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.

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.

Improving the Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in Dadeldhura

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, June 18, 2015

DadeldhuraLittri Gaun is a characteristic remote, hilly village in Dadeldhura district of Nepal. Relatively low agricultural yields, soil erosion and labor out-migration are major challenges for monsoon-dependent agriculture in this region. During the kharif season, farmers mostly grow the dominant staple crops – unbunded upland rice and maize. Some farmers also practice maize-soybean mixed cropping because soybean fetches a good price in the market. Finger millet is also grown for home consumption in some areas during kharif.

Farmers in Littri Gaun believe that chemical fertilizer can destroy soil, and use only farmyard manure and plant litter to enrich their soil. Low nutrient levels — particularly for Nitrogen – have led to consistently low crop productivity. Moreover, farmers grow traditional local varieties for which seeds may have been saved for several years, as seed replacement rates are low. With men migrating outside for work, women are left responsible for the agricultural production, as well as household duties, resulting in high levels of drudgery for women and high labor constraints during peak agricultural times.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Nepal (CSISA-NP) began working with farmers in Littri Gaun in 2012 and facilitated farmers in the village to form a group called “Ugratara Agriculture Group.” CSISA works with Ugratara to introduce new, suitable crop varieties, better-bet agronomic practices and small-scale machinery that women can use.

CSISA and Ugratara have conducted several maize trials to screen and grow different registered hybrids, to evaluate different crop establishment methods and to experiment with different methods of fertilizer management. Trials showed that hybrid maize yields were more than double to those of the local varieties under the same management conditions. With hybrids, Ugratara has even harvested up to three times the yield of the local maize varieties. Among the genotypes tested, group members preferred Kanchan-101 (hybrid) because of the high and early yields. Trials also showed that the local maize variety produced higher yields when fertilizer was applied, demonstrating the importance of good nutrient management.

Dadeldhura Field DayDuring a farmers’ field day Ugratara group members expressed that improved varieties, like the maize variety Kanchan 101 (hybrid) introduced by CSISA, are more productive than their local maize. Ugratara group member, Naresh Khadka said, “We are producing more than double using the hybrid Kanchan-101 and it’s ready early than the local variety.” For upland rice, trials also showed that the appropriate use of chemical fertilizers nearly doubled yields of local rice varieties and that chemical fertilizer increased yields over those achieved through the application of farmyard manure.

CSISA also introduced improved varieties of lentil, which has increased the number of farmers producing lentil, lentil yields, and household lentil consumption. Farmers have also been able to sell their surplus lentil production in the market for NRs. 150/kg. “After seeing the benefits of improved lentil variety, more farmers are now expanding their area under lentil cultivation,” said Khadka.

Finally, CSISA introduced small machines like the mini tiller and the jab planter, which helped women to prepare and cultivate land, making them more self-sufficient, saving their time and helping them to adapt better to labor shortages. Women in Littri Gaun are not allowed to plough land with bullocks, as it is considered to be men’s work. Saru Khadka, a lady member of Ugratara group, said, “By using minitiller for preparing our fields, we don’t have to depend on men for labor and bullocks.” Participation in Ugratara has helped the group’s women members to feel empowered. Khadka acknowledged that women in Ugratara have learned to confidently express their views and problems to relevant authorities and they feel more capable and assertive now.

This article is authored by A.P. Regmi, Agronomist, CIMMYT.

Low-Cost Innovations to Benefit Smallholder Farmers in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, April 14, 2015

A new investment by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Nepal (CSISA-NP) was launched on 10 April, 2015 at a public event in Kathmandu. The investment by USAID India and USAID Washington, totalling US$ 4 million over four years, aims to work with the private and public sectors to benefit smallholder farmers by integrating scale-appropriate mechanization technologies with resource conservation and management best practices.

“For a country where 75 percent of the population makes its livelihoods in agriculture, these partnerships are absolutely important. Agriculture development, as we know, is one of the surest routes out of poverty,” remarked Beth Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Nepal at the launch. Eight million Nepalis still live in extreme poverty and almost 3 million Nepalis live in recurring food insecurity. “We also know that growth tied to gains in agricultural productivity is up to three times more effective at raising the incomes of the poor than growth from any other sector,” Dunford added.

Beth Dunford

Beth Dunford, Mission Director, USAID Nepal.

The new phase of CSISA-NP, an initiative led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), will build on successes and lessons learned from the ongoing work of CSISA Nepal, currently funded by USAID Nepal, and will continue to focus on districts in the mid-West and far-West regions of Nepal. It will complement USAID’s Feed the Future program, KISAN, which works to improve agricultural productivity and incomes for over one million Nepalis.

The new work plan will be implemented in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Nepal Agricultural Research Council, to strengthen seed value chains for timely access to improved varieties by farmers, promote sustainable intensification of agricultural systems through increasing lentil cultivation and better-bet management, increase wheat productivity using new technologies and better farming practices and facilitate precise and effective use of nutrients to increase crop yield.

A specific component of the new investment is designed to support and build the capacity of change agents like medium-sized seed companies, agro‐dealers and mechanized service providers. “Building on its success of working with the Indian private sector, CSISA will expand the program in Nepal to facilitate application of specialized, commercially-viable equipment for small and marginal farmers,” highlighted Bahiru Duguma, Director, Food Security Office, USAID India.

“CSISA supports more than 1,600 service providers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India and we want to replicate that success in Nepal of working with local entrepreneurs to help reach farmers with mechanized technologies,” said Andrew McDonald, CSISA Project Leader.

Rajendra Prasad Adhikari, Joint Secretary, Policy and International Cooperation Co-ordination Division, Ministry of Agricultural Development, Government of Nepal, welcomed this initiative and said that this launch is very timely as the agricultural ministry has just developed and endorsed an agricultural mechanization promotion policy and the Nepal Agricultural Development Strategy is in its final shape.

The launch was attended by representatives from the Nepal Ministry of Agriculture, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Agriculture and Forestry University and USAID officials and received positive media coverage in Nepal.

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

Strengthening the Role of Agro-dealers and Traders to Increase Machinery Adoption in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News & Announcements, February 13, 2015

Agro-dealers meeting NepalCereal Systems Initiative for South Asia-Nepal (CSISA-NP) is improving business linkages, developing technical capacity and business acumen of agro-dealers to increase up-take of new technology by farmers.

To enhance agri-mechanization in the Western and Far Western Development Regions of Nepal, CSISA organized an interaction meeting of the agro-dealers/agents, with the help of USAID’s KISAN project, on 22 December 2014 in Dhangadhi, Kailali.

Various agro-dealers and traders mostly from Kailali and Kanchanpur districts participated in the meeting. In addition, Senior District Agriculture Development Officers from Kailali and Kanchapur districts, the Chief Custom’s Officer from Dhangadhi Custom Office, and District representatives from USAID’s KISAN Project also participated.

Dr. AP Regmi, CSISA-NP’s ARTC Manager of the Far West region welcomed the participants and explained briefly about the history of CSISA NP and its objectives for promoting scale appropriate agricultural mechanization in the Western Development Regions.  Scott Justice, CIMMYT Mechanization and irrigation Specialist in South Asia, further highlighted the objectives of creating a regional platform or association that will strengthen and develop the agro-machinery dealers technical capacity and will accelerate fair and equitable spread and use of targeted technologies by the Far West Farmers.

Tika Ram Thapa, Senior Agriculture officer from District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) Kanchanpur highlighted the importance of agro-mechanization in Far West. “Far western region is at infant stage regarding agro- machineries, it needs to establish strong network among all the institutions related to agricultural machinery including private sector,” said Thapa. “Agro dealers, who are also the change agents, should have strong network with the DADOs, as the farmers are in direct touch with us,” explained Thapa.

Similarly, Yuvraj Pandey, Senior Agriculture Development Officer, Kailali highlighted the need to attract youth towards new technology and mechanization in the context of labour scarcity and increasing out-migration of youth for employment.  Custom challenges were raised by the dealers in importing the agricultural machine and the parts. Shiva Bhandari, Chief Customs Officer, Dhangadhi addressed to this concern and talked about the tax charges to agricultural machinery.

After the interaction, the dealers observed the new machinery brought by CSISA at the research site of CSISA. The group saw: self-propelled reaper, 2-wheel tractor reaper, precision fertilizer and seed broadcaster, pedaled rice thresher, 4-wheel tractor 11 row zero till seed cum fertilizer drill,  mini-tiller 4 row seed drill,  seed cum fertilizer drill for 2-wheel tractor, mechanical and electric ½ HP  single cob maize sheller. The team also visited the demonstration and experimental fields of CSISA to look at the zero tillage wheat and strip till lentil planted by the new machinery. The dealers appreciated and showed keen interest in buying or marketing these new technologies.

CSISA will continue to organize more regional meetings to help familiarize dealers with new agro-machinery and aims to support the development of Far Western Agro Dealer Association that will increase the business linkages between farmers, dealers, importers and public organizations to increase expansion of appropriate agro-machinery in a sustainable manner.

Women’s Micro-Credit Loans Help Popularize Scale- and Gender-Appropriate Agricultural Mechanization

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, February 5, 2015

In mid-2013, after overhearing several conversations about CSISA-Nepal’s promotion of new scale-appropriate agricultural machinery with farmers in the Far West, Sumitra Manandhar-Gurung, CEO of Mahila Sahayatra Micro Finance Bittya Sanstha approached CSISA about whether its agricultural mechanization program might have something to offer her bank’s clients – women farmers who live mainly in the hill regions of Nepal.

Goats and Machines

Gurung asked, “Isn’t there something out there that I can give loans for besides goats? Can’t you show us some small powered machine, tractor or a small mill in the market that our women could take a loan for and provide services to their neighbors while earning a livelihood?”

In March 2014, CSISA Nepal placed an engineer, Sumana Parui, as an intern with Gurung’s bank, to explore the possibility of making micro-credit loans for small, powered and manually powered machinery to Mahila Sahayatra’s members. Parui spent two months in Chitlang village in Makwanpur district and two months in Holeri village in Rolpa district, where she provided several technical and business (local service provider) development trainings to women members and bank staff, a mechanics’ repair training as well as several farmer field days with machinery demonstrations.

Early Successes

Clockwise from top left: Machinery orientation and training in Chitlang; Demonstration of brush cutter in Holeri; Local mechanics’ training on the repair of the mini tiller and other machinery in Chitlang; Training on the use of the mini tiller for land preparation in Holeri.

Clockwise from top left: Machinery orientation and training in Chitlang; Demonstration of brush cutter in Holeri; Local mechanics’ training on the repair of the mini tiller and other machinery in Chitlang; Training on the use of the mini tiller for land preparation in Holeri.

Early on, the outcomes of these trainings were mixed. In Chitlang Valley, the first buyers of a mini-tiller, (a small rotavator-plow, powered by a 4.5 HP diesel engine) were Gyani (58 years old) and Saligram Manandhar (68 years old), who told CSISA how proud they were that they were able to take turns preparing their own land (nearly a hectare) for vegetables and rice, while their sons were working far away in Kathmandu. Manandhar related that in the last few years the few bullock plowmen remaining in the village were charging very high prices for their services and that by using the mini tiller in late spring and summer he saved nearly $200 (NPR 20,000) – half the price of the mini-tiller.

Since Manadhar purchased her machine in April 2014, five additional households, including a disabled woman bank member took a loan from Mahila Sahayatra to purchase the machine. Other equipment such as the powered brush-cutter (for the harvesting of wheat, rice fodder crops, etc.), pedaled (manual) open drum rice thresher and other implements for the mini-tiller such as cage wheels and furrow makers have also been sold. CSISA trained the local motorcycle mechanic in mini tiller repair and now he even stocks some spare parts.

Holeri Village in Rolpa District is different from Chitlang. Holeri lies in what was the epicenter of the Maoist Revolution and is much poorer and more remote. Parui arrived there in August 2014 and reported how difficult it was working there, not only due to the remoteness but because many farmers were negative about the machinery she was demonstrating. Leaving Holeri in October, she was dejected that not a single machine had been sold.

However, in December 2014 she started receiving phone calls from bank staff and women farmers who were interested in purchasing the small ½ HP electric-powered maize sheller. Bank staff sold it that week and then more farmers called, saying there were four or five more women interested in immediately purchasing maize shellers. Parui is currently in discussion with CSISA’s private sector collaborators (agro-vets and machinery agents) on how they could supply machinery to farmers in Holeri, for example by setting up a sales agency there.

Machinery Catalog

Parui is currently in the process of finishing her report as well as preparing a catalog of scale- and gender-appropriate agricultural machinery, a document that will include photos, descriptions, prices and locations where they can be purchased in Nepal. Mahila Sahayatra requested the catalog for use across their locations.

CSISA and Mahila Sahayatra now agree that this initial experiment in marrying scale- and gender-appropriate agricultural machinery with a micro-credit institution has shown initial success and needs to be further formalized, including through formal tie-ups between Mahila Sahayatra and private sector machinery providers that would supply not only the machinery but also training and servicing of the machinery (e.g., repair, spare parts). Discussions about the partnership’s next steps and how to fund them are ongoing.

Breaking Ground – Women Farmers in the Hills of Nepal Benefit from Scale-Appropriate Mechanization

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, December 11, 2014

Laxmi Khadka is a progressive farmer based in Nepal’s Dadeldhura district. She lives with her husband, two sons and daughter. Their farm is a mixed crop – livestock enterprise where they cultivate upland rice, wheat, maize and vegetables. In the mid-hills of Nepal, seasonal and semi-permanent male outmigration occurs at one of the highest rates in the world, which creates labor bottlenecks that erode profitability and compromise the timing of key agricultural operations.

Learning How to operate Minitiller_GangaAt present, Laxmi spends most of her time tending to her agricultural fields and livestock and struggles to balance her farm work with the needs of her family. Across the mid-hills, the burden of farm management is falling increasingly on women household members like Laxmi who stay behind. Further, the number of bullocks has declined precipitously, which also delays key farm operations like ploughing. For both reasons, the niche for scale-appropriate mechanization is strong but beyond the reach and current experience of most farmers.

In Laxmi’s community, CSISA introduced the mini tiller as a low-cost option for rural traction and identified a group-based service provision model to recoup costs and share the technology across the village. Although initially apprehensive, community members quickly realized that the mini tiller saves time and money and Laxmi observed she was able to plant her maize with the onset of spring rains as she didn’t need to wait to hire labor or bullocks.

“From now on, we will not have to depend on the men for ploughing,” said Laxmi.

Farmers observed that it can be difficult to carry the mini tiller from one terrace to another, especially when terraces are at different heights and separated by bunds. These small problems have been solved through the collective action of the group with 2–3 farmers coordinating planting and machinery transportation from field-to-field. Farmers have also learned that operation of the mini tiller is relatively easy with most women trained in the technology by CSISA expressing and demonstrating confidence in its operation.

With timely planting assured with the mini tiller, Laxmi was also eager to evaluate additional productivity-enhancing technologies and planted maize hybrids for the first time in 2014. Her productivity levels tripled from 2013 and she produced a marketable surplus (30% of production) that was an important source of income for her family.

CSISA Promotes Maize Triple Cropping in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, June 11, 2014

Nepali woman farmer in her maize fieldIn the western Terai plain of Nepal, farmers typically grow no more than two crops per year and there is a spring fallow period in between winter crop harvesting and rice planting that remains fallow. This fallow period is particularly long in areas where potato is cultivated.

At places where irrigation water is available and timely harvest of the winter crop takes place, maize can be grown and marketed either as ‘green cob’ for the fresh market or, in some cases, grown to maturity to produce dry grain. Since no crops are displaced when a farmer transitions from double to triple cropping systems, the income generated by this third season is purely profit. Nevertheless, cropping in this period is uncommon and better-bet management recommendations for promising crops like maize are lacking.

Starting in 2013, CSISA-Nepal initiated a series of participatory research trials in farmer’s fields to determine optimum management practices for maize in order to encourage triple cropping and to generate income. On-farm trials demonstrate that spring maize can be immensely remunerative, with returns exceeding $1,000/ha.

However, profitability is highly dependent on irrigation investments and farmers can incur losses with excess application of irrigation water. Returns are also highly dependent on the selection of the right cultivar, with maximum profits declining to less than $50/ha with open-pollinated varieties.

In addition to sound agronomic advice, expansion of spring maize area in the Nepali Terai will be bolstered by closer linkages between maize processing mills and small famers as well as the introduction of labor saving technologies such as maize shellers to reduce drudgery. CSISA is working with the KISAN project to commercialize small-scale machinery and to improve linkages between farmers and markets.

 

Farmers in western Nepal excited about new spring maize varieties by CSISA-Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 19, 2013

In Terai, farmers were initially skeptical about growing maize in the dry spring period, with one farmer’s wife berating him for sowing maize on land she thought they should grow a fodder crop on. By about two months after planting, she was delightedly admitting being wrong, and showing visitors their maize field, with both the farmer’s variety and a hybrid, both under farmer management and recommended nutrient and establishment practices. All hybrids tested yielded at least 2 t/ha more than the farmer’s open pollinated variety (OPV), Arun-2 — which also yielded over 1 t/ha more with improved management than under typical farmer management.

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Arun-2 (L) and hybrid (R) at Kanchanpur site in the far-west

Yields of the Rajkumar hybrid that farmers voiced early preference for were often doubled, at over 10 t/ha with just 3 irrigations. Hybrid yields under farmer management were comparable to or better than OPV yields under best practices, leading several farmers to state that they wanted to expand spring maize area next year and plant the Rajkumar hybrid by line-sowing as introduced by CSISA-NP rather than the traditional practice of broadcasting: they said that although initial time for line-sowing might be high, applying irrigation and weeding were cheaper and easier in the line-sown plots. Feed industry representatives invited to visit the plots were also pleased with the hybrid maize, and told farmers that they could guarantee the purchase of these farmers’ hybrid maize at the same rates as they currently pay Indian producers if they could increase production, as currently purchase over 200 t of maize annually from India at NPR 24/kg to meet demand. Following the discussion with feed company representatives, CSISA-NP participating farmers in the far-western Terai project sites were able to negotiate higher prices (about NPR 4-5 per kg) from the (non-feed company) buyers of their maize.
Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Typical farmer spring maize in far-west: water-stressed, and poorly managed

Contributed by: M. Devare

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