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.

Scaling Nutrient Management in South Asian Cereal Systems

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

PNM Meeting

Degradation in soil organic carbon is not a new occurrence but the accelerated intensity of decline in recent decades is cause for concern. However, considerable efforts are being made in the field of precision nutrient management (PNM) in South Asia to ensure that the right type and amount of nutrients are used based on site-specific soil conditions. Despite many scientific advances achieved in PNM, imbalanced application of fertilizers is still common in India, as evidenced by a recent CSISA study.  Lack of awareness and understanding among farmers about the benefits of optimized fertilizer use could be a factor, according to Sheetal Sharma, IRRI Soil Scientist and Nutrient Management Specialist – South Asia. “Various strategies of PNM are being developed but the science is not being channeled to the end users. However, we now have a variety of new tools that can be leveraged for PNM leading to improved management of natural capital, optimization of resource usage and maximization of crop yields,” she added.

In collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences, CSISA organized a convening on Scaling PNM in South Asian Cereal Systems from 27-29 April in Mussoorie, India. Participants included representatives from the government and fertilizer industry, as well as agronomists, soil scientists and remote sensing specialists from various CGIAR institutions. The goal of the convening was to identify pragmatic strategies for increasing the agronomic efficiency and profitability of soil fertility management at scale. It follows last year’s National Dialogue on Efficient Nutrient Management for Improving Soil Health, the recommendations of which have been adopted as the New Delhi Soil Health Declaration – 2015.

During the discussions at the convening, it emerged that current innovations in institutional data science and spatial data availability represented a remarkable opportunity to map physical and biological characteristics of crops and their environment rapidly and cost-effectively and with greater precision at scale. Such tools are being used for precision nutrient management as well as in-season adaptive management and can be done at the national level at an affordable scale. The Indian Government, for example, will require testing of 40 million soil samples per year as part of its new Soil Health Card Scheme – an ambitious program launched in 2015 at the cost of Rs. 5.7 billion. Its objective is to, among other things, help urea consumption come down 20-25 percent. Under the scheme, the government plans to issue individual soil cards to farmers that will carry crop-wise recommendations for nutrients and fertilizers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs.

However, the various soil testing labs across the country currently have a capacity to test only 17.8 million samples per year. Additionally, conventional soil tests remain cumbersome with huge problems related to accuracy and reproducibility. Neither do they characterize the nutrient pools nor do they produce any absolute measure of nutrient availability. On the other hand, new methods, such as spectroscopy-based soil assessments, are highly reproducible and cheap. “Spectral analysis means that the majority of your lab work, you’re doing at the cost of electricity,” said Markus Walsh, Science Coordinator, Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS).

Kaushik Majumder, Vice President, Asia and Africa, International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), also reiterated the importance of partnerships for scaling PNM practices and tools. “The most important learning from our experience is that partnerships are essential for the successful out scaling of any new tool and ownership of the tool by these partners even more so,” he stated. Based on these discussions, specific potential partnerships were prioritized to ensure CSISA’s role in scaling precision nutrient management remains complementary to the national system.

Policy Reforms

A roundtable discussion was also organized by IFPRI on 2 May in New Delhi on Policy Reform Options to Improve Soil Nutrient Management in India. The meeting focused on public expenditure priorities, current subsidy schemes and the Government of India’s Soil Health Card Scheme.

The figure for average fertilizer usage in India stands at 100 kilograms per hectare compared to 300 kilograms per hectare in China. At the same time, fertilizers here, especially for nitrogen, are not even 30 percent efficient – making the financial expenditures even more staggering.

According to Pramod K. Joshi, IFPRI South Asia Director, “Fertilizers have contributed significantly to increasing productivity but more recently have created numerous problems for the government, especially financially. With a bill of more than US$ 11 billion, the first major problem at the macro level is subsidies. The second is leakages with 24 percent going to inefficient production units and 41 percent diverted through urea; only 35 percent of the subsidy amount actually makes it to the farm sector. It is also important to note that we are trying to reduce subsidies while at the same time increasing consumption.” Participants in the discussion largely agreed that the fertilizer subsidy policy needs to be reviewed thoroughly, with a focus on incentivizing rather than penalizing.

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

Launch of New Geo-Informatics Tool

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, News & Announcements, June 20, 2016

CSISA recently launched the beta version of the Landscape-scale Crop Assessment Tool (LCAT), a geo-informatics technology that will help scientists to forecast crop yields and identify regions where conditions will support the adoption of specific technologies. Using geo-informatics, for example, CSISA has in the past been able to identify districts in Odisha most prone to flooding and categorize them as areas ill-suited for direct seeded rice. LCAT will provide a platform for extension professionals, policymakers and research scientists to leverage geo-informatics for better decision-making. The tool was developed for South Asia but can be used globally.

“In the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, we promote early sowing of wheat, which is one of the most important adaptations to climate change. But we haven’t been able to accurately monitor and measure where it is being implemented and when,” explained Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT principal scientist and CSISA project leader. “In our line of work, it is crucial to understand where you’re making progress. While the data exists, it is often not integrated at the spatial level.”

Considerable environmental and man-made landscape diversity exists across South Asia. LCAT will help to analyze these landscapes and characterize large areas of land based on remote sensing data. It will serve two main purposes – to facilitate technology targeting and provide information such as crop status, phenology and yield goals to support crop management decisions.

“The first version of the tool uses datasets from CSISA sites in Bangladesh and India to characterize the existing cropland. However, the algorithms on which it is based are generic and can hence be applied to describe any dominant agricultural landscape across the globe,” said Balwinder Singh, CIMMYT crop simulation modeler. “Within CSISA, the tool will be used for specific applications extending to crop yield forecasting and monitoring, learning and evaluation.”

Participants in the LCAT training workshop in New Delhi, India.

Participants in the LCAT training workshop in New Delhi, India.

However, critical knowledge gaps between landscape-scale processes and technology targeting remain a challenge. To ensure policymakers and scientists are able to effectively collaborate in using this tool, a team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) visited New Delhi in May to conduct a training session on LCAT for CSISA staff and government partners from India and Bangladesh. The training not only demonstrated the tool’s beta version but also created greater understanding of its practical applications.

“If you’re a user of data, you spend 60 percent of your time just assembling data before analyzing it. We want to reduce that to 5 percent,” said Suresh Vannan, director of the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics and CCSI data theme leader.

LCAT is being developed in collaboration with ORNL and the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) Initiative. It is funded by CIMMYT as part of a five-year agreement with ORNL signed in 2014.

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

Video Project in Bangladesh Wins Award for Effective Farmer Communication

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 2, 2016

EVCOM AwardA collaborative video project aimed at raising farmers’ awareness of small-scale agricultural machinery, water, time, and labor saving crop management practices in South Asia has won the bronze prize in the Event and Visual Communication Association (EVCOM) 2016 Award for Communication Effectiveness at an event in London on April 28.

The EVCOM Screen Awards are among the most prestigious competitions in corporate film and visual communications. The award was jointly accepted by Agro-Insight, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

Paul Van Mele, director of Agro-Insight, praised the partnership between agricultural research organizations BARI and CIMMYT, video production company Agro-Insight and video distribution partner AAS.

“The EVCOM Award for Communication Effectiveness celebrates a unique partnership model whereby quality training videos far exceeded the impact that agricultural development projects usually have,” he said.

Greater Extension for Impact

“In population-dense South Asia, the sheer number of farmers makes it difficult to expand reach to raise awareness in rural areas,” said CIMMYT systems agronomist Tim Krupnik.  “Video is a great medium for extension if you want to make awareness spread like wildfire.”

Based on the film “Save more, grow more, earn more,” produced in 2012 through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation– and the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), which also featured some field sites shown from ACIAR and U.S. Department of AgricultureCornell University funded partner projects, a suite of videos was translated into eight languages for farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Iran and Nepal.

Harun-Ar Rashid, executive director of AAS commented that “our achievement was enormous.” Between 2012 and 2014, AAS and CIMMYT jointly organized 482 screenings for over 110,000 farmers in 482 villages in Bangladesh.

Israil Hossain, a leading agricultural engineer at BARI, commented that “now farmers are inspired, seeing the advantages for crop production, and use of machinery is increasing.”

Internationally, 1,500 DVD copies were distributed to farmer leaders and others such as two-wheel tractor operators, agricultural equipment and input dealers, community-based organizations, government services centers, NGOs and even tea stalls with televisions. Fifty eight million television viewers were reported in Bangladesh and over 100 million in India.

“The videos increased farmers’ awareness of the products of BARI’s research, which is a huge success,” explained Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondal, director general of BARI.

In order to meet food demands in South Asia by 2050, production of the major cereals rice, wheat and maize must each increase by about 1.1, 1.7 and 2.9 percent every year. However, cereal productivity gains in the region have slowed markedly, while resource degradation, declining labor availability, and climate change pose steep challenges to the sustainable intensification of cereal-based systems for improved food security and rural livelihoods.

The award-winning film can be viewed online here.

Seeder Sales Rise Sharply in Bangladesh

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

Mohammad AliOwing to the timely support that CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) provided to dealers, power tiller operated seeder (PTOS) sales in Bangladesh have sharply increased. Between October and December 2015, 245 service providers bought the PTOS, more than the last two years’ sales combined. These newly purchased seeders alone accounted for approximately 1,500 hectares of land covered by service providers during the last boro (dry) season – an indication that farmers and service providers alike see value in the technology. The project also tracked other enterprises that contributed to another 660 seeders being sold, which accounted for an additional land coverage of approximately 4,200 hectares.

To boost PTOS sales, CSISA-MI included agricultural machinery dealers in activities such as demonstrations, learning visits and potential buyers’ gatherings. Through such events, the dealers had an opportunity to identify potential customers and establish direct linkages with them.

According to Dinesh Chandra Majumder, a local machinery dealer, the increase in PTOS sales was foreseen. He explained, “CSISA-MI calculated the monetary benefit for farmers of using the PTOS and shared these calculations during their events and demonstrations.” Majumder used to be a mechanic in Tambolkhana Bazaar of Faridpur district. Last year, he participated in a CSISA-MI training for local mechanics and learned about the PTOS. With his interest piqued, Majumder participated in further demonstrations organized by CSISA-MI. Seeing the interest among farmers in the benefits of the technology, and among service providers to make money from it, he was convinced. He became the local dealer for RFL, an agricultural machinery importer and manufacturer.

Majumder said, “Last year alone I managed to sell 55 PTOS and 11 axial flow pumps. This brought me money and another dealership of ACI Motors Ltd. Thanks to CSISA-MI, PTOS dealers like me are more financially sound. And through us they are ensuring the machine’s benefits reach the farmers as well.”

Local farmer and service provider Mohammad Ali is one such beneficiary. He has 2 hectares of farmland and purchased a PTOS last year to complement the power tiller he already owned. With the PTOS he sowed wheat and jute on his land and also provided the machine as a service to his neighbors, covering an additional 10 hectares.

“I made enough profit with my new PTOS that I now plan to buy another power tiller and PTOS. Not only will I be able to provide support to other farmers, it will also make me rich,” said Ali. In addition to his own land, he expects to sow jute and onion on 14 hectares in the coming season as a service provider.

According to Ananda Kumer, Sub Assistant Agricultural Officer, Department of Agricultural Extension, Saltha, “Like many others in this area, Ali is a progressive farmer and a very active local service provider. By using modern agricultural technology he is able to improve his economic and social condition. CSISA-MI’s value chain activities are helping such farmers further develop their livelihoods.”

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CSISA-MI and Md. Salahuddin, Officer, Business Facilitation, iDE. 

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.

Transforming Fallows: Line Sowing Facilitates Cropping Diversification in Odisha

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

line sown mung

Rice is the major crop for most farmers in Odisha during the kharif (monsoon) season. However, due to a lack of adequate irrigation facilities, nearly 84 percent of the arable farmland (4.7 million hectares) remains fallow in the ensuing rabi (winter) season.

According to Vivek Kumar, Specialist (Agriculture Research and Development), IRRI, “As much as 95 percent of all farmland in Bhadrak District remains fallow in the rabi season. Some parts of the district are serviceable by canal irrigation, but the canals have been dry for nearly 6 years.”

Fallows present a considerable opportunity for cropping system intensification and diversification in Odisha. CSISA, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Government of Odisha, is promoting mechanized line sowing of short duration crops such as pulses (green gram and black gram) and oilseeds (sunflower). Sowing with a seed drill allows for residual soil moisture and nutrients to be utilized for the rabi crop and consequently helps optimize the use of available land resources. This year alone, the machine has helped convert 22 and 20 hectares of previously fallow land in Nimapara and Gop blocks of Puri District, respectively.

Another advantage of the seed drill is that it can help reduce the cost of cultivation, making a rabi crop more viable for farmers. “The government introduced a buyback scheme for sunflower in one block of Bhadrak a few years ago to motivate farmers, but the cost of cultivation was still too high for it to be worthwhile,” informs Kumar. Sowing sunflower by dibbling requires 12-15 laborers and a similar number for earthing up and weeding.

He adds, “In January this year, with technical assistance from CSISA, farmers in Bhadrak used a seed drill to plant sunflower, the first time this has ever been done in Odisha. Sowing with the seed drill eliminated the labor requirement for dibbling. Since it sows the crop in lines with adequate spacing, it also made it possible to use a power weeder, which is both cheap and efficient.”

Farmer Pradeep Kumar (left) on his line sown sunflower field. Photo: Ashwamegh Banerjee/CIMMYT.

Farmer Pradeep Kumar (left) on his line sown sunflower field. Photo: Ashwamegh Banerjee/CIMMYT.

“By using the seed drill for planting sunflower on 4 hectares, I’ve saved more than US$ 150 in labor costs. What would’ve taken me 20 days, I could complete in just 2 days,” says farmer Pradeep Kumar Behera from Palikri Village. Behera also used a power weeder for weeding and earthing up, which took just 1 day instead of 4 and cost only a fraction of the manual alternative.

In the case of pulses, while the establishment costs with a seed drill remain comparable, its yields are much higher than that of conventional farming.

Traditionally, farmers growing green gram and black gram would hand broadcast the seeds and till their fields before and after sowing. “The conventional method only yielded 0.27-0.54 tons per hectare of green gram, which I would then sell for US$ 682 per ton,” shares Lingaraj Ratha from Srikanthapur Village in Puri district, who owns 0.80 hectare of land.

At a mass crop cutting event organized by CSISA in Puri District this month, farmers who used a seed drill for sowing green gram with basal application of DAP recorded yields of  up to 1.4 tons per hectare using the variety TARM 1. Farmer Ganesh Kandi, from Alasankha Village, who tried line sowing of green gram on his land for the first time says, “If my crop is good then I’ll grow green gram with the seed drill every year during rabi season.”

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CIMMYT. With additional inputs from Narayan Banik, Specialist Agricultural Research and Development, IRRI and Anurag Ajay, Assistant Research Associate, CIMMYT.

The Delivery of Change

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

Dariabad

Dariabad, a small village in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is an example of changing rural India. Farmers in this village are fast replacing their old farming practices with modern technologies to overcome growing water and labor constraints. In just two years, the area under zero tillage in this village has expanded from less than 1 hectare to more than 112 hectares and many farmers are now earning more using new agricultural methods.

Dariabad was selected to participate in the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) in 2013-14, wherein each season farmers from selected villages receive support from the Government through the Department of Agriculture (DoA) to take up line sowing of crops and are provided seed and subsidies on machines such as the zero till seed drill. However, a lack of local know-how on zero tillage machinery operation and calibration meant farmers in the village could not take full advantage of the subsidy scheme.

A single demonstration on line sown wheat under zero tillage by CSISA led to the creation of six service providers in Dariabad and an increase in area under zero tillage by more than 60 hectares in 2014. Line-sown seeds not only reduced the seed and labor requirement but also enabled mechanized weeding, better moisture control, uniform germination and better yields.

Farmer Harun Ali shares, “I had never heard of line sowing, zero tillage or direct seeded rice before. The demonstration organized in my village convinced me of the technology’s benefits but, since I own less than 1 hectare land I could not purchase a tractor.”

CSISA connected Ali to a local service provider who charged him US$ 24 to sow zero till wheat on his entire land. Ali says, “This service is saving me money since sowing used to cost me US$ 48 and took a lot more time. I will definitely use a service provider again.”

“There is a  disconnect between different players in the delivery process, which is often why scaling-out of technologies has been staggered,” highlighted R.K. Malik, CSISA India Coordinator. “To change this, CSISA has been creating a network of service providers and linking them directly with farmers, input dealers and the DoA, just as it did in the case of Dariabad village.”

Farmer Afaq Ahmad on his zero till wheat field. Photo: Ajay Pundir/CIMMYT.

Farmer Afaq Ahmad on his zero till wheat field. Photo: Ajay Pundir/CIMMYT.

In collaboration with the Block Technology Manager, CSISA organized a demonstration on zero tillage wheat. The wheat was sown on 0.71 hectares of local farmer Afaq Ahmad’s land by Siraj Khan, a service provider from neighboring Karma Khan Village.

“When the Block Technology Manager told me about the scheme, I agreed to try the zero tillage machine on a small plot first. I was willing to try it out because I’d heard Khan had a good yield the previous year,” says Ahmad. Pleased with his improved yield of 4 tons per hectare, Ahmad purchased his own zero tillage machine the following season and used it to plant 6 hectares of direct seeded rice. He also offered it as a service to other farmers.

Ahmad earned US$ 5,263 from farming and an additional US$ 752 from offering zero tillage service to other farmers. The same year, seeing Ahmad’s success, demand for zero tillage in the village became so high that six other farmers also purchased the machine for service provision.

As Khan points out, “Every farmer cannot afford every machine. If a service provider is available at the village level, they too can benefit by availing his services on custom hiring basis.” This year, 15 farmers in Dariabad recorded an average wheat yield of 4.6 tons per hectare and even the most humble of the seven service providers has been able to supplement their farming income by an additional US$ 300.

This article is authored by Ajay Pundir, Scientist, CIMMYT and Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CIMMYT.

Partnerships with Private Machinery Manufacturers Support Market Expansion of Machinery in Bangladesh

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

Janata JVA

CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) recently signed a joint venture agreement with Janata Engineering, an agricultural machinery manufacturer and supplier, to provide marketing support for the power tiller mounted reaper in Faridpur, Madaripur, Bhola, Jhenaidah and Magura districts of Bangladesh.

As private sector companies are better positioned to enter new market segments with their own investments, CSISA-MI works with International Development Enterprises (iDE) to develop public-private partnerships and successful business models to ensure the scaling of sustainable intensification technologies.

So far, CSISA-MI has entered into joint venture agreements with various large machinery manufacturers and importers, including Advanced Chemical Industries, Rangpur Foundry Limited Group, The Metal (Pvt.) Ltd. and Chittagong Builders. These companies and their service provider clients have invested their own funds towards the purchase, import, distribution and marketing of equipment and use of machinery services, leveraging an additional value of more than US$ 1.7 million over-and-above project funds.

These private sector engagements are helping to develop self-sustaining value chains that will continue to deploy equipment beyond the project’s lifecycle. Through these partnerships, CSISA-MI aims to reach the ‘tipping point,’ which is 15 percent of the total potential beneficiary population in the Feed the Future zone, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Beyond this, a spontaneous private sector and market led uptake is expected to take place.

To achieve this tipping point, CSISA-MI is now also reaching out to smaller local enterprises, such as Janata Engineering, that have the potential to develop, produce and import agricultural machines but lack knowledge and marketing support to modify and sell new products that meet the local demand.

The collaboration with Janata Engineering will help develop a strong business model for its power tiller mounted reaper through their commercial distribution network and will strive to establish a profitable and sustainable supply chain, including after-sales service and better availability of spare parts.

With a focus on the testing of new products and the modification of existing machines, CSISA-MI will further draw upon its relationships with development, research and government organizations to transfer research and knowledge to Janata Engineering.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT.

Dr. R.K. Malik Wins Derek Tribe Award for Improving the Livelihoods of Farmers in India

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, April 11, 2016

RK MalikScientist Ram Kanwar Malik, working at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in India, has been announced as the winner of prestigious 2015 Derek Tribe Award from The Crawford Fund, for his ‘outstanding contributions to making a food secure world by improving and sustaining the productivity of the rice-wheat system of the northwestern and eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains.’

The award recognizes Malik’s more than 30 years of work in agricultural research and development dedicated to improving the livelihoods of millions of small and marginal farmers in India. He led the development of a management solution for herbicide resistant Phalaris minor, a major weed of wheat. This pioneering research resulted in saving farmers from huge yield losses, nearly one million hectares wheat, and raised wheat productivity in Haryana and Punjab, considered to be India’s grain basket, between 1992 and 2000.

Malik’s collaborative work with national and international partners and farmer participatory approaches led to achievements in the dissemination and adoption of climate-resilient technologies such as zero-tillage, laser land leveling and direct-seeded rice, as well as policy changes at the government level.

Malik currently serves as the country coordinator for India for the CIMMYT-led sustainable intensification project, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). He continues to raise productivity and smallholders’ incomes in the eastern states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, areas where rural poverty, food insecurity and yield gaps of cereal staples are among the most severe in South Asia.

More recently, Malik played an instrumental role in advocating for the early sowing of wheat in Bihar, helping farmers to double production and avoid crop failure from the early arrival of summers and higher temperatures. Malik’s team has created a network of more than 2,000 service providers to facilitate easy access of mechanized services among smallholder farmers, who are not able to buy expensive machines, helping them to benefit from modern farming technologies.

Highlighting his life-long passion for understanding the needs of farmers and for ensuring farmers’ participation in research, Malik said, “For developing countries like India where farmers are small and marginalized and investment in research is low, the development of new technologies and the process of delivery are inseparable. In fact, a top-down approach could put up barriers to the adoption of new technologies. Listening to farmers and tailoring technologies to serve their needs thus become paramount.”

The Derek Tribe Award, given by the Australia-based Crawford Fund, is made biennially to a citizen of a developing country in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the application of research in agriculture in a developing country. Sanjaya Rajaram, World Food Prize winner and the previous director of the Wheat Program at CIMMYT, is among the past recipients of the Derek Tribe Award.

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.

Long-term Production Systems Research Enables Development Opportunities

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 28, 2016

All too often the rewarding outcomes of agricultural research for enhancement of production systems are not realized: projects are terminated before components of the ‘production engine’ are in place and functioning. Consequently, productivity remains stagnant, as do rural livelihoods. An interesting exception is the USAID– and BMGF-funded CSISA initiative.

CSISA, implemented primarily by CIMMYT and IRRI with inputs from other CGIAR centers, has its roots in the former Rice/Wheat Consortium, a CGIAR eco-regional and system-wide research program that began in 1994 and continued for 20 years. In early 2015, I had the opportunity to lead an external evaluation of the CSISA initiative, which should now be seen as 30 years of continuous research-cum-development in three countries in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Here you can find the results of our review of the initiative’s work in agronomy, plant breeding, mechanization, irrigation efficiency, community empowerment, integrated crop, livestock and fish systems and more

A number of tangible outcomes are unfolding. For example, in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India, the planting date for wheat has been advanced to before November 15. This early planting enables wheat to escape very high pre-monsoon temperatures during grain-filling, significantly increasing wheat productivity. For this early planting, the monsoon rice must be harvested quickly and wheat immediately direct-seeded into the rice stubble. There is neither time nor need for re-plowing the soils. The research program, working with national partners, enabled the introduction of mechanized rice harvest and direct seeding of wheat using single-axle tractor-based technologies, including no-till seeders manufactured in China, Bangladesh and more recently in India.

Small farmers turned service providers not only more rapidly harvest rice with mechanization and then plant wheat on their own farms but also, using their equipment and knowledge, contract work for many other smallholder family farmers. These often young entrepreneurs are enabled and supported by private sector agro-dealers and frequently obtain subsidies from state and federal governments for first-time purchase of new equipment. The CSISA staff work closely with public and private sector personnel to create a shared vision among stakeholders. CSISA staff also train trainers to shape the enabling policies. Tangible adoption of such sustainable intensification is now found in the focal states in eastern India, Bangladesh, and the Terai zones of Nepal.

Much can be learned and borrowed from this long-term production systems research and applied in analogous agro-ecologies…

This article is an excerpt of a blog post on Agrilinks authored by Eric Kueneman, the Evaluation Team Lead for the Phase II Evaluation of CSISA. To read the full post, click here.

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

Three Wise Men

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, January 28, 2016

India-Photo 1_farmers together E_0

By sowing wheat early, farmers in India are doubling production and avoiding crop failure resulting from earlier summers and higher temperatures.

Farmer Nathuni Singh is a man who speaks with wisdom. Though most would attribute this to his age—he is 74—Singh says that every farmer is forced to grow wise earlier than usual. “It’s the vagaries of nature that make a farmer learn the hard way,” he says. Singh began farming at age 28, soon after his father’s death, and since then has seen nature change course many times. “Nature has always been unpredictable. I have lost many of my crops to untimely rains and drought. But things have worsened in recent times. With every year, the sun seems to be getting hotter and harsher,” says Singh.

For Indian farmers like Singh, climate change has become a stark reality. The country today is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, an alarming statistic as 58 percent of India’s population depends directly on agriculture as its primary source of income. While USAID partners with India to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions using sustainable technologies over the long term, relief is needed right away for farmers.

In response, in 2009, USAID established the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) to help farmers adapt to climate change and rainfall variability. CSISA is a public-private partnership with Government of India research institutions and private sector partners, and is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

“Even in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains, one of the most fertile regions in the world, we saw farmers lose 25 percent of their crop harvest due to summers arriving ahead of schedule. Where summers previously didn’t begin until May, temperatures now reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of March,” says R. K. Malik, a CSISA senior agronomist.

To counter the impact of excessive and untimely heat due to climate change, CSISA began reaching out to wheat farmers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, advising them to plant their wheat crop a month sooner than usual and without first tilling the land in the traditional way. “By sowing before Nov. 15 instead of the end of December, as is the practice in the region, the grain is able to fully develop before the heat wave arrives, which can cause the grain to shrink and lead to crop failure,” says Malik. However, this unique wheat sowing method found very few takers. “Initially, when we started in 2009, only four farmers agreed to plant their wheat early. One of them was Nathuni Singh,” Malik said.

Singh first heard about this new planting method when CSISA representatives came to his village of Devpokhar in eastern Uttar Pradesh to demonstrate how the technique can benefit poor farmers like him. Being the sole bread winner for his family of nine and having grown only 390 kilograms of wheat in the previous year—far below average—Singh was desperate for help. “The CSISA team gave me seeds and fertilizers, and guided me on when and how to sow the seeds without irrigating the land. They even assured me that, if the crop failed, they would repay me for the losses I bear,” he said.

For Ashwini Nayak and Ramawadh Chaudhary—two of the other four farmers who first adopted the early wheat sowing practice—it was the science behind the method that finally convinced them.

“Rice is a water-intensive crop. By planting wheat immediately after harvesting the rice, the wheat crop uses the remaining moisture present in the soil to develop. As a result, you not only save water but also the diesel cost required to run water pumps for plowing and irrigation,” explains Nayak, echoing the scientific tone of a CSISA officer.

Ramawadh Chaudhary in his field.

Ramawadh Chaudhary in his field.

But for the three farmers, the decision to move away from the traditional farming technique soon became an uneasy choice. “Everyone in the village used to laugh at us. They called us stupid because we planted our crops without tilling the land and before the season began,” says Chaudhary.

For Nayak, the lack of support from within his family further shattered his confidence: “My own younger brother joined the rest of the village in mocking me. But I always knew that, if there is no risk, there is no gain.”

And it was a risk that paid off for each of them.

“That year, from my 3-hectare farmland, I produced 881 kilograms of wheat, more than twice of what I had grown last year,” says Singh. “It was the first time in my life that I had harvested so much. I was happy beyond words.”

The three farmers not only managed to double their wheat production, but also saved additional expenses such as the cost of irrigation and ploughing. “I used to spend about rupees 30,000 ($470) on my 6-hectare farmland, which included the cost to hire a tractor for plowing the field and diesel for running the tractors. Now I’m saving all of this,” says Chaudhary, who last year bought 4 more hectares of farmland with the savings.

Today, over 620,000 farmers across the provinces of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar grow their wheat using CSISA’s early sowing method. “The farmers found that the technique increased their grain yield by 485 kilograms per hectare. In fact, compelled by our success, even the Bihar State Department of Agriculture now officially recommends wheat farmers to plant before Nov. 15,” says Ajay Kumar, an agricultural scientist working at CSISA’s eastern Uttar Pradesh hub.

Buoyed by its success in India, CSISA, in partnership with USAID, is introducing the practice to thousands of farmers in Nepal and Bangladesh. Singh is excited to hear his success story being replicated outside India’s borders. “At present, the high-quality wheat that I’m growing is being sent to farmers in neighboring states like Uttarakhand. Now my wheat will also travel to Nepal,” says a smiling Singh.

Meanwhile, at Singh’s newly constructed house, farmers from neighboring villages arrive almost every month to inquire about the early wheat sowing method and to learn from his success. “I first welcome them and give them tea and snacks because many come from very far places. I then take them to my farm to show them how the seed is planted and when to put the fertilizer,” says Singh.

After his one-hour training session, Singh offers his guests a glass of water and bids them farewell with the hope that the farmers he trained will also prosper like him. “There is an old saying that the one who feeds the hungry is equal to God. A farmer struggles against many uncertainties and toils every day in the fields so you and I can have food in our plates. He needs to be given the right support and made sure that he is not left alone to struggle,” adds Singh.

This article is authored by Neha Kathor for FrontLines, the news publication of USAID. 

Reaping Benefits from Rice and Wheat

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 21, 2015

Rafiqul LSP ReaperIn Kalukhali, Rajbari district, Bangladeshi farmers mostly cultivate paddy, which requires engaging a large labor force in order to harvest the crop. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, an experienced agricultural service provider, was keen to minimize labor expenses in order to accelerate his business profits. After seeing a reaper in the neighboring village that harvested the crop faster, thus helping in timely planting of the subsequent crop, he decided to purchase this new machine. Imported and marketed by ACI company, this machine was suitable for reaping wheat and Amon and Aush paddy.

“Initially, my family members were against the big investment of US$ 2,360 for purchasing this machine,” said Rafiqul.  “They told me this will be a costly deal,” he added. Previously, Rafiqul would hire 10 laborers for around two weeks to harvest 3.57 hectares of land, which used to cost him around US$ 1,300.

Despite facing resistance at home, Rafiqul bought the reaper anyway, and he didn’t regret it. Even after hiring a machine operator and purchasing fuel, Rafiqul could save around US$ 1,230 in labor costs from harvesting his land in less than two weeks. Additionally, he generated an income of US$ 76 by providing harvesting services to others for one more week.

“The demand for reaper services will increase in the dry season, and if weather conditions remain favorable, more than 20 hectares of land can be harvested by the machine,” said Mohammad Jahangir Jowarder, a reaper operator working with Rafiqul Islam.

The benefits extend beyond the farm and are helping make Rafiqul’s family life more comfortable.  “Earlier, during the harvest season I could not sleep more than three hours per night. I had to prepare at least four meals for ten laborers as well as dry, thresh, pack and store around 80 kg of paddy every day. But this time it’s different. I am able to rest in the evenings – first time in 30 years!” laughed Rafiqul’s wife Shirin Sultana, who originally opposed the decision to invest in the machine. So far, local service providers have supported more than 6,000 farmers with this machine covering 2,200 ha of farm land.

“The reaper is fast becoming popular among farmers. In short time, 55 local service providers have bought the reaper and harvested more than 2,000 hectares of land of more than 6,000 farmers,” said Subrata Chakrabarty, Project Manager, CSISA-MI. “It can be the most extensively used technology for rice and wheat harvesting in the next five years in Bangladesh,” he added.

Funded by USAID, the Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia – Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) Project – part of US President Obama’s Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative – is facilitating the market promotion of the reaper machine in collaboration with ACI. CSISA-MI seeks to transform agriculture in southern Bangladesh by unlocking the potential productivity of the region’s farmers during the dry season, while conserving the land’s ability to produce quality crops in the long term through surface water irrigation, efficient agricultural machinery and local service provision.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.

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

Improving Public Policy Dimensions of Sustainable Intensification in South Asia

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

CSISA policyDespite continuous pessimistic murmurings, South Asia is not in the depths of a Malthusian crisis. While population growth rates are high, they are slowing. And although food staple yields are low relative to the rest of the world, they are still inching upwards. The dark and dreary picture of a hungry future may persist in our collective outlook for the future, but it won’t be for a lack of available food. In South Asia, hunger and malnutrition will remain the province of social and economic entitlements, gender relations, health and nutritional status and the quality of food.

But we shouldn’t be complacent. Achieving sustained yield growth requires continued investments in modern science, agricultural research and development and extension. And continued yield growth on a sustainable basis — growth without environmental degradation — is increasingly viewed by South Asian leaders, entrepreneurs and civil society as the only way forward.

Well-structured public policies can incentivize smallholder farmers, rural entrepreneurs and consumers toward choices that are more or less welfare-improving, yield-enhancing or environmentally sustainable. For example, a tax or fee for groundwater use can stem the excessive extraction of this scarce resource in regions where aquifers are already threatened by overexploitation. Conversely, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to the import of low-cost irrigation equipment can prevent widespread adoption of supplemental irrigation, as was the case in Bangladesh until the late 1980s.

Governments have a fairly wide range of policy tools at their disposal. They can enact laws, establish guidelines and regulations, invest in programs and projects, introduce or withdraw taxes and subsidies and set the rules for trade and investment. Each application of a policy tool is accompanied by resulting outcomes, trade-offs and possibly unintended consequences. CSISA’s greatest challenge has been to work with its partners and stakeholders to identify the appropriate policy tools with which to achieve the desired outcomes, while also being cognizant of the concurrent trade-offs and consequences.

CSISA’s policy work has aimed to develop a critical mass of research needed to promote an actionable and evidence-based agenda for improving public policies to address South Asia’s cereal systems. In doing so, CSISA has weighed in — through both scholarly research and outreach efforts — on several areas related to sustainable intensification of cereal systems in South Asia’s most risk-prone geographies.

For example, CSISA’s policy work has strengthened the quality of the debate and helped frame the ongoing contestation around seed systems development in the region. CSISA has helped policymakers identify key priorities amid all the noise accompanying the discourse about the proper role for state-owned enterprises in seed distribution in Bangladesh, the role of private and foreign direct investment in the seed market in Nepal and the future of genetically modified crops in India.

Similarly, CSISA’s policy work has tackled the question of input subsidies and their impact on sustainable intensification. Blanket subsidies on seed, machinery and equipment are common public interventions throughout the region, but, while they can be useful in encouraging new technologies and practices among smallholders, they often come at a high price: forgone spending on other development priorities, elite capture of the subsidies, distortion of input markets and crowding-out of private investment. For example, CSISA’s work on the economic and environmental trade-offs associated with poorly targeted subsidies for laser land levelers in eastern Uttar Pradesh provides state and local government with alternative strategies for improving the impact and lessening the damages caused by subsidies.

Finally, CSISA’s policy work has been striving to transform research and extension guidelines and recommendations from very linear and top-down models to something more nuanced — something more in tune with the precision and site-specificity required for sustainable intensification in the risk-prone geographies in which CSISA operates. CSISA efforts have highlighted the importance of recognizing heterogeneity within populations targeted for the dissemination of new cultivars, agricultural equipment and inputs, as well as the potential to use this heterogeneity to tailor interventions for greater efficacy.

CSISA research and outreach efforts have emphasized the potential for tailoring extension messages to female household members as a means of transmitting information to both men and women about new technologies. And CSISA efforts have drawn attention to the complexity of systems-based solutions for sustainable intensification and the opportunities to bring more smallholders on board through programs that tie public research and extension to private service providers, input suppliers, crop aggregators, community-based organizations and other market actors.

There is still a lot for CSISA to do to improve the policy environment for sustainable intensification in South Asia. New partners are needed, both to build a strong evidence base and to carry that evidence forward to government and corporate decision-makers. New audiences are needed to scrutinize and lend support to the social, economic and environmental goals of this work. And a clear understanding of the long-term nature of this engagement is needed to ensure that policy decisions in support of sustainable intensification have the desired impact and scale.

This article is authored by David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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.


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