Sprinting Towards Better Machinery Design

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

India is the industrial powerhouse of South Asia, with a large agricultural machinery industry that, most notably, sells huge numbers of good quality, low-cost four-wheel tractors. Indian machinery manufacturers are well placed to expand and diversify their markets into other South Asian nations, not only for four-wheel tractors, but also for two-wheel tractors and their specialized implements, including planters and seeders.

To address the need for better two-wheel tractor attachments such as seeder-planters and reapers in Nepal, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding to the Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), to work with Indian manufacturers of two-wheel tractor attachments to better tailor their designs to the needs of small-scale farmers. Noting that two-wheel tractor owners have not adopted existing models of seeder-planters on a wide scale anywhere in the world, CSISA conducted a series of ‘Design Sprints’ in India that helped manufacturers of two-wheel tractor seed drills and planters tweak and modify their machinery designs to better suit the needs of small-scale farmers, including in Nepal’s hill and Terai ecologies.

A ‘Design Sprint’ at National Agro in Ludhiana, Punjab, going well into the evening due to lively debates and discussions.

During a series of three- to five-day Design Sprints, CSISA provided seed drill manufacturers with technical feedback on their current designs and facilitated discussions about the merits and demerits of various seed drills currently available in the market (worldwide there are over 40 design offerings from the private and public sector). Groups considered various incremental changes to their existing models, as well as entirely new designs that would be more relevant for, and commercially attractive to, small-scale two-wheel tractor owners, farmers and service providers.

After a series of visits by CSISA in 2016, the Design Sprints began in earnest in early 2017. The Sprints will accelerate the prototyping, testing and ‘getting to market’ of at least three new models of two-wheel tractor planters from Khedut Agro and Dharti Agro, both located in Rajkot, Gujarat, and National Agro in Ludhiana, Punjab. CSISA wanted to give the manufacturers’ designers wide creative berth to be as innovative as possible in solving existing agronomic and ergonomic limitations faced by their current offerings. Therefore, CSISA provided only a few stipulations – any new design should aim to:

  • Follow basic norms in seed drill design, including basic agronomic and conservation agriculture norms
  • Cost less than the current offerings
  • Be lighter weight than their existing designs
  • Fit easily on the two-wheel tractors that are prevalent in Nepal and Bangladesh (and many places in India)
  • Be driven safely and comfortably on the road so that service providers can move quickly between jobs (farmers’ fields).

New Dharti prototype for lightweight, road transportable, two-wheel tractor planter-seeder that emerged from the Design Sprint.

These conditions were derived from years of feedback received by CSISA about farmers’ experiences with various two-wheel tractor seed drills. Farmers conveyed that although many drills were agronomically sound in the field, they were ergonomically problematic for the operator, and too expensive for many small-scale two-wheel tractor service providers.

The three manufacturers have nearly completed their prototypes, and the next stage will involve CSISA facilitating several prototypes from each manufacturer to be tested and, if necessary, refined in Nepal by the Nepal Agricultural Research Center. Ultimately, USAID and CSISA aim to utilize the knowledge and knowhow of the Indian agricultural machinery industry to enable two-wheel tractor-based farmers to enjoy the same economic and agronomic benefits of increased input productivity from mechanized line sowing of seed and banding of fertilizer that four-wheel tractor-based farmers now enjoy in South Asia.

This article is authored by Scott E. Justice, Agricultural Mechanization Specialist, CIMMYT-Nepal.

Weeding Out Yield Losses in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

Weed infestation is among the primary barriers to achieving the full yield potential of crops, including improved cultivars, in South Asia. According to Virender Kumar, Senior Scientist – Weed Science, International Rice Research Institute, “Unlike insects and disease where effects are more often immediately evident in the field, weeds are like a slow poison, working unseen in the background. Weeds are endemic to agricultural fields, have received relatively less attention from farmers, and are difficult to react to.”

Studies have shown that yield losses due to weeds can range from 15 to 90 percent in Bangladesh (Mamun et al. 1990, 1993, 2013*; Mazid et al. 2001*; Rashid et al. 2012). In India, studies (Rao and Chauhan, 2015; Milberg and Hallgren, 2003) have shown approximately 33 percent yield losses were attributed to weeds, followed by insect pests at 26 percent and diseases at 20 percent. Specifically for rice, 15 percent of losses in transplanted rice were attributed to weeds, as were 30 percent of losses in direct seeded rice. The situation worsens for rice cultivated in upland ecologies, such as Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. Here, 45 percent, or higher, of yield losses have been attributed to weeds.

In the geographies where the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is active, effective, accessible and affordable weed management tools are needed as manual hand-weeding still dominates and weeds continue to be poorly controlled. In southern Bangladesh, the Indian states of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, and the Terai region of Nepal, herbicide use remains very low and herbicide markets are only at a nascent stage of development. Increasing labor out-migration and the resulting rise in wages is expected to eventually drive up herbicide demand in these regions, but imprecisely or incorrectly applying herbicides is not the answer.

Farmers often lack knowledge on safe and integrated weed management practices. Therefore, all across South Asia, CSISA has adopted a new approach to safe and efficient use of herbicides, with the major focus still on the agronomic management of weeds. CSISA research results show that the integration of new classes of safe and effective herbicides with other cultural practices, supported by hand and mechanical weeding, resulted in up to 25 and 29 percent increase in grain yields in Odisha and Bihar, respectively, for transplanted rice and a reduction in weed control costs compared to farmers’ current practices. This method of integrated weed management (IWM) addresses labor bottlenecks in intensive rice-based systems and is also an important enabling factor for the adoption of sustainable intensification technologies such as direct-seeded rice and zero-tillage wheat.

“Most rice farming in South Asia is subject to water shortages, imbalanced fertilizer use and increased frequency of extreme weather, which allow complex weed flora to dominate and weeds to triumph in the face of crop–weed competition. We’re trying to move from conventional to new systems, to reduced water consumption and tillage. Naturally, this means we’re going to see even more weeds,” said Kumar, who also leads CSISA’s work on IWM. By undertaking collaborative applied research and creating business intelligence with national agricultural research and extension systems and private sector partners, CSISA hopes to help build a critical mass of IWM adopters in these regions. CSISA is working on demonstrating the efficacy of new molecule combinations for the control of complex weed flora, facilitating market development of new molecule combinations, and on promoting other non-chemical options such as dust mulching, fallows management, better land preparation, cropping system intensification and mechanical weeding.

In Bangladesh, by partnering with the Agricultural Input Retailers Network, CSISA has leveraged an existing platform of private sector agricultural input dealers to ensure its practical lessons on implementing IWM reach nearly 25,000 farmers this year alone. Approximately 800 input dealers underwent training on IWM conducted jointly by CSISA, Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. Sajedul Islam, an agricultural input dealer from Jhenaidah district, said, “The method of calibrating the herbicide sprayer is a new and useful aspect of herbicide use, which I have learned from this training. I am now capable of doing the calibration myself and shall be able to pass this knowledge to farmers, which will help reduce their risk from improper herbicide use.” The other participants, like Islam, are naturally motivated to help disseminate these lessons to a much larger audience since it would directly benefit their businesses.

CSISA is working to create a similar network in India as well. A consultation organized in Odisha in January, for example, brought together representatives of major herbicide companies, research organizations, sprayer manufacturers, NGOs, dealers/retailers and service providers. By providing these organizations a common platform to share their knowledge and pool their resources, CSISA hopes to build a robust platform that will ensure its message on IWM reaches farmers quickly.

This article is authored by Anurag Ajay, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT-India and M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.


*Mamun, A. A. 1990. Weeds and their control: A review of weed research in Bangladesh. Agricultural and Rural Development in Bangladesh. Japan Intl. Co-operation Agency, Dhaka, Bangladesh. JSARD. 19: 45-72.

*Mamun, A.A., S.M.R. Karim., M. Behum., M.I. Uddin., and M.A. Rahman. 1993. Weed survey in different crops under three agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh. BAURESS Prog. Report. 8: 41-51.

*Mamun, M.A.A.,   R. Shultana., M.M.  Rana., and A.J. Mridha. 2013.  Economic threshold density of multi species weed for direct seeded rice. Asian J. Agril. Rural Develo. 8: 523-531.

*Mazid, M.A., M.A. Jabbar., C.R. Riches., E.J.Z. Robinson., M. Mortimer., and L.J. Wade. 2001. Weed management implications of introducing dry-seeding of rice in the Barind Tract of Bangladesh. In: Brighton Crop Protection Conference, 13–15 November 2001. 211–216 pp.

Sales Boost Seed Sector Growth in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

Many Nepalese seed companies are showing signs of significant growth, particularly with an increase in wheat seed sales over the past few years. Three companies, New Shreeram, GATE and Unique, have increased their volumes of wheat seed sales by almost 62% on average over the period of 2014-16. This growth is notable in Nepal’s current cereal seed industry, which is at a relatively nascent stage, composed primarily of small- to medium-scale enterprises that often lack business plans, have relatively low operating capital, and have limited processing and storage facilities. These companies produce truthfully labelled seeds of open-pollinated crop varieties, which are then released and registered by the National Seed Board (NSB).

Since 2014, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), has supported and mentored nearly a dozen Nepalese seed companies to increase their professionalism, organization and product range and quality, and to improve their marketing strategy and sales. With strategic business development support, these enterprises have shown increased business confidence resulting in higher sales and more investors.

Under this initiative, CSISA selected 10 seed companies that were mainly engaged in wheat seed sales to receive strategic guidance on issues such as improved methods for sourcing, producing, processing, storing, and marketing seeds. Seed companies were mentored through a variety of networking and interaction meetings, structured workshops on developing or improving business plans, theory of change workshops, and an exposure visit to successful Indian seed companies and their industry associations. CSISA also undertook additional, complementary activities such as jointly implemented product demonstrations within high-potential market domains, provided advice on how to improve branding and marketing strategies, and conducted technological training on how to undertake maintenance breeding in order to preserve the quality of varietal lines over time.

Follow-up Funding

Five companies have been able to leverage support provided in part by CSISA and secure financial resources of up to US$ 200,000 per company from development projects such as Improved Seed for Farmers, funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Raising Income of Small and Medium Farmers Project, funded by Asian Development Bank. Both of these projects are implemented by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD).

These funds have allowed the seed companies to expand their facilities to include seed storage buildings, processing plants and laboratories. Joint demonstrations and agronomic performance data provided by CSISA have helped companies increase their varietal diversity through the inclusion of newly released varieties and iron- and zinc-rich varieties in their product lines. Some companies have introduced innovative incentives for their producers, such as the payment of seed transportation costs from the farmers’ fields to the company stores.

Replacing Old Varieties

Nepal’s cereal seed industry as a whole has become more structured over the past few years. The Seed Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (SEAN), the seed companies’ umbrella organization, has developed its own strategic plan, increased its membership from 600 in 2014 to 1,000 in 2016, formed three regional chapters, and contributed a unified voice to discussions around agricultural policies of interest to the seed industry.

Figure 1: Seed sold by seed companies from 2014 to 2016.

For example, SEAN spoke out against seed subsidies for old crop varieties, and as a result, MoAD revoked the subsidy on NL 297 – a 33-year-old wheat variety. Seed production area of this variety has since reduced by 50-70 percent, and some companies have stopped production of NL 297 altogether. Companies have replaced this production with new wheat lines such as BL 4341, which has shown great promise in on-station and on-farm trials carried out by public and private sector organizations. BL 4341 is currently undergoing registration by NSB.

The combination of these various innovations and investments have resulted in an increase in volume of wheat seed sold (see figure 1) and supported these seed companies to reach marginal areas of Nepal through networks of development projects and private sector traders.

For example, during the 2016–17 wheat season, five new wheat varieties were demonstrated on 150 farmers’ fields across 10 hilly districts of Nepal through partnerships between seed companies, District Agriculture Development Offices and development projects. New contractual agreements have been signed between seed companies and informal groups and cooperatives for the production of seed. As a priority in the Agricultural Development Strategy (2015-2025), these initiatives will help promote inclusive growth and an effective seed sector in Nepal.

This article is authored by Narayan Prasad Khanal, Innovation Manager-CSISA, CIMMYT-Nepal.

Pulse Cultivation Boosts Farm Income in Fallows of Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, November 30, 2016

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Low-risk mungbean expands through public-private partnerships.

This year, farmers in Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of Nepal have successfully cultivated mungbean, which they planted after the wheat harvest and which constitutes a new, third crop in the annual cropping calendar. Without mungbean, the land would be left fallow during this period. Pulse cultivation not only provides extra income but also improves household nutrition and helps farmers enrich their soil fertility.

By acreage, lentil is the most important pulse cultivated in Nepal, but due to disease pressures and the risk of crop failure due to wet winters in heavy soils and dry winters in light soils, many farmers are reluctant to invest resources in these ‘third crops’. Yields for lentil in particular have stagnated at a very low level. However, mungbean, a short-duration legume, provides an attractive pulse alternative that is less risky and an ideal complement to the rice–wheat cropping system because it can be planted soon after the wheat harvest and harvested before the rice season.

Growing mungbean allows farmers to earn additional income without displacing other crops. 2016 is the International Year of Pulses and it’s been highlighted that pulses offer exceptional nutritional benefits – being a good source of protein and vital micronutrients – that can greatly benefit people’s health and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries.

To increase the uptake of mungbean in Nepal, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) initiated collaborations with the National Grain Legume Research Program and District Agriculture Development Offices in 2014 by conducting on-farm evaluations of mungbean performance in different cropping systems. Results showed that mungbean could be successfully produced during the spring season in pockets where irrigation exists. Building on these lessons, CSISA developed a public-private partnership model that linked seed companies and millers with producers and farmers’ groups with government extension.

CSISA also worked across the value chain to assess market requirements (required volume and product characteristics), facilitate contractual arrangements between the seed companies and agricultural cooperatives for seed production, and coordinate grain procurement between millers and farmers’ groups through pre-season planning. Output markets were strengthened so that producers have assured procurement, which has helped accelerate production and projected demand for mungbean in Nepal.

As an example, the private seed company GATE Nepal produced 10 metric tons (MT) of mungbean seed under contractual arrangements with nine agricultural cooperatives during the 2016 spring season, representing a 10-fold increase from 2015. At the farm level, more than 600 newly adopting farmers were involved in mungbean grain production in the Feed the Future zone in 2016, covering more than 100 ha and producing 85 MT of grains (average productivity 800 kg/ha), generating value of more than US$ 127,000. Farmers sold 30 percent of the total grain in the market and saved the rest as seed for the next season or consumed it as a pulse.

Seeing the benefit from mungbean cultivation and increased farmers’ demand, the Crop Development Directorate under the Department of Agriculture has decided to promote this crop through its ongoing “soil fertility enhancement” program across the Terai. As a consequence, GATE Nepal reports that 80 percent of the existing mungbean seed stock has already been booked for the 2017 season, and the company is seeking alternative sources from Indian seed companies to bolster supplies while their own production capacity increases. This suggests that the mungbean area could expand by at least by 1,000 ha in 2017.

To contribute to the further expansion of mungbean in Nepal, CSISA has developed a social marketing video documenting the advantages associated with cultivation. Efforts are underway to conduct community-level video campaigns in favorable areas for expanding mungbean production.

This article is authored by Narayan Prasad Khanal, Research Associate, CIMMYT.

Modern Machinery Opens Up Markets in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, November 30, 2016

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Efficient and affordable mini-tillers save farmers’ costs and improve rural employment in the earthquake-affected districts of Nepal

Mitra Shrestha is a farmer from Nuwakot, one of Nepal’s severe earthquake-affected districts. Like many farmers, Shrestha faced many challenges after the 2015 earthquakes. Due to the huge loss of draft animals and ongoing outmigration of agricultural labor, she has significant difficulty cultivating her agricultural land, which already suffers chronic low productivity.

Mini-tillers came to her rescue. Mini-tillers are small cultivators that can quickly prepare soil for agricultural production and seed sowing. With not relying on bullocks and hired labor for cultivation, she feels mechanization has saved her time, cost and drudgery.

“Keeping bullocks is costly and tedious because they need feed and fodder throughout the year, even when they are not in use. Whereas, the mini-tiller needs fuel only when it is being used. Besides, in one hour the machine can cultivate an area that would require a pair of bullocks to work an entire day” Shrestha said.

With the mini-tiller, Shrestha was able to prepare her rice field mechanically, instead of by using bullocks. She prepared a 0.3 ha rice field in a day at a cost of US$ 36, which would otherwise have required six paired-bullocks-days, costing US$ 90. She thus saved US$ 54 and five person-days.

Importantly, Shrestha could plant rice on time, despite a huge labor scarcity since most of the farmers plant rice at the same time. Mitra uses her new surplus time for vegetable farming and other household chores. “In fact, I now also use the mini-tiller for land preparation of potatoes, since it can till deeper and make ridges with attachments.”

Shrestha is a member of the Kisan Agricultural Cooperative, which procured a subsidized mini-tiller through CSISA’s Earthquake Recovery Support Program this year. The introduction of scale-appropriate machinery, including mini-tillers, are helping farmers cultivate their land on time and are opening up job opportunities for those who would otherwise migrate in search of work. Mini-tillers can also be operated by women, who are responsible for a wide variety of activities, helping to reduce their drudgery.

Unfortunately, modern machines like tillers still remain inaccessible to many smallholder farmers in the hills of Nepal as they may not have money to buy them or may lack knowledge about how to use and maintain them.

In coordination with the Ministry of Agricultural Development, CSISA distributed 500 mini-tillers and attachments (e.g., seeder, reaper, thresher, water-pump) in eight districts. However, to achieve the full suite of benefits, agricultural machinery need to be used effectively and efficiently, and maintained to prolong the life of the machines. Frequently, the unavailability of repair workshops for machines at the local level is one of the most challenging factors in the sustained adoption of scale-appropriate machinery, especially in the rural hills of Nepal.  CSISA has addressed this by training local mechanics in mini-tiller repair, and providing the appropriate types of spare parts to these mechanics.

Involving Rural Youth

Rabi Paudel, 18, operates a mini-tiller repair workshop in Galchi, Nuwakot district. “Basic training on repair and maintenance provided by CSISA provided me a jumpstart to becoming a mini-tiller mechanic. Refresher training further sharpened my skills and knowledge in the mechanics field,” said Paudel. “Operating only a mini-tiller repair shop will not be a sustainable enterprise, since this repair is mostly seasonal (June – July), so I am providing other services like repair of electric water pumps, power tillers, tractors, threshers, and generators.”

In Paudel’s command area there are 37 mini-tillers for which he is providing repair services, mostly through farm visits, responding to calls from owners and traveling as far as 52 km to repair a min-tiller. On average, Paudel’s costs to repair a mini-tiller can range from US$ 50 to US$ 150 per machine, but he can still make a net profit of about 20-30 percent.

Paudel is now also a sales agent for SK Trader, a major supplier of mini-tillers and attachments in the Earthquake Recovery Support Program, and has sold 24 mini-tillers, earning US$ 20 to US$ 50 per minitiller. Paudel said, “Once the farmers till their land by mini-tiller no one would like to plow by bullocks; many farmers have already sold their bullocks.”

CSISA, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and mini-tiller suppliers, provided mini-tiller repair and maintenance training to 81 local mechanics and help establish mini-tiller repair workshops by providing spare parts worth US$ 12,800 in remote rural areas of eight project districts. This initiative has the potential to significantly contribute to the government’s agriculture machinery promotion program.

CSISA, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and mini-tiller suppliers, provided mini-tiller repair and maintenance training to 81 local mechanics and helped establish mini-tiller repair workshops by providing spare parts worth US$ 12,800 in rural areas of the eight project districts. This initiative has the added benefit of contributing to the government’s agriculture machinery promotion program.

Another rural youth, 27-year old Mina Nath Rimal, from Khadka Bhyanjyang, Nuwakot, was able to harvest 1.85 ha rice within 3 days with his walk-behind reaper that he accessed through CSISA, and now provides reaper services to other farmers.

He could easily harvest 0.05 ha rice field in 30 minutes and earn a gross income US$ 4. The same crop would have previously been harvested by two people, their labor costing US$ 8. At this rate, Rimal could earn a gross income US$ 64 per day. The reaper works for multiple crops, so he could also provide services in the rice and wheat seasons.

“I am always interested to learn new kinds of agricultural machinery that reduce human drudgery, and save time and money. Now I am more than happy getting opportunities to operate this reaper,” Rimal said. “No rural youth will go abroad if such opportunities are available at the local level.”

This article is authored by K.C. Dilli, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT.

Farmers in Nepal Benefit from Earthquake Recovery Support

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 4, 2016

EQRSP ShreshtaCIMMYT’s Earthquake Recovery Support Program (EQRSP) has directly impacted the lives of nearly 50,000 farmers in the earthquake-hit areas of Nepal in the last one year. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented in cooperation with Nepal’s Ministry of Agricultural Development, the 13-month EQRSP was started in June 2015 through a US$ 1 million grant to CSISA in Nepal. The program has deployed a suite of agricultural assets including mini-tillers and other farm machines, seed and grain storage facilities, agricultural hand tools, technical training and agronomy support across eight of the most risk-prone affected districts.

As nearly two-thirds of Nepal’s population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, the devastation caused by last year’s earthquake and subsequent aftershocks have undermined the affected region’s food security, with estimated losses of more than US$ 280 million in the agriculture sector alone. The quakes destroyed grain and seed stockpiles, killed and injured milch and draft animals, wrecked tools and implements and collapsed regional irrigation and agricultural markets’ infrastructure.

While the program’s monitoring and evaluation activities are still underway, initial impacts can be estimated. The storage bags and cocoons distributed by EQRSP are expected to save about 2,700 tons of grain and seed; agricultural hand tools have facilitated important sustainable intensification practices; agronomy guides have provided information on new production technologies and management practices. The 400 mini-tillers distributed can cover 700 hectares of land, reducing drudgery for women especially. Consequently, mechanics trained by EQRSP are ensuring repair services for mini-tillers are available locally, which encourages continued demand for the machines.

Impact in Numbers*
- 42,798 total project beneficiaries
- 17,542 recipients of hermetic grain/seed storage bags and cocoons
- 12,560 farmers benefitted from mini-tiller ownership or access (5,896 men and 6,664 women)
- 10,800 recipients of better-bet agronomic guides on maize and rice; 500 on mini-tiller and attachment operation
- 1,333 received hand tools or gained access to hand tools through the program
- 111 cooperatives, 172 farmer groups, and 117 individual farmers received mini-tillers along with attachments worth US$ 300
- 368 mini-tiller recipients and 63 local mechanics trained on basic repair and maintenance; US$ 200 worth of spare parts distributed per mechanic

*Final figures may vary as data collection activities are ongoing

Subarna Bhandari, one of the recipients from Sindhupalchowk district, operated his mini-tiller for a total of 120 hours, earning a gross income of approximately US$ 540 within 3 months. The combined 8 machines that were distributed in his area would therefore help the recipients earn an aggregate US$ 4,320. As a resident from the same village states, “It was difficult to rent bullocks on time because everyone in the village had the same requirement at the same time throughout the village.” She would need three pairs of bullocks for two rounds of plowing at a cost of roughly US$ 60. Thanks to the mini-tiller, the same activity now only costs US$ 14.

She adds, “I no longer require extra laborers for pulverization, which was one of the most tedious tasks in field preparation.” Another farmer from Nuwakot district, Mitra Shrestha, agrees. “Keeping bullocks is costly and tedious because they need feed and fodder throughout the year, even when they are not in use. Whereas, the mini-tiller needs fuel only when it is being used. Besides, in one hour the machine can cultivate an area that would require a pair of bullocks to work an entire day,” she adds. Shrestha uses the surplus time she can now spare for vegetable farming and other household chores. “In fact, I now also use the mini-tiller for land preparation of potatoes, since it can till deeper and make ridges.”

This article is authored by Dilli K.C., CIMMYT Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist.

Catalyzing Change in South Asia’s Rice-Based Systems

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 4, 2016

Rice catalyze

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) operates in areas with high concentrations of rural poverty, in the Eastern Indo Gangetic Plans of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, where smallholder farmers are most vulnerable to the risks of increasingly erratic weather patterns. It is pertinent to note that the productivity of rice-based systems in these locations continue to be marred by a vast array of issues including, but not limited to, various biotic and abiotic stresses, irregular rains, outdated agronomic techniques, limited infrastructure, poor weed management practices, a lack of quality inputs and their timely availability.

Sub-par market infrastructure development and extension services coupled with a landscape dominated by resource-poor, smallholder farmers have so far prevented large scale adoption of mechanization and access to new knowledge, technologies and quality seed. Since there is virtually no scope for expanding the area under agriculture, as yield gaps close, future advances in production must come from systems intensification – growing more crops per year. A recent CSISA study, for example, indicates substantial scope for surface water irrigation to intensify cropping on fallow and rainfed cropped land in Southern Bangladesh.

Improved and easy to implement weed management is also a crucial strategy to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice especially for technologies such as dry direct seeded rice (DSR), with average yield gaps due to farmers’ current practices in Bangladesh estimated at 1 ton per hectare. Studies in the northwest region of the country show that private dealers dominate the input channels in villages with a share of 96 percent of the fertilizer and pesticide markets. CSISA will utilize such input dealer networks to disseminate simple and actionable guides as well as provide experiential training to the dealers and retailers.

In India, where farmers’ use of recommendations from agro-advisory systems remains limited, CSISA is leveraging crop modeling and remote sensing informatics to improve the quality of irrigation scheduling recommendations for rice. Using geoinformatics, CSISA has also been able to more accurately gauge local farmers’ needs and respond accordingly. For example, in Odisha, it enabled the identification of districts most prone to flooding and hence ill-suited for DSR. Farmers in those areas are encouraged to use mechanical transplanting, which can substantially increase profitability in the double-rice systems prevalent in Odisha and which is beneficial for subsequent crops.

CSISA Impacts over the Years
 - Sales of hybrid rice in Bihar increased by 500 tons in 2015 over 2014, with an estimated area expansion of 33,000 hectares.
 - The number of CSISA-supported farmers practicing mechanical transplanting of rice in Odisha increased from 40 in 2013 to 2,000 in 2015.
 - In Bangladesh, more than 900 mechanical rice seeders have been sold by private sector partners since October, 2015
 - In Bangladesh, between 2010 and 2015, more than a million farmers benefitted from rice varieties with abiotic stress tolerance (salinity, flooding and drought) or high yield potential distributed CSISA.
 - Out of 60 rice entries tested by CSISA in India during the 2014 dry season under machine sown dry direct-seeded rice, 15 entries recorded more than 7.5 tons per hectare.

Across the three countries, CSISA’s interventions are grouped into three thematic areas: innovation towards impact – reducing risk for intensification and adding value to extension systems; systemic change towards impact – building partnerships and scaling pathways, and; achieving critical impact at scale – mainstreaming innovations by creating a critical mass of early adopters. Under each of these themes, CSISA conducts business diagnostics, trainings and mentoring to service providers, develops and disseminates communications material on better-bet agronomy, and conducts on-farm verification trials of production practices to reduce risk and ensure reliable rice production. Additionally, the project will employ a ‘training of trainers’ model to build capacity of NARES partners, NGOs and women’s self-help groups and their federations to ensure interventions are replicated beyond the project lifecycle. Altogether, these interventions will not only help increase yields and profitability of rice farming in South Asia, but also create business opportunities for women and youth in agriculture.

Enabling Environment

CSISA’s policy interventions prioritize scaling up work with national partners to address policy constraints in target geographies. Planned activities on seed systems and markets will focus on communicating policy reform options for state-led seed market interventions and the tradeoffs between promoting short-term varietal replacement and long-term seed market development. While activities on scale-appropriate mechanization will emphasize the design of policy incentives and investment strategies, such as targeted subsidies, which encourage the development of necessary localized commercial markets. Lastly, CSISA will support policy reforms to promote balanced fertilizer use through improved understanding of the costs, benefits, fiscal burdens, sustainability and effectiveness of various public programs.

Over the past years 7 years, CSISA has forged strong partnerships including with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and state agriculture universities. These partnerships continue to advance research-based recommendations for basic rice agronomy and application of precision approaches to weed, water and nutrient management, including decision frameworks for intensification.

Priority Interventions for Kharif 2016
1. Integrated weed management to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice
2. Building precision nutrient management approaches around established and emerging scaling pathways
3. Deployment of better-bet agronomic messaging through input dealer networks and development partners
4. Promoting direct dry-seeded rice sowing to address labor and energy constraints to precision rice establishment
5. Production and use of healthy rice seedlings through training of individual farmers, farmer groups, service providers and nursery enterprises; engagement with partners to take this to scale
6. Rice fallows development in coastal Bangladesh and the state of Odisha in India
7. Providing timely and actionable advice on yield-enhancing irrigation scheduling for rice
8. Increasing the capacity of NARES to conduct participatory science and technology evaluations in Bangladesh and India.

This article is authored by Sudhanshu Singh, IRRI Senior Scientist and Rainfed Lowland Agronomist, South Asia.

Accelerating Adoption of Direct Seeded Rice in Bangladesh and Nepal

Posted on Bangladesh-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 3, 2016

Promoting DSR

Seasonal scarcity of agricultural labor is one of the biggest challenges to the viability and profitability of agriculture in South Asia. This is especially true for rice farmers whose primary method of crop establishment is transplanting rice seedlings into fields that have been repeatedly tilled. Labor constraints mean sowing and transplanting are often delayed, resulting in yield losses. “Despite offering a package of lunch, snacks, dinner and US$ 4 per day, we cannot find many takers,” says Bhabhisara Giri, a farmer from Bardiya district in Nepal.

The conventional practice is both cost and time intensive with farmers generally spending more than US$ 100 per hectare for wet tillage land preparation and manual transplanting. It also harms the environment, requiring a considerable amount of water and energy in the form of tractor fuel. Additionally, research conducted by CSISA shows that puddling degrades soil quality and causes adverse effects on successive winter crops.

Machine-sown dry direct seeded rice (DSR) on the other hand is a modern agricultural technology that allows rice seeds to be sown directly into non-puddled fields, foregoing the need to raise rice nurseries and transplant seedlings. DSR generally requires one or two passes of the machine and can also be practiced under zero-tillage, offering considerable time, cost and energy savings for farmers. As Kharka Pun, a farmer from Nepal’s Banke district who recently purchased a seed-cum-fertilizer drill points out, “For the first time in 20 years I didn’t have to puddle my field, prepare seedbeds or transplant seedlings.”

Despite these significant advantages, DSR’s uptake has been slow in Bangladesh and Nepal due, in part, to the fact that few farmers and service providers own seed drills. This scenario is changing through CSISA’s Mechanization and Irrigation (MI) programs that focus on improving accessibility and affordability of farm machines like seed drills.

In Bangladesh, CSISA-MI’s efforts have led to the commercialization of scale-appropriate seeders for the two-wheel tractor. More than 900 seeders have been sold by private sector partners since October, 2015. These efforts have received an additional boost from the Bangladeshi Government’s recent endorsement of policy priorities to expand semi-rainfed rice cultivation in the pre-monsoon season in response to mounting concerns over availability of irrigation water. CSISA estimates that approximately 101,000 hectares of conventionally transplanted pre-monsoon rice could be brought under DSR in the districts of Dinajpur and Jessore, where more than 400 two-wheel tractor-based direct sowing machines are in use by service providers and another 500 units are being imported by the project’s private sector partners.

CSISA is also collaborating with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and Department of Agricultural Extension to conduct service provider impact trainings, support DSR expansion through spatial analytics for technology targeting, aggregate farmer demand and raise awareness among emerging service providers. For service providers, DSR offers a promising opportunity to increase their earnings by adding an additional pre-monsoon crop.

In Nepal, to strengthen the value chain for DSR, CSISA has facilitated linkages between District Agriculture Development Offices, local machinery suppliers and service providers leading to the establishment of DSR on more than 200 hectares in the districts of Rupandehi and Nawalparasi this year. The technology is already becoming popular in the Mid-West districts of Banke and Bardiya where 105 hectares were brought under DSR during the monsoon season, a 90 percent increase over last year.

Targeting Early Adopters

Karka Pun implementing DSR on his field.

Kharka Pun implementing DSR on his field.

According to Anil Khadka, CIMMYT Research Associate, “Besides the ready availability of machinery, the success of DSR also depends on good crop establishment and proper weed control, which are often difficult in the monsoon season due to unpredictable rainfall patterns.” The selection of suitable land, deployment of trained service providers, timely crop establishment and utilization of integrated weed management practices are pivotal for reliably obtaining good yields with DSR.

For a technology that is drastically different from conventional practices, however, its success ultimately depends on a critical mass of first adopters. In Bangladesh’s Narail and Jhenaidah districts, CSISA’s demonstrations have motivated a group of 20 marginal farmers to become ambassadors for DSR, encouraging fellow farmers and working with DAE agents to promote pre-monsoon rice. CSISA also produced a radio jingle to spread awareness of the benefits of DSR in Western, Mid-Western and Far Western Terai districts of Nepal. The jingle was aired on popular FM radio stations at the start of the Kharif season for about three weeks with the name and contact number of service providers. These service providers have since confirmed receiving numerous phone calls from different parts of their districts.

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

Precision Broadcasters: Innovations in Fertilizer Application

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 22, 2016

Bardiya Earthway Spreader

Purna Bahadur Sahi, 42, lives and farms in Neulapur, Bardiya district. Sahi used to practice conventional techniques in his fields, which generally did not involve chemical fertilizers. One day, he visited CSISA’s wheat plots in Sirkoiya during a farmers’ field day.  During the visit, he came to know that soil needs balanced fertilizers just like people need food. He also witnessed a demonstration of the precision broadcaster (Earthway Spreader 2750). He was intrigued by the little red bag which had a very simple mechanism and could be used with a little practice. Sahi brought himself a broadcaster from Tharu Agrovet, Bhurigaun.

Sahi says, “Earlier I applied little amount (less than 40 percent of recommended dose) of fertilizers to my wheat. Seeing the wheat fields during the farmers’ field day, I felt I should use recommended dose of fertilizers in my fields too.” CSISA provided Sahi a training regarding the use of the Earthway Spreader and fertilizer dosages for various crops. Sahi then used the precision broadcaster on 13 Bighas (approximately 8.67 hectares) of wheat to broadcast urea. Neighboring farmers were skeptical, but once Sahi was in action, other were intrigued by the spreader, seeing the efficient application of fertilizer. Soon, his neighbors came asking for the bag to use in their own fields.

Purna Bahadur Sahi using the spreader for fertilizer application.

Purna Bahadur Sahi using the spreader for fertilizer application.

However, it was not easy for some of his neighbors. Some had fertilizer landing on their feet and some had accidentally broadcast their fertilizer outside of their field boundary. Sahi decided to teach them the proper way to use it, which he learned from CSISA. Sahi says, “They did not know the proper balance between walking and cranking speed, resulting in loss of valuable fertilizer. Some went all the way to the end of the field, which spread fertilizers 3 meters outside the field. After learning the right technique, they were doing fine. ”

Sahi says that the zipper on top of the bag does not let the fertilizer spill out, or let water in. He adds, “Urea is evenly spread in the fields and crop establishment is even. The spreader applies urea 4 meters on both sides and I don’t have to reach the end of the field boundary to apply fertilizer.”

“It took me 1 hour to fertilize 0.5 Bighas (0.33 hectares) of wheat. I fertilized a total of 13 Bighas (8.67 hectares), which took me approximately 26 hours. I completed the fertilization in a week, working around 3.5 hours per day. In contrast, when I compared with my neighbor who practiced hand broadcasting, he took 66 hours to fertilize the same field (during a different season) at the rate of 2.5 hours for 0.5 Bighas (0.33 hectares),” shares Sahi.

This article is authored by Anil Khadka, Research Associate, CIMMYT.

CSISA Expands Domain of Registered Maize Hybrids in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 10, 2016

Dhangadhi MaizeCSISA is collaborating with national partners in Nepal to support the domain expansion of registered maize hybrids, helping increase maize productivity in the country.

Maize is the second most important food crop in Nepal, after rice. It contributes approximately 25 percent of Nepal’s food basket and occupies around 26 percent of the total cropped area. Maize productivity at 2.3 tons per hectare in Nepal is still quite low compared to the global average of 5.5 tons per hectare.

Growing demand from the poultry industry in Nepal cannot be met by the cultivation of open-pollinated seed varieties alone. As a result, higher-yielding hybrids have become increasingly popular among farmers because of their productivity, quality and profitability. However, most maize hybrids are only approved for sale and cultivation in the central and eastern Terai, east of the Narayani River. Farmers in many areas, especially in western Nepal, sometimes purchase non-approved hybrid seeds to meet market demand. These hybrid seeds are not registered at the Seed Quality Control Centre and are traded through informal channels.

With a potential risk of penalty from the government for violating the seed policy, traders have not distributed many high-performing hybrids, thereby restricting their local production, fair distribution and widespread availability, which otherwise could benefit many farmers in Nepal. It is estimated that annually about 2,500 tons of hybrid maize is grown in Nepal, of which only 1,000 tons are registered hybrids.

Catalyzing Change

In 2014 and 2015, CSISA and the National Maize Research Program (NMRP) partnered to evaluate maize hybrids in six additional districts (Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Surkhet and Dadeldhura) in western Nepal. Trials were conducted in the spring in the Terai and in the summer in the mid-hills and were monitored by a team of stakeholders from NMRP. The performance data for variety release and registration was shared with the National Seed Board (NSB).

Of the ten hybrids that were evaluated, four (TX 369, Bioseed 9220, Rajkumar and Nutan) were found agronomically superior, producing more than 6 tons per hectare, and having a tight husk cover and providing moderate resistance to northern leaf blight and grey leaf spot. In response to the evaluation results, the NSB has approved and registered four hybrid varieties for sale in the western region.

Highlighting the need to increase farmers’ access to registered hybrids, Dilaram Bhandari, member of NSB and Director, Crop Development Directorate, Department of Agriculture said, “We have to adopt this modality for other hybrids as well since new hybrids expand outside the recommendation domains quite frequently.”

This article is authored by Narayan Prasad Khanal, Research Associate, CIMMYT.

CIMMYT Director General Visits CSISA

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 28, 2016

CIMMYT DG visits Nepal

Martin Kropff, Director General, CIMMYT, visited CSISA’s programs in India, Nepal and Bangladesh during February and March. While in India, Kropff visited the CSISA Research Platform at ICAR-RCER in Patna, Bihar, and saw how CSISA focuses on closing yield gaps in different cropping systems in Bihar and Eastern UP in collaboration with government partners and local stakeholders. He also interacted directly with women farmers and service providers to better understand CSISA’s model for scaling up technologies and generating impact on the ground, as well as ensuring that gains can be sustained beyond the project lifecycle.

R.K. Malik, Senior Agronomist, CIMMYT, described to Kropff three of CSISA’s largest impacts in India: (1) the widespread adoption of early wheat sowing; (2) timely seeding or transplanting of rice, use of rice hybrids and transplanting young seedlings by machine, thus vacating the rice field early to facilitate wheat sowing; and (3) the creation of a critical mass of 2,200 service providers, who have helped spread information and CSISA-supported technologies to smallholders across our target districts.

In Nepal, Kropff met with the Minister of Agricultural Development and the Secretary of Agriculture, as well as top officials, directors and scientists at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council to discuss areas of current and future collaboration. Much of the discussion focused on how to align programming and investment with Nepal’s new Agricultural Development Strategy, which prioritizes areas of investment in the country’s agriculture sector through 2025. Kropff also visited Nuwakot, a district benefitting from CSISA’s Earthquake Recovery Support Program, and learned about the distribution of minitillers – along with attachments and spare parts – as well as storage bags, handtools, and agronomic information. His time in Nepal concluded with a visit to Bhairahawa, where he met service providers who continued to provide custom-hire services to local farmers even after project support had concluded.

In Bangladesh, Kropff visited demonstration and trial fields in Jessore and Dinajpur, discussing improved cropping systems and management practices with male and female farmers. He witnessed in CSISA-MI the power of working with the government and the private sector, particularly for the scaling of mechanization. His meetings with key officials at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and Department of Agricultural Extension highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordination in CSISA’s work. The Minister for Agriculture, Motia Chowdhury, raised the issue of wheat diseases emerging in Bangladesh and Kropff assured support in response to this emerging concern. He also shared updates on CSISA’s work on production environments characterization using new GIS and remote sensing tools.

Spreading Awareness over the Radio

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, February 19, 2016

Radio JinglesCSISA has collaborated with the District Agriculture Development offices in four districts in Mid and Far West regions of Nepal to produce radio jingles in local languages to spread awareness, among other topics, on the importance of irrigating wheat during tillering and flowering stages in winter. The jingles are being aired six times a day for 20 days by Krishna Shara FM and Dinesh FM, two popular FM radio stations.

More than 80% of farmers in these areas of Nepal irrigate their wheat only once, at the beginning of the season, and lack awareness about the yield benefits of providing a second irrigation to wheat in winter.

The jingles can also be accessed online on CSISA’s YouTube Page

Supporting Sustainable and Scalable Changes in Cereal Systems in South Asia

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

Rice harvestThe rates of growth of staple crop yields in South Asia are insufficient to meet the projected demands in the region. With 40 percent of the world’s poor living in South Asia, the area composed of eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal has the largest concentration of impoverished and food insecure people worldwide. At the same time, issues of resource degradation, declining labor availability and climate change (frequent droughts and rising temperatures) pose considerable threats to increasing the productivity of farming systems and rural livelihoods. Thirty percent of South Asia’s wheat crop is likely to be lost due to higher temperatures by 2050, experts say.

“These ecologies are regionally important for several reasons,” said Andrew McDonald, Project Leader, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, CIMMYT. “First, they have a higher density of rural poverty and food insecurity than any other region. Second, yield gaps for cereal staples are higher here than elsewhere in South Asia – highlighting the significant growth potential in agriculture.”

According to McDonald, there have been some successes due to increased investment and focus on intensification in these areas over the past 10 years. A CIMMYT-led initiative, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has contributed to major outcomes such as rapid uptake of early-planted wheat, the use of zero-tillage seed drills and long-duration, high-yielding wheat varieties in eastern India.

CSISA, in close collaboration with national partners, has been working in this region since 2009 to sustainably enhance the productivity of cereal-based cropping systems, as well as to improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

“Climate-resilient practices are gaining confidence in the areas we are working. More than 500,000 farmers adopted components of the early rice-wheat cropping system in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh last year,” said R.K. Malik, Senior Agronomist, CIMMYT. “Early sowing can protect the crop from late-season heat damage and increase yields. It’s a non-cash input that even smallholders can benefit from and is one of the most important adaptations to climate change in this region.”

To increase the spread of these innovations and increase farmers’ access to modern farming technologies, CSISA is working to strengthen the network of service providers.

“This region has a large number of smallholder farmers and ownership of machines by smallholders is often not economically viable,” highlighted Malik. “In the Indian states of Bihar, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh, CSISA has facilitated more than 1,900 progressive farmers to become local entrepreneurs through relevant skills, information and training during the last three years.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have recently approved phase III of CSISA, running from December 2015 to November 2020. Building on the momentum and achievements of phases I and II, phase III will work to scale up innovations, strengthen local capacity and expand markets to support the widespread adoption of climate-resilient agricultural technologies in partnership with the national and developmental partners and key private sector actors.

“CSISA has made its mark as a ‘big tent’ initiative that closes gaps between research and delivery, and takes a systems approach that will continue to be leveraged in phase III through strategic partnerships with national agricultural systems, extension systems and agricultural departments and with civil society and the private sector,” said McDonald.

CSISA is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented jointly with the International Rice Research Institute and the International Food Policy Research Institute. The four primary outcomes of phase III focus on technology scaling, mainstreaming innovation into national systems, development of research-based products and reforming policies for faster technology adoption.

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

Photo Feature: Impacts of CSISA Phase II

Empowering Women Farmers through Participatory Research

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

Loktantrik Mahila samuhaCSISA has collaborated with a women farmers’ group in Bardiya district to collectively evaluate improved rice and lentil varieties and better bet agronomic practices. These trials have helped bring CSISA researchers closer to farmers’ needs and have led to increased adoption of new technologies by women farmers.

Loktantrik Mahila Krishak Samuha (Democratic Women Farmer Group) was formed in 2011 in the village of Neulapur in Bardiya district of Nepal to economically support poor women members and to improve their skills in new agricultural technologies. The group, with 33 active members, now has a savings fund of NRs 250,000 (US$ 2,500), and is able to make low-interest loans to members. Since 2013, CSISA-NP has been working with this group on research activities, trainings and demonstrations.

Farmers’ Choice

Group members participated in CSISA’s evaluation of rice varieties, as well as trainings and demonstrations on rice production technologies and crop establishment methods. Among rice hybrids, the group members were able to choose from varieties such as DY 18, DY 69, Arieja and Prithivi due to their high yielding potential and fine grain quality. The women group members expressed a preference for fine grain rice varieties for home consumption and coarse grain varieties for selling in the market.

In the winter of 2013 and 2014, a large number of farmers from the group also participated in adaptive research trials on lentil varietal selection and different agronomic practices. The group preferred Khajura 2 (released), ILL 7723 (enriched with iron and zinc) and Black Masuro, but did not express a preference for the other varieties produced. The average yield of improved varieties of lentil is 1,200 kg per hectare in farmers’ fields, which is nearly 50 percent higher than the commonly used variety.  The group members also earned additional income by selling lentil seeds, which were produced from these new varieties.

CSISA also introduced the group members to direct seeded rice (DSR) technologies, using both four-wheel tractor seed drills and Chinese two-wheel tractor seed drills. DSR, a technology that can provide significant cost savings to smallholder farmers, can be particularly attractive when labor availability is constrained as it eliminates the need for nursery bed preparation, puddling and transplanting of seedlings into the main field. DSR also reduces water requirements, while still providing similar grain yields achieved with transplanted puddled rice.

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).

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.  

Rebuilding Livelihoods: CIMMYT Supports Agricultural Recovery in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, September 25, 2015

USAID-Nepal-Recovery (1)

The recent 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April, followed by a 7.3 magnitude aftershock on 12 May and several hundred additional aftershocks to date, has had huge negative impacts on the country’s agriculture and food security. Around two-thirds of Nepal’s population relies on agriculture for their livelihood and agriculture contributes to 33 percent of Nepal’s GDP. It is estimated that about 8 million people have been affected by the earthquakes, with smallholders in hilly regions being most hard-hit.

The earthquake damaged or destroyed agricultural assets, undermining the longer-term food production capacity of farm families and disrupting critical input supply, trade and processing networks. Farmers lost grain and seed stocks, livestock, agricultural tools and other inputs, and are facing significant shortages of agricultural labour. Widespread damage to seed and grain storage facilities have affected smallholder farmers’ ability to secure their harvested crops through the rainy season.

In response to the devastation, USAID-Nepal has provided US$1 million for earthquake relief and recovery to the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Nepal (CSISA-NP). The Earthquake Recovery Support Program, for a period of 13 months, will be implemented in close coordination with the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), Department of Agriculture (DoA), Department of Livestock Services (DoLS), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) and District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC).  The districts that will receive support include Dolkha, Kavre, Khotang, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Ramechap, Sindhupalchowk, and Solukhumbu, which have suffered particularly high levels of damage.

“Even if seed is available, the capacity for farmers to plant and harvest crops has been severely diminished due to the loss of draft animals and the exacerbation of labor shortages,” said Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Cropping Systems Agronomist and CSISA Project Leader. “We will reach more than 33,000 farming households through seed and grain storage facilities, mini-tillers and other farm machines, agricultural hand tools, technical training and agronomy support,” added McDonald.

The program will provide 50,000 grain storage bags, 30 cocoons for community grain storage, 400 mini-tillers and other modern agriculture power tools (e.g., reapers, maize shellers, seeders), 800 sets (5 items in a set) of small agricultural hand tools, and 20,000 posters on better-bet agronomic practices for rice and maize. “We will first focus on getting small horsepower mini-tillers into affected communities, and subsequently broadening the utility of these machines to power a host of essential agricultural activities including seeding, reaping, threshing and shelling, as well as powering small pumps for irrigation,” said Scott Justice, Agricultural Mechanization Specialist, CSISA-NP.

At the program’s inception workshop held recently on 28 August, Dr. Beth Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Nepal, remarked that USAID-Nepal has arranged a special fund to help earthquake-affected people. Beyond the devastation of houses, public infrastructure like roads, the earthquake has seriously disrupted the agriculture and rural economy throughout the impacted districts. Re-establishing vital agricultural markets and services in the aftermath of the earthquake is key to how quickly these communities will recover, underlined Dunford.

For effective coordination and monitoring of activities in the program, Central Level Management Committee, District Level Management Committee and Local Level Management Committee have already been formed. They aim to identify most earthquake affected areas within a district and will ensure efficient and transparent distribution of support items.

Dr. Adhikari, Joint Secretary, MoAD, highlighted that the Ministry feels a real sense of ownership over this program and is committed to implementing the activities through its network. He said the farm machinery support program will be a perfect platform for MoAD to expand its farm mechanization program into other areas of the country. The Earthquake Recovery Support Program also aligns with the Agriculture Development Strategies of the Government of Nepal, which focuses on community-wide inclusive development.

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.


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