). The increased uptake of locally-adapted livestock feeding practices introduced by CSISA have contributed to improved livestock productivity.

cow pulling fodder

A cow pulling fodder.

In Bihar, 1,500 farmers across six districts (Samastipur, Muzzafarpur, Begusarai, Vaishali, Ara and Patna) have adopted urea-treated maize stover as feed, and self-prepared balanced concentrate feed and mineral mixture as feed supplements to basal diets of their dairy cows. In Odisha, around 1,200 farmers across three districts (Puri, Bhadrak and Mayurbanj) have adopted chopped straw and fodder grass as essential diets of their dairy cows, supplemented with improved concentrated feed and mineral mixture.

In Bangladesh, 150 farmers have adopted maize stover as feed and over 1,500 farmers have been practicing mechanical chopping of crop residues, of which two out of every three is female. In Nepal, 700 farmers (in five village development committees) have adopted chopped straw as basal diet supplemented with self-prepared balanced concentrate feed and mineral mixture, an increase from 10 percent (pre-CSISA interventions) to 40 percent among farmers inside and outside CSISA’s farmer-group collaborators.

Easily Available High-Quality, Chopped Fodder

The increased availability of high-quality chopped fodder reflects the emergence of derived demand for complementary inputs and services to sustain the adoption of new feed technologies and best practices. Through various trainings and capacity-strengthening activities, auxiliary service enterprises were developed, revealing the entrepreneurial tendencies of our collaborators, expanding their livelihood opportunities in the process. For example, eight local service providers (LSPs) in Bihar and five LSPs in Odisha have been established for preparing balanced concentrate feed, while 12 LSPs have been established in Bangladesh to provide straw chopping services in response to increased demand for chopped straw and fodder.

In addition, two fodder markets in Shanerhat and Pirgong in Bangladesh’s Rangpur district were established in collaboration with local partners to serve increased demand for fodder, which have made fodder easily accessible and widely available while providing income-generating opportunities for fodder growers. With the introduction of fodder crops and forages as part of a basket of feeding options, farmers in CSISA sites were able to expand their feed resource base, helping them mitigate productivity constraints arising from seasonal variability and the generally low quality of available feeds.

This article is authored by Lucy Lapar, Senior Scientist and Agricultural Economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Farmers in Tamil Nadu Benefit from Better Information, Tools and Technology

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, October 9, 2015

TN exit workshopIn the last five years, CSISA has reached over 25,000 farmers and has covered more than 70,000 acres through water- and labor-saving agricultural technologies in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as reported during the CSISA Tamil Nadu Hub Celebration Workshop from 15-16 September in Thanjavur (participants of the workshop pictured above).

As part of CSISA, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) tested and scaled-out improved rice crop technologies and management practices including laser land leveling, mechanized dry direct seeding of rice, mechanical transplanting of rice, site-specific nutrient management and line sowing using a multicrop seeder under reduced-tillage conditions. These technologies are helping farmers reduce the cost of production and increase their income in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts of the Cauvery Delta and the neighboring districts of Ramanathapuram and Sivagangai.

“Farmers can save water by 25–35 percent by not puddling the field and by using shorter-duration crops,” said R. Ganeshamoorthy, CSISA Tamil Nadu hub manager. “Farmers can save about 40 percent of labor because renting a farm machine is cheaper than hiring manual labor. The profit from the dry direct seeded rice is twice as much as that of conventional rice cultivation. Overall, farmers can increase their yields by 7–10 percent depending on the rice variety.”

Making Arid Lands Cultivable

Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram districts are two of the most arid areas in Tamil Nadu. With almost 73 percent of the population depending on agriculture, paddy is a staple crop grown only during the dry season (rabi), mainly under rainfed conditions, with seeds broadcasted before the rains. The practice of dry direct seeding of rice, which requires less water and labor, is helping transform uncultivable lands (geographically about 50 percent of the area) to productive agricultural areas in these districts.

The Reliance Foundation and CSISA have been working in partnership to convert dry tracts of lands from traditional broadcasted rice to dry direct seeded using a seed drill. As a result, 250 hectares in Sivagangai have already become cultivable and farmers’ groups have purchased 11 seed drills and are renting out the equipment to other farmers.

“Working together with several important organizations is key to the success of the widespread dissemination of these technologies in Tamil Nadu,” said Noel Magor, head of the Impact Acceleration Unit and Training Center at IRRI.  “In 2013, for example, the use of seed drill and land laser leveling machines was endorsed by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) while the Department of Agriculture (DoA) facilitated and provided some subsidy to purchase the machines for outscaling to the farmers.”

The Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, ITC Agribusiness division, Syngenta, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Reliance Foundation are among several partners who supported the research, capacity-building and extension work for large-scale adoption of the technologies.

Less Fertilizers, More Profits

The Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMR), an ICT-based decision tool that gives real-time site-specific fertilizer recommendation, is helping farmers use less fertilizers as compared with farmers’ current practice, thus increasing their profits by US$ 67 per hectare on average. This tool, introduced by CSISA in the Cauvery delta, provides fertilizer guidelines matching the field-specific needs and conditions of a farmer, according to IRRI scientist P. Panneerselvam.

“Fertilizers are typically the second largest input cost in rice production,” said Panneerselvam. “Thus, Nutrient Manager for Rice is a welcome technology in Tamil Nadu.” NMR supports and complements the existing crop management advisory services of the state government.

Based on the information provided by farmers about their fields, Nutrient Manager recommends the ideal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to be added at critical growth stages, while taking into account the amount of fertilizer the farmer prefers to use.

With the use of NMR, farmers can save 15-20 percent of nitrogen, 36-42 percent of phosphorous and 28 percent of potassium compared with state fertilizer recommendation; and 33-42 percent phosphorous and 30 percent potassium compared with farmer’s practice. These were the results from an on-farm participatory research done from 2013 to 2015 in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, and Nagapattinam districts in Tamil Nadu.

“Tamil Nadu is a major rice producing state in India with 1.9 million hectares under rice. The Cauvery delta contributes a substantial share to the state’s rice production,” said Panneerselvam. “Thus, helping farmers here will have an impact on the overall production of the country.”

Sustaining Impacts

Partner organizations such as TNAU and MSSRF have agreed to extend the research and development initiatives under CSISA, beyond the project life-cycle. “TNAU will take up the outscaling of key technologies under CSISA although the project has already ended,” said R. Rajendran, TNAU agronomist, who has been associated with CSISA for the last seven years.

“TNAU will continue by extending technologies such as improved dry seeded rice cultivation, nonpuddled machine rice transplanting and laser land leveling,” Rajendran said. “Also, the research initiatives conducted through CSISA will not stop. The research outcomes will be taken continually to the farmers with the support from the Government of Tamil Nadu and TNAU,” he added.

The Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute and the Soil and Water Management Research Institute will also continue to expand the adoption of the water- and labor-saving technologies in the Cauvery Delta and the entire rice-growing areas of Tamil Nadu.

“MSSRF is now extending the training to farmers after its staff members attended the season-long training on dry direct seeded rice,” said G. Sudhakar, scientist at MSSRF. The season-long training was piloted by CSISA where participants received hands-on training on all aspects of crop production and management — from sowing to grain storage — during the entire growing season.

The original version of this article appears in the IRRI News Bulletin.

Asia Wheat Breeders Develop Strategies to Face Future Threats

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 7, 2015

Wheat Breeders MeetingOver the past six years, wheat breeding for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance has gained momentum in South Asia through effective collaboration with national partners under the umbrella of CSISA, according to Arun Joshi, Principal Scientist, CIMMYT and CSISA Objective 4 Leader. Joshi said that new wheat varieties have been developed that have faster grain filling ability and can adapt to a range of sowing dates. “Improved networking with public and private sector seed hubs enabled faster inclusion of these new varieties in the seed dissemination chain,” added Joshi.

Fifty scientists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal assembled at Karnal, India on 2-3 September for the 7th Wheat Breeding Review meeting, reflecting the growing interest of the national agriculture research systems (NARS) in South Asia in genetic gains and CSISA’s seed dissemination work. In addition to assessing the broad framework of issues that currently concern wheat improvement, the meeting reviewed the progress of the 2014-15 cycle and established work plans for the coming crop cycle.

According to Indu Sharma, Director, Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, collaborative research with a regional perspective will be important to achieve food security and sustain farmers’ livelihoods in the future. While appreciating new research efforts, she highlighted that CSISA has played a critical role in wheat research focused on handling rust resistance and heat tolerance in South Asia.

Participating scientists from CIMMYT and national public partners discussed strategies to strengthen research on future threats such as wheat rusts, early and late heat stress and water scarcity. Wheat rusts have been known to be a constant threat causing severe losses to wheat production worldwide. “The threat from rusts is particularly acute in South Asia, which produces 20 percent of the world’s wheat. Recently, yellow rust has become extremely threatening for India, Pakistan and Nepal,” Joshi highlighted. CIMMYT’s resistance breeding programs continue to keep these diseases (including Ug99) in control, safeguarding farmers and their incomes.

According to Joshi, disease-resistant varieties are one of the most effective control strategies for most diseases of wheat grown by resource-poor farmers in the developing world. For a farmer, the cost of protecting 1 hectare of wheat against disease through the application of modern chemicals is estimated to be US$ 10-80 per hectare. With the use of disease-resistant varieties, farmers can save this cost as the rust resistance in wheat is embedded in the seed.

Various sessions reviewed progress and plans from 10 national research centers. After a gap of 20 years, the partnership between the Bhutanese national research program and CIMMYT has led to the release of three new wheat varieties, informed Sangay Tshewang, Wheat Co-ordinator, Renewable Natural Resources Research & Development Sub Centre, Tsirang, Bhutan during his presentation.  Enhancing the capacity of wheat scientists in the region and establishing linkages between breeders, seed producers and farmers featured among the other themes discussed during the meeting.

Looking ahead, many national scientists stressed that they would focus on increasing linkages and improving coordination between the national research programs, CIMMYT and other stakeholders in the seed business to create an enabling environment for faster release of new varieties to farmers and strengthened capacity to handle disease and climate change threats.

This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Building Wheat’s Resilience to Heat in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 7, 2015

Wheat-heat-resilienceEnhancing the productivity of the rice-wheat cropping systems in the Indo-Gangetic Plains is essential for ensuring food security for more than 20 percent of the world’s population. Such enhancement is particularly important in the relatively impoverished and food insecure regions of eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, farmers must regularly contend with risks posed by high temperatures during the wheat grain filling period. These risks can reduce yields by more than 50 percent — even with good management. In addition, progressive climate change has already affected the region, making adaptation to heat stress an urgent near and longer-term priority for ensuring regional food security and climatic conditions are expected to worsen significantly in the coming decades.

Under the CSISA umbrella, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in close collaboration with the national wheat programs in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, has released new wheat varieties with higher yield potential, which perform well even in the stress-prone areas of the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains.

Nevertheless, the long-term solution to heat stress cannot be found in any single technology; it must draw from several approaches, including adjustments to management practices, genetic advances, efficient irrigation technologies and mechanization.

CSISA efforts have identified timely wheat planting as the most important contemporary determinant of wheat yields in farm fields across the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains. In 2009, CSISA began to promote early sowing of wheat to combat the negative effects of rising temperatures.

Due to ingrained habits in places like the eastern Indian state of Bihar, few farmers were initially willing to sow their wheat in early November, even on a trial basis. Through community-based evaluations and collaborative research trials with partners such as the Research Complex for the eastern region, CSISA has built a compelling body of evidence for the importance of early planting. As a result, public perception and official recommendations have changed, resulting in more than 600,000 farmers planting wheat earlier in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

CSISA has also worked to expand access to sustainable intensification technologies that facilitate early planting methods, such as zero tillage. With assistance from CSISA, more than 1,600 entrepreneurs are currently providing zero tillage services to over 100,000 households in eastern India and farmers have achieved significant wheat yield gains (20 percent) and cost savings ($100 per hectare).

With USAID’s Feed the Future support, CSISA pursues climate-smart strategies that are profitable today and fully supported by the public and private sectors to help farmers in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains build toward a more food secure future.

This article is authored by Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Cropping Systems Agronomist and CSISA Project Leader. It was originally published in the Feed the Future Newsletter.  

Building National Capacity on Conservation Agriculture in India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 5, 2015

Estimates show that as of 2013, nearly 1.5 million hectares of arable cropland in India have been brought under conservation agriculture (CA)-based practices. Outside of northwest India, however, the concept remains relatively unfamiliar to farmers and extension personnel. Against that backdrop, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) conducted an intensive training program on CA from 2-11 September for researchers from the national agricultural research and extension system (NARES).

Organized at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI) in Karnal, Haryana, the training focused on developing resilient systems through CA-based management practices. The objective was to train researchers to accelerate farming system adaptation to climate risks through CA-based best-bet management practices that reduce vulnerability. A total of 18 researchers participated in the training, which was inaugurated by Gurbachan Singh, Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB), New Delhi.

Participants received hands-on-training on CA technologies and visited various participatory and strategic trials during the program.

Participants received hands-on-training on CA technologies and visited various participatory and strategic trials during the program.

Singh highlighted the importance of the program saying that CA can improve the productivity and profitability of India’s cropping systems under aberrant weather situations in different agro-climatic zones of the country to sustain food security, while maintaining and improving the quality of the natural resource base. Globally, the positive impact of CA-based techniques on natural resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation have been widely acknowledged. In India, realizing the importance of CA, more strategic research on precise nutrient application, water, cultivars and weed management has been initiated only in the recent past.

The training highlighted first-hand experiences and insights from scientists who had implemented various aspects of CA in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP). As Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Cropping Systems Agronomist and CSISA project leader, pointed out, “The continuous cultivation of rice-wheat cropping systems for almost five decades in the IGP has considerably degraded natural resources such as water, soil, climate and biodiversity.” According to D.K. Sharma, Director, CSSRI, “CA has the potential to check the process of resalinization of north-western IGP by reducing the evaporative losses from the soil surface and its emphasis on stopping residue burning.”

In his presentation, R.K. Malik, CIMMYT Senior Agronomist and CSISA Objective 1 leader, focused on the need to design resource use-efficient, diversified and resilient cropping systems as an alternative to intensive rice-wheat systems. He further highlighted the issues of groundwater depletion, declining soil health associated with multiple nutrient deficiencies, pest outbreaks and shift in weed flora. On the other hand, M.L. Jat, CIMMYT Senior Scientist, stressed upon how the convergence of technologies has helped make climate-smart agriculture a reality that helps safeguard farming systems from weather abnormalities.

Praising the training program, Rameshwar Singh, Project Director, Directorate of Knowledge Management, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, stated that it was a unique opportunity for the scientific community working in the area of natural resource management. The program included hands-on training on numerous technologies such as the laser land leveler, turbo seeder, multi-crop planter and mechanical transplanter. Participants further benefited from visits to participatory and strategic trials and agricultural implements’ manufacturing sites.

This article is authored by H.S. Jat, Senior Scientist, CIMMYT; P.C. Sharma, Principal Scientist, ICAR-CSSRI, Karnal; and Kiranjot Kaur, Consultant, CIMMYT.

Zero-Till Wheat Raises Farmers’ Incomes in Eastern India, Research Shows

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 1, 2015

Farmer with wheat harvestIn a study published last month in Food Security, CIMMYT researchers reported that wheat farmers’ total annual income increased by 6% on average with the introduction of zero tillage (ZT) in Bihar. While studies done in the past in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) have shown ZT impacts in field trials or controlled environments, this research is believed to be the first that studied actual impacts in farmers’ fields.

ZT allows direct planting of wheat without plowing, sowing seeds directly into residues of the previous crop on the soil surface, thus saving irrigation water, increasing soil organic matter and suppressing weeds.

“We found that the prevailing ZT practice, without full residue retention, used by farmers in Bihar has led to an average yield gain of 498 kilogram per hectare (19%) over conventional tillage wheat, which is in contrast to the results of a recent global meta-analysis” says Alwin Keil, Senior Agricultural Economist, CIMMYT and the lead author of this study.

The global meta-analysis published last year compared crop yields in ZT and conventionally tilled production systems across 48 crops in 63 countries. It reported that ZT is only profitable in rainfed systems and when it is combined with full residue retention and crop rotation. “However, in Bihar, marginal and resource-poor farmers cannot afford to leave the full residue in the field as they use the rice straw to feed their livestock,” says Keil.

According to Keil, the divergent findings of the meta-analysis may be caused by the fact that most of the reviewed studies were conducted in moderate climatic zones (U.S., Canada, Europe, China) and results were aggregated across various crops.

Bringing a Wheat Revolution to Eastern India

Compared to the prosperous northwestern states, the eastern IGP is characterized by pervasive poverty and high population density, and its resource-poor farmers are more prone to the risks of climate change. Bihar has the lowest wheat yields in the IGP with an average of 2.14 tons per hectare.

To feed a growing wheat-consuming population, Bihar currently imports wheat largely from Punjab, where yields have stagnated over the last five years due to an over-exploitation of resources, especially water.

While ZT is widespread on the mechanized farms of Punjab and Haryana, seat of the first Green Revolution in India, farmers in the eastern IGP are yet to benefit. “There is also evidence that the positive effect of ZT is larger in areas with low agricultural productivity (generally low yields, such as Bihar) than in areas with higher productivity (such as Punjab, for instance),” remarks Keil.

Increasing Access among Smallholders

The study concludes that ZT users reap substantial benefits, and that this technology could help close the growing yield gap between production and consumption of wheat in Bihar. A 19% yield increase would translate into a production increase of 950,000 MT, which exceeds the total wheat imports into Bihar (868,000 MT in 2011).

However, with low ownership of tractors and ZT drills, large-scale adoption of ZT in eastern India hinges on an expansion of the network of service providers, who can custom-hire these kinds of services to smallholder farmers.

With public and private sector partners, the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has supported the development of ZT service providers among tractor owners by facilitating the purchase of ZT drills and providing technical trainings and know-how since 2009. Consequently, the number of ZT service providers in Bihar increased from 17 in 2011 to 1,624 in 2014, servicing a total of approximately 44,700 acres.

“Furthermore, we found that only 32% of non-users of ZT in our sample were aware of the technology. Hence, increasing the number of service providers to enhance farmers’ access to ZT has to go hand-in-hand with large-scale information campaigns to raise their awareness of the technology,” says Keil.

This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Developing Strategies for Improved Livestock Feeding in Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 25, 2015

ILRI Odisha Workshop

In August, ILRI organized a workshop entitled ‘Improving Livestock Feeding Practice and Enhancement of Feed and Fodder Availability in Odisha’ in collaboration with Society for Management of Information, Learning and Extension (SMILE). It was inaugurated by Pradeep Maharathy, Minister, Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Resources Development Department, Government of Odisha. The minister, in his inaugural address, placed special emphasis on promoting green fodder cultivation and feeding of processed and enriched crop residues especially paddy straw and maize stover to dairy animals in the state.

Gokul Chandra Pati, Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha, urged participants to focus on three key issues – high cost of animal feed, severe shortage of green fodder and lack of awareness among farmers about balanced feeding practices with available resources. He encouraged farmers to adopt better feeding practices by cultivating fodder as crop, which could be integrated in their annual cropping calendar, instead of relying solely on concentrate feed, which is not cost-efficient.

Highlighting ILRI’s work, Agricultural Economist Nils Teufel shared that livestock is already playing an important role in improving livelihoods in South Asia and that these same efforts can be replicated by applying relevant research findings to the Odisha context. During the workshop, findings from 10 scientific papers on feed and fodder were presented. Participants of the workshop included academics from OUAT and Utkal University, senior government officials, representatives from Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation (OMFED), farmers from across the state and national NGOs such as JK Trust and BAIF Development Research Foundation.

Improved Milk Yields for Tribal Farmers in Mayurbhanj, Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 31, 2015

IMG_0949Farming is the main source of income in Amdubi village of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district and livestock plays a major role. But feeding livestock can be challenging since the plots of land are small as well steep and mostly devoted to growing rice, maize and vegetables. The cattle are fed at home until after harvesting when they are allowed to feed on the remaining straw in the rice fields. Since they lack the resources to regularly purchase feed from the market, most farmers have to resort to feeding their livestock with broken rice and bran produced at home. Although farmers of this village grow maize, they never feed maize stover to animals.

As dairy farmer Suchitra Behera from the village points out, “Milk is a fallback to crop failure and it improves the nutrition of my family members. Every day, we have milk to drink even when it is too little to sell.” Despite receiving only seven years of formal education, Behera tries to educate her two daughters and one son besides also managing the household. Out of the total milk produced, she sells 80-90 percent to a middleman at approximately US$ 0.30 (Rs 20) per liter and the remaining 10-20 percent is kept for household consumption. In the absence of a milk cooperative, she is forced to sell the milk at a much lower rate.

Behera is a member of the Kala Mahajan Group self-help group for women, which allows her to draw the money she needs for farming expenses. She has also been recognized as a promising dairy farmer by the local animal husbandry department on account of her keen interest and hard work.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), introduced crop residue-based, especially maize stover, feeding strategies in the village to improve milk production of dairy animals and also provided the initial chopping machine. Before this training, farmers were feeding their animals the intact paddy straw, as well as maize leaves, which are difficult for the animals to digest and contain oxalic acid, which can be poisonous to cattle. Now, farmers go to the village center where the machine is placed and get more chopped stover to feed their cattle while only having to pay for the occasional maintenance of the machine.

Behera, who also received training from ILRI, is now able to feed her animals properly as well as save straw by half by feeding underutilized crop residue (maize stover) using less concentrate feed. Most importantly, she and her fellow dairy farmers are producing more milk. They feed the chopped stover to the animal in a bowl, which decreases the risks of contamination, improving the animal’s health in the process. The milk yield per animal has increased by 500 ml per day, making the economic benefits even more significant.

Developing the Next Breed of Scientists

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 12, 2015

One of the most essential resources in agriculture is water. For instance, it takes 2,497 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice. With climate change, water supply of farmlands will be greatly affected. By 2025, around 15–20 million hectares of irrigated rice will suffer from some degree of water scarcity. Given this adverse scenario, managing water resources will be a tough challenge and improved water management through water-saving practices will be vital in safeguarding agricultural production in the future.

Empowering young people to be catalysts of change can help solve many challenges in the future. Young scientists must play a leading role in such efforts to help shape a new image for modern agriculture.

Bibhu-Prasad

Bibhu Prasad’s interest in working with farmers grew upon moving to the rice belt of Sambalpur in Odisha.

Bibhu Prasad: A Passion for Working with Odisha’s Farmers
Born in the coastal Puri District of Odisha, Bibhu Prasad was introduced to agriculture early on in life. His father worked in an agricultural company marketing pesticides. Driven by his ambition to serve people in farming communities through rural development, Prasad received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture at Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT). His interest in working with farmers in rural areas grew upon moving to the rice belt of Sambalpur in Odisha after graduation. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in extension education from the same university.

Prasad is one of the nine students who received a research grant under the collaborative research activities of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and OUAT. Funded by USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CSISA makes use of strategic partnerships, participatory technology development, future-oriented cropping systems, research, and capacity building to catalyze locally appropriate, sustainable change in rural communities within and across South Asia. In 2013, the university sought support for capacity building of young scientists who will conduct their research and catalyze its delivery process.

Since January 2014, Prasad has been studying the adoption behavior of rice farmers toward alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology in Puri. “AWD is a new technology for Odisha. It’s interesting as it is a very simple and low-cost technology,” Prasad beams. “It is beneficial for Odisha’s farmers during the rabi season when irrigation is a major constraint.”

His goal is to advance research on AWD in Odisha and develop extension models for dissemination of the technology. “We are trying to disseminate the AWD technology to the farmers and study their adoption behavior in terms of their knowledge and attitudes, as well as constraints in adopting AWD. Along with this, we will observe the operational efficiency of the technology for the microfarming situation in Odisha,” he adds.

Farmers were exposed to the technology through awareness meetings, field days, information materials (fact sheets), and face-to-face interaction. Prasad is also conducting a survey to assess some socioeconomic parameters.

“After working with CSISA for more than a year through this scholarship program, I became familiar with new technologies, experienced hands-on training and was exposed to research,” he said. “I get an opportunity to work directly with the grassroots farmers. I am confident that this experience will help me in the future to solve some problems of rice consumers and producers. I am now aware of different resource conservation technologies, which will help the lives of poor and smallholder farmers.”

Ipsita Kar wants to help overcome poverty through rice science.

Ipsita Kar wants to help overcome poverty through rice science.

Ipsita Kar: Overcoming Poverty through Rice Science
Ipsita Kar finished her schooling in Delhi Public School, Nalco and pursued her bachelor’s degree at OUAT. She moved to Meghalaya for her master’s degree at Central Agricultural University. Now, she is pursuing a PhD in Agronomy from OUAT under the CSISA-OUAT collaborative project. “Working with CSISA has opened up my mind and broadened my view toward practical research, which would help people,” Kar shares.

In 2014, the scholarship program gave her the opportunity to attend the ‘Rice Research to Production’ training course at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in the Philippines. “The qualitative work being done at IRRI motivated me to give more insight about my research,” she says. Her research on water management aims to minimize water use without yield loss. “When I become a rice scientist, I will use what I’ve learned from my training and visits to advance agricultural research, which will help overcome poverty.”

The article is authored by Gladys Ebron, Public Relations Officer at IRRI. It was originally published in Rice Today, an international magazine dedicated to the world of rice.

Improving Crop Management through Remote Sensing

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 16, 2015

Satellite technology provides invaluable data that allows scientists to observe growth trends, study yield gaps and target technology and inputs to increase agricultural productivity. A collaboration between CSISA and Stanford University, U.S., is exploring how remote sensing-based information can help increase wheat yields in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP).

Wheat is a staple crop in northern India, providing approximately 20 percent of household calories. India’s ability to provide enough wheat for its growing population over the coming decades, however, is uncertain given that wheat yields have stagnated and are predicted to decrease due to warming temperatures. Yet, farmers may be able to improve yields by altering their management strategies, like shifting sowing dates or more appropriately targeting inputs. Doing this may help narrow the existing yield gap; some studies estimate that wheat yields are approximately 50 percent of what could be achieved with optimal management practices.

David and Meha

In early March, David Lobell (first from right) and Meha Jain (third from right) from Stanford University, US, visited CSISA sites in Bihar. Stanford is acquiring high resolution remote sensing data for some CSISA sites to validate their yield prediction algorithm and CSISA is helping them acquire ground level data through crop cuts.

With the aim of improving agronomic management practices, Stanford University is working with CSISA to use satellite imagery to better understand the causes and spatial patterns of yield gaps across the eastern IGP and target and assess the impact of CSISA’s different intervention strategies, like the introduction of zero-till machinery and precision broadcasting of fertilizer.

Satellite imagery provides a wealth of data, with which can be used to map the characteristics of farmers’ fields, like crop type, sowing date and yield across space and time. The benefit of using remote sensing of satellite images instead of conventional data collection methods (like social surveys) is that it is a low-cost way to collect information over thousands of farmers’ fields over multiple years. This data can give a historical perspective of farming practices and insight into the heterogeneity among management practices and yields across a given landscape.

As the average size of fields in the region (approximately 0.3 ha) are typically smaller than the resolution of readily-available satellite imagery, like MODIS (250 m) and Landsat (30 m), it has been difficult to map field-level characteristics of smallholder farms in the eastern IGP. To overcome this challenge, Stanford is partnering with satellite companies like Skybox and Planet Labs, which are producing and providing high-resolution data (1–5 m). These high-resolution images will be used to map characteristics of individual farmers’ fields, as well as within-field heterogeneity. Field data from CSISA has been instrumental in testing and validating the models, which researchers at Stanford are currently using to estimate sowing dates and yields using satellite imagery.

Additionally this research will use the information provided by satellite data to help understand yield trends, identify where intervention strategies may best be targeted and measure the impact of various intervention strategies through time. Specifically, it aims to map the yield of wheat across northern India and assess what factors (such as weather, seed variety, sowing date) are responsible for changes in yield through time.

This partnership will also explore the use of satellite data to map key biophysical parameters of the agricultural landscape, which can lead to effective targeting of appropriate interventions. For example, a set of villages that are persistently low yielding compared to their neighbors can be provided with appropriate inputs to help close the yield gap and enhance the production of smallholder farmers.

Written by David Lobell, Associate Professor at Stanford University in Earth System Science, Deputy Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment and Meha Jain, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University in Earth System Science.

Public Harvesting Boosts Farmers’ Confidence in Modern Agricultural Practices in Bihar, India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 15, 2015

Public harvestingBased on studies conducted by CSISA in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, early sowing of wheat – between 1 and 15 November – in combination with zero tillage and improved wheat varieties can help combat the negative impacts of terminal heat during the wheat maturing stage and increase yields. To demonstrate the benefits of early wheat sowing, CSISA in collaboration with the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Departments of Agriculture organized public wheat harvesting events this year in Buxar and Sant Kabir Nagar districts, respectively.

“Such demonstrations help create confidence not only among farmers but also among scientists, many of whom still hesitate to change previous recommendations and adopt new practices,” says R.K. Malik, CIMMYT Senior Agronomist and CSISA Objective 1 leader. Traditionally, farmers in this region have been planting wheat after 15 November, or even in early December, which makes the crop vulnerable to rising temperatures. CSISA studies have shown that productivity progressively declines from >5.0 to less than 2.5 t/ha when planting is shifted from the first half of November to the last half of December.

In 2013, Bihar Department of Agriculture modified its official advisory to farmers to promote early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology based on evidence-based advocacy by CSISA. “It’s important to show the profitability and advantages of early sowing at the field-level in order to accelerate its adoption rate,” Malik added. CSISA’s field survey in 2013-14 indicated that more than 120,000 ha of wheat now benefit from timely planting in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

In Buxar, the public harvest was organized in Kanouli village, on a plot where wheat was sown on 4 November last year using zero tillage technology. The grain yield of wheat recorded from this plot was 6.25 t/ha, which participating farmers noted was the highest wheat yield they have ever seen. Similarly, the plot in Daryiabad village of Sant Kabir Nagar, sown on 13 November, also recorded a high yield of 6.12 t/ha, prompting farmers to share that average yields recorded under conventional tillage technologies have only been 4-4.5 t/ha.

Ram Awadh Chaudhary, a 50-year-old farmer and service provider from Pokharbinda village, Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh achieved yields of 6.5 t/ha last year and 6.0 t/ha this year after adopting early sowing and zero tillage. These yields are comparable to those of Punjab and Haryana and help reinforce farmers’ belief in new methods to improve productivity, according to Chaudhary.

With support from CSISA, Chaudhary has expanded his custom hire services into zero tillage, rotavating, laser land leveling, straw reaping and rice shelling. Across Bihar and EUP in 2013-14, an estimated 50,000 hectares of zero tillage wheat was sown by CSISA-supported service providers, reflecting an area increase of 42 percent over 2012-13.

Farmers Get Quick Wins from Laser Leveling

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 9, 2015

Loknath Behera
Farmer Anam Behera from Malikpali village in Odisha has been growing rice for the last 10 years. Increasing labor scarcity, however, has steadily driven up his costs of cultivation in recent years. The undulating topography of his land leads to uneven water distribution, resulting in a high density of grass and other weeds, which are costly and labor intensive to eradicate.

“To level my 4 acre field, I used to stand on a plank attached to a tractor as it went around the field. This wasn’t very effective in levelling my field, hence giving rise to excess grass. Ultimately, I had to hire 15 laborers for weeding, which cost me Rs. 3,000 (US$ 47),” says Behera.

This year, Behera used a laser land leveler to level his field, bringing down his labor requirement for weeding to just 2 laborers. Laser leveling is a laser-assisted precision leveling technique used for achieving a high level of land smoothness as compared to traditional methods of land leveling, which are both labor-intensive and imprecise. Laser leveling helps increase water application efficiency and consequently reduces costs and can increase crop yield. Numerous studies have proven that laser land leveling helps to even out the distribution of soluble salts in salt-affected soils, increases cultivable land area due to reduction in bunds and channels in the field, reduces weed intensity and increases fertilizer-use efficiency.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is promoting laser leveling in Odisha by demonstrating its benefits to farmers and service providers. In Puri district, where Behera is based, CSISA loaned a laser land leveler to three service providers during the 2014-15 winter (rabi) cropping season. Behera hired one of these service providers to level his field at a cost of Rs. 500 (US$ 7) per hour for a total of 5 hours. This one-time investment will benefit Behera, who grows rice and moong, for the next three to four years.

Besides reducing labor and weeds, the leveler offers other benefits as well. As farmer Lakhinder Barik from neighboring Kulalasekhar Patatna village shares, “When my land wasn’t level, each irrigation took nearly 7 hours, not to mention the time and effort it took me to create small bunds all across the field.” After using the leveler, he saves more than 4 hours for each irrigation. Additionally, he no longer needs to create bunds, which saves him valuable time and effort and marginally increases his cultivable land.

By contrast, farmer Arjun Jena’s field is full of grass. Jena, whose field adjoins that of Barik, did not adopt laser land leveling this year. He admits, “I can see that the other (Barik’s) field is level while mine has pockets of deep water. My crop has too much grass due to this and I’ve already had to spend Rs. 2,000 (US$ 31) for weeding. Next time I’ll definitely use the laser land leveler.”

Encouraged by this response from farmers, the three service providers from Puri have purchased their own machines for the monsoon (kharif) cropping season.

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Cross-Learning to Strengthen Agricultural Extension in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 8, 2015

MEAS Group PhotoIn June, CSISA led a 10-member delegation of senior officials from National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) from Bangladesh, India and Nepal to Washington, DC for a meeting with the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS), followed by a workshop entitled, ‘Strengthening Agricultural Research, Extension, and Input Markets in South Asia: Evidence from Regional and Global Practice,’ organized by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). MEAS, a USAID-funded initiative, helps to define and disseminate good practice strategies and approaches to establishing efficient, effective and financially sustainable rural extension and advisory service systems in selected countries.

The visit provided an opportunity to all the participants, working in close collaboration with National Agricultural Research Systems and International Agricultural Research Systems (IARS), to exchange ideas based on their diverse experiences of implementing extension services in different parts of the world. The theory of change model was highlighted during the deliberations for improving the performance of workforces in research-for-development in South Asia.

The workshop looked at addressing multiple questions that will help improve extension systems in South Asia. Are extension programs cost-effective in South Asia? Can new approaches empower smallholder farmers, particularly women? What performance indicators can researchers use to determine whether programs are successful? How can policies encourage farmers to adopt new technologies and practices without exhausting limited development funds?

Among a variety of other topics, participants discussed the effectiveness of subsidies to promote farmers’ adoption of agricultural inputs. Madhur Gautam, lead economist in Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, noted that the purported benefits only accrue under certain circumstances. Subsidies often remain in place long after their positive impacts have diminished, diverting scarce resources from other potential investments that may yield greater long-term returns, such as agricultural R&D and rural infrastructure.

In South Asia, subsidies were largely successful at addressing market failures during the early days of the Green Revolution. Yet market conditions in the region have improved considerably, and policymakers need to adapt their policies and investments accordingly.

Based on the discussions during the visit, specific issues were identified for further action and brainstorming to streamline research in the delivery process of agricultural technologies in South Asia. These issues included:

  • IFPRI workshopThe organization and structure of extension systems, as well as the constraints to their functioning, and changes needed to create improved and market-focused extension services by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (agriculture science center) in India and other extension agencies in South Asia
  • The capacity of extension agencies to conduct trainings in a participatory manner with local contextual training material
  • Ways to improve implementation monitoring and impact evaluation
  • How local service providers could be strengthened through better linkages and communication in order to provide decentralized extension services
  • How to make systems more equitable by linking gender and nutrition across extension programs and organizations.

Further, participants and their respective organizations from each country (Bangladesh, India and Nepal) will work with CSISA partners to focus on local research agendas in extension and innovations.

A team of seven participants from India was led by Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General (Agriculture Extension), Indian Council of Agriculture Research. Bangladesh was represented by Dr. Mohammad Zakir Hasnat, Agriculture Information Service and Sheikh Md. Nazim Uddin from Department of Agriculture Extension. From Nepal, Dr. Rajendra Adhikari, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development, participated.

In addition, the delegation toured the US Capitol building and met with Senator Mark Warner, head of the Indian Caucus in the US Senate.

Source: Excerpts from the summary of the workshop are posted on the IFPRI website. To read the full summary of the workshop, click here.

Nepalese and Indian Seed Associations Sign MoU to Strengthen Seed Sector Development

Posted on India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 1, 2015

20150603_112959 (1)A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (SEAN) on 3 June 2015, to foster better future collaboration between seed companies from both countries, during visit of Nepalese seed entrepreneurs’ delegation to India.

The visit of Nepalese entrepreneurs and the signing of MoU was facilitated by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). Andrew McDonald, Project Leader, CSISA said, “India and Nepal have similar agro-climatic conditions and farmers from both countries suffer from lack of availability and accessibility to quality seeds. Knowledge sharing and cooperation between the seed associations of India and Nepal will help farmers get new, improved varieties faster.”

NSAI, which is the apex organization representing the seed industry in India and SEAN, the apex organization representing individual entrepreneurs and companies engaged in the seed industry in Nepal, have agreed to share country-specific seed industry information including market development, government policies and regulations and information on trade.

The MoU will help create an enabling environment for increased trade and knowledge sharing between governmental agencies and research institutions, for joint development and release of seeds in both countries and to harmonize seed policies and seed certification procedures.

Both associations will also work together to promote and exchange new varieties, promote production, processing and marketing of high quality seeds by the private seed entrepreneurs and to facilitate increased participation of the private sector in import and export of seeds.

Participants compare cob size of different hybrid maize varieties at Bioseed company in Hyderabad.

Participants compare cob size of different hybrid maize varieties at Bioseed company in Hyderabad.

Visit Fosters Collaboration

According to Arun Joshi, Country Liaison Officer, CIMMYT Nepal, Nepalese seed enterprises are in their initial growth phase. They are constrained by the lack of research and development component, low business volume, limited seed processing and storage facilities and low seed capital. CSISA Nepal (CSISA-NP) has recently initiated a business mentoring initiative to build the capacity of small and medium seed enterprises engaged in wheat and maize based systems.

A team of experts of CSISA-NP assessed the potential and challenges of Nepalese seed enterprises and established a good relationship with them through a series of interactions. “After the assessment, 15 Nepalese cereal seed production entrepreneurs representing hills and Terai (plains) were identified for a 10-day exposure visit to India,” highlighted Dilli KC, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT Nepal.

During the visit, the Nepalese group observed many components of Indian seed business including research and development programs, seed processing facilities and government farms at four major seed enterprise centers – Delhi, Kashipur, Hyderabad and Elluru.

The entrepreneurs received first-hand information on ways to link contract farmers with private companies, how to set-up backward linkages for hybrid seed production, the process of enhancing maize seed germination through cob drying facility and marketing. “We have to establish demos of our products and maintain good relations with seed producers and consumers,” said entrepreneur Tikaram Rijal, Managing Director, GATE Nepal.

The participants also understood how smaller seed companies that work with open-pollinated varieties maintain seed quality and market their brand. “R&D activity should be promoted even in open-pollinated seeds for our growth and sustainability,” highlighted one of the participants, Subhas Upadhaya, Chairperson, Lumbini Company.

The Indian private sector shared insights on strategies they had adopted to manage challenges during their growth period and showed willingness to help build the capacity of the Nepalese seed enterprises through internships, short-term trainings and collaborative research.

“The exposure visit and the interactions with Indian seed companies helped them to realize the importance of having a clear strategy both for SEAN and their individual businesses in order to be more successful,” added Joshi. According to McDonald, CSISA-NP will continue to strengthen its collaboration with seed enterprises and will guide them in developing their business plans.

Focus Group Discussions Highlight Success of Gender Program

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, June 28, 2015

FGDLast month, several rounds of focus group discussions (FGDs) and plenary exercises were carried out with various stakeholders of CSISA’s gender program in Odisha and Bihar. The participatory evaluation was aimed at providing documentary evidence of community feedback on the technologies and model of partnership, prior to any further planning and convergence.

In the town of Jashipur in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, a total of seven FGDs were conducted from 12-14 May. Six for different technology adopter/farmers groups and one for stakeholder/scaling agent groups. These covered several aspects surrounding the technologies adopted by women farmers such as selection criteria, extension methods, impact on livelihood, financial analysis, etc. The discussions highlighted a different perspective through the lens of women farmers.

Recounting her experience with direct seeded rice (DSR), one woman shared that most villagers seeing her try DSR on her field for first time cautioned, “Budhi khaibu kete, banchibu kete,” a sharp disapproval of the crop establishment method saying that she would go hungry considering the very low seed rate of rice applied. But once the crop was harvested, she said, “It was well beyond what my family and I could eat. In fact, now I can even feed those who worried I would go hungry.”

A similar three-day exercise was also organized in Bihar later in the month for a group of 110 women farmers from Muzzafarpur, Munger and Samastipur districts. According to Sugandha Munshi, Gender Specialist, IRRI, “In Bihar, the intervention with women farmers was streamlined with the inception of their identity as Kisan Sakhi, which means ‘woman farmer friend’ and works on the four pillars of identity, knowledge, leadership and economic empowerment of women in agriculture.”

A farmer from Bandra block, Sumitra, shared, “I have been working in the field since ages but, being a woman, I was never recognized as a farmer. Today, as a Kisan Sakhi, I am finally given due recognition. Participating in this workshop helped me reflect and review my financial positioning through a cost-benefit analysis. It has increased my confidence substantially. I am happy.”

From just 248 women farmers in early 2014, Kisan Sakhi has now become an identity for 2,100 women farmers across 181 self-help groups (SHGs). Through workshops and other technical capacity building programs, on and off the field, CSISA provided these women farmers direct access to modern agricultural practices and machinery to help them realize their full potential. Woman farmer Anupa shared, “This was the first workshop where Kisan Sakhi participated as a group to analyze its achievement. Thanks to CSISA, I am now able to explore new methods and techniques of farming. I am also capable of training other women and men farmers as trainers.”

Kisan Sakhi Kiran Devi, whose husband has to travel outside the village for work, added, “Earlier, my husband used to return for a month during kharif (monsoon) season to take care of the farmland because he thought as a woman I was not capable of handling the nitty-gritties of agriculture. But, this kharif season he does not have to travel back since he recognizes that I am empowered enough to manage on my own. This has also helped us increase our income.”

The discussions also served as an opportunity to plan for scaling-up in cooperation with local NGOs. A joint-report based on the evaluations carried out in both states is currently being prepared.

Locally-Designed Thresher Meets Farmers’ Needs in Bihar

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 31, 2015

Open drum thresher demonstrationIn India, farmers with large landholdings from prosperous agricultural states like Punjab can often buy expensive and sophisticated machines for their farm operations. However, resource-poor farmers from states such as Bihar and Odisha may not be able to afford the same machines or services and, given that their landholdings may be considerably smaller, may have different needs. Farmers all along the spectrum of landholdings need to be able to access differently priced appropriate machinery based on their specific requirements. Machinery for mechanized threshing is one such example.

For rice, mechanized threshing offers many advantages over manual threshing in terms of increased efficiency, reduced drudgery, cost and labor savings. Until recently, farmers in Bihar only had two options to choose from – the very large axial flow thresher that can cost up to Rs. 170,000 (US$ 2,700) after subsidy or the compact pedal-powered open drum thresher that has very low capacity and is difficult to operate for extended periods of time by women farmers, who are responsible for most threshing activities in India. The only medium-sized option was an electric motor powered open drum thresher available from other states, which was not effective as many farms in Bihar do not have reliable access to electricity.

“Farmers clearly needed a medium-sized, affordable, efficient and portable mechanical paddy thresher,” said Suryakanta Khandai, Postharvest Specialist, IRRI, who works for CSISA in Bihar. For most manufacturers and retailers in Bihar, however, importing such machines did not offer enough margin for profit. Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) approached local fabricators in Bihar to assemble and sell these threshers.

Khandai added, “We wanted to build a locally-relevant product so understanding the shortcomings of the existing options was important. The pedal-powered open drum thresher, for example, was prone to accidents with most users complaining that their clothes would often get caught in the exposed mechanism. The existing models also lacked winnowing or bagging functions, which were included in the new design. Besides giving it wheels, we also decided to use a diesel engine to power the machine to allow for threshing in the field immediately upon cutting, which would help reduce losses.”

The result was the diesel engine powered open drum thresher, which was assembled in collaboration with the local fabricator Durga Engineering Works. CSISA provided them the technical specifications and also gave advice on developing a profitable business model around it.

“It was a work in progress so we also had to make modifications along the way. For instance, we found that the 4.5 hp diesel engine was scattering the grains too far so we had to attach an additional covering plate. This not only reduces the scattering loss but also made the machine safer to operate,” informed Khandai.

In the end though, the effort was worth it as both the fabricator and farmers can now reap its benefits. “Threshing with this machine saves me time and money. Labor is both expensive and unreliable. Hiring one person for a day costs Rs. 200 (US$ 3.2) and in this time one laborer can only manage threshing 3 katha of rice,” says Pawan Kumar Singh, a smallholder farmer and user of the machine from Samastipur, Bihar. “But with this machine, one person can thresh 5 katha in an hour at just Rs. 150 per hour (US$ 2.4).” Katha is a local unit of area where 22 katha equals approximately 1 acre. This means it costs Rs. 1,500 (US$ 24) to hire one person to manually thresh 1 acre of rice in 7 days. Using the diesel engine powered open drum thresher, however, the same area could be covered in just over four hours with a total cost of Rs. 660 (US$ 10.5).

Singh also highlights the fact that mechanical threshing can prevent substantial postharvest losses. “Manual threshing of rice involves repeatedly beating the bundle to separate the grain from the chaff. This results in unnecessary losses since the grain gets scattered everywhere. Further, if the bundle is not thoroughly threshed, farmers can suffer losses of nearly 2 to 4 kg of rice. But with the machine, your output is 100 percent.”

Durga Engineering Works sells the diesel engine powered open drum thresher for Rs. 30,000 (US$ 483) at an estimated profit of Rs. 11,000 per machine (US$ 177). They have already sold 15 pieces and are looking to expand distribution into other parts of India as well. The machine was recently certified by the Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute (FMTTI) in Jharkand, which is a prerequisite for a machine to be subsidized by the government.

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

CSISA Rolls Out a New Round of Field Studies

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 26, 2015

IFPRI Field Studies

CSISA’s research team from IFPRI are deep into the design, data collection and initial analysis phases as they start work on three major studies rolling out during the kharif (monsoon) rice season. These studies will provide new insights on how farmers perceive different CSISA-supported technologies, and how these perceptions vary across different types of farmers. This helps CSISA and, more importantly, extension agencies and NGOs, to have a better understanding of what works, where and why.

The latest study will explore farmers’ valuation of – and returns to – the use of mechanical rice transplanters (MRTs) in Bihar. Another study examines farmers’ preferences for – and uptake of – new stress-tolerant rice cultivars coupled with a weather index insurance product in Odisha. Both studies take their cues from prior IFPRI studies: the former on farmers’ willingness to pay for laser land levelers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and the latter on farmers’ preferences for a similar cultivar and insurance product in Bogra, Rajshahi division, Bangladesh.

Each study combines exercises that explore respondents’ perceptions of new agricultural products and services before actually providing them. For example, the study in Bihar uses experimental games with farmers to discern differences in male and female demand for MRTs and the potential labor savings it might offer. The studies in Bogra and Odisha use similar exercises to understand how farmers perceive the probability of a drought during kharif and the costs and benefits of somehow insuring themselves against that risk, with weather index insurance and/or drought-tolerant rice varieties.

With a better sense of farmers’ preferences, these studies will then introduce novel products and services for use during the upcoming kharif season. In Bihar, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) mechanical transplanting services. In Odisha, selected farmers will receive (and pay for) a drought-tolerant rice cultivar and/or a weather index insurance policy.

At this moment, several of these experiments – accompanied by village and household surveys followed by distribution of products and services – are underway and in the field. The team is working with local partners for these studies – Gram Unnayan Karma (GUK) in Bogra, Balasore Social Service Society in Odisha, HopUp for survey management and implementation in Bihar. And with collaborators from the University of California, Davis and the University of Georgia, these studies will provide critical insights for CSISA and its wide range of stakeholders. And with these insights, IFPRI and CSISA are better able to advise policymakers on the types of policies and investments they might make to affect evidence-based solutions that encourage inclusive technological change across South Asia’s rural economy.

This article is authored by David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI.

Livestock Feeding Made Easy for Women Farmers in Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 26, 2015

Pravati Behera

Pravati Prabha Behera is a member and secretary of the Kapila Muni Milk Society under Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (OMFED) in Barandua village, Bhadrak district. She owns 7 cows that produce 15 liters of milk per day. Three of these are crossbred, which produce more milk than a local breed. She is responsible for the maintenance of the straw chopping machine, the only one in their village. The machine is kept at the village trading square, where women members of the Kapila Milk Society come to get their straw chopped.

Feeding livestock is often a challenge in Barandua. The plots of land are small and mostly devoted to growth of paddy during the rainy season and to some extent vegetables during winter. The cattle are fed at home until harvest is over, when they are allowed to feed on the remaining straw in the rice fields. They are also fed on the broken rice and bran from the market and they do home-based feeding. Historically, farmers have used a home-based hand cutter for chopping the straw, which is tedious and time consuming.

Through CSISA, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has introduced crop residue-based animal feeding strategies and provided the chopping machine in Behera’s village, and farmers like her are now seeing the benefits.

Women farmers find the machine useful as it can chop straw in less time than the hand cutter can. Farmers are also chopping and soaking the straw that helps to increase its digestibility and intake. So they are using less straw and less concentrate than previously and are getting more milk yield. They feed the chopped straw to the animal in a bowl, which reduces chances of contamination, as a result cattle health is improving. The saved rice straw can be fed to cattle over 4-5 months, helping reduce expenses.

“The animals are also adapting to the new taste of soaked fodder,” Behera observes. “Once they have tasted the green fodder and the chopped and soaked straw, they no longer want to eat the dry straw.”

Women in Barandua have learnt to organize their week around the machine – often cutting the straw two to three times in a week and storing it in gunny bags. The milk society pays for the maintenance costs of the machine and sometimes Behera collects some money from the society members.  Neighboring villagers have also started adopting the technology after seeing the benefits.

As a mother, Behera considers the food security of her family, and others’, very important. She teaches other mothers in her village to give their children milk before the remainder is sold. “Milk helps us guard against the effects of crop failure and it improves our nutrition. Every day, we have milk to drink even when it is too little to sell.”

This article is authored by Jane Wanjiku Gitau, Communications Specialist, ILRI.

Spreading Innovation: New Partnerships Drive Change in Odisha

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, February 9, 2015

Video Screening OdishaThe gap between research and the application of new technologies or management practices on farmers’ fields often results because farmers do not receive timely information about emerging research outputs, technologies or improved practices. Innovative new methods of linking research, products, practices and farming communities must be explored and developed.

Sajit Kumar Mohanty, a farmer from Kansapal village in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, used a traditional method of rice planting – manually uprooting and transplanting rice seedlings. He was introduced to the benefits of mechanical rice transplanting by his local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (farm science center, the local agricultural extension hub) but he wasn’t convinced. “I found the technology useful but nobody really knew how to properly prepare the mat nursery or operate the machine,” said Mohanty. This sentiment is common among other smallholder farmers in his village, who often require more hands-on support on using a new technology.

More than 83 percent of the total farming population in Odisha is comprised of smallholder and marginal farmers, who have limited resources and rely mostly on the state for access to agricultural information. Presently, farmers like Mohanty receive information primarily by two means: Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), which is aligned with the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), and Department of Agriculture (DOA), Government of Odisha. Both KVK and DOA work directly with individual farmers to provide field-level technical inputs, create awareness about improved technologies and provide information on entitlements under government programs.

Old Meets New

“The Odisha state government and OUAT recognized the need to strengthen their capacity to transfer suitable technologies to small-scale farmers in ways that were faster, more efficient and more timely,” said Sudhir Yadav, IRRI Irrigated Systems Agronomist and the CSISA Odisha Hub Manager. “The innovative use of ICT tools such as the use of video for outreach can be part of the solution to strengthen the existing system.”

It is with this vision that Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) collaborated with Digital Green (DG), the DOA, Government of Odisha, KVKs and OUAT for a pilot project to integrate ICT based video-led information dissemination models with the current state system.

How the pilot works: Digital Green trains and builds the skills of the state agents to shoot and create videos with farmers on improved farming practices and then screens those videos to small groups of farmers, using small-sized, low-cost, battery-run pico projectors. CSISA provides its technical inputs in video topic selection, content planning and story boarding. During the video screening, state agents keep track of the questions asked and have follow-up meetings with the farmers to check on the adoption.

The Digital Green system of information dissemination benefits from the trust that emerges when they see their fellow villagers demonstrating new technologies in their language and in their village, and from the group setting that allows information to reach multiple people using a relatively low level of resources.

“We aim at both increasing the participation of the community into extension and making a two-way flow between research and extension,” said Rikin Gandhi, CEO, Digital Green, presenting at the Borlaug 100 event organized by CIMMYT, reaffirming Digital Green’s mission to establish an exchange between research and extension leveraging technology.

Implemented in 20 villages of Puri district in Odisha, this CSISA–DG initiative has begun producing videos on 10 technical themes based on the needs of the local farming community. The topics included the demonstration of new paddy, post-harvest and livestock management technologies and highlighting relevant successes by local farmers. So far, six videos in Odiya have been produced, featuring CSISA-promoted technologies. The videos were shown 91 times through group screenings and nearly 500 farmers in Puri district have attended at least one of the video screenings. “Each video requires good planning, a good script and technical understanding of the subject,” Yadav said. Synergy between partners is therefore very important, he added.

Local Farmer is the Star

These videos are generating interest among farmers to learn about and adopt new technologies and management practices. The video on the benefits of chopped straw as fodder in dairy management has helped farmers to enhance milk production, commented Suresh Parida, a farmer from one of the pilot villages. Farmers have also found it easier to identify pests and diseases in their crop after seeing the images in the video of pest and disease management in paddy.

“As the actors in the video are local farmers from the local area, it generates trust among the viewers to adopt a demonstrated practice,” said Avinash Upadhaya, Regional Manager of Digital Green for Odisha at a recent participatory stakeholders workshop in Puri.

Farmers, mediators (KVK staff) and project co-ordination staff (including from DOA, CSISA and Digital Green) came together to discuss the changes that the ICT model has brought and the challenges in integrating the ICT model with the traditional training method.

Talking about the advantages of the DG approach, Ashok Lakra, the village agricultural worker of a pilot village highlighted, “At a demonstration, we might miss some important information but these videos deliver the entire package and cover all the points.” One of the suggestions from the meeting was to distribute leaflets about the technique to the farmers at the end of the video screening for future reference.

“The best language that the farmer understands is the language of other farmers. This works as a good communication model to help in creating awareness and dissemination of improved technologies,” said Yadav.

The article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communication Specialist, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia.

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