Posts Tagged ‘food security’

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).

Improving food security: Women start collective maize farming in tribal Odisha

Posted on News & Announcements, December 19, 2013

Women farmers in the tribal villages of Odisha, eastern India, are increasing their yields through the use of hybrid seed varieties, new technologies and better agriculture practices with training and support from the CSISA project and the Odisha agricultural department. Johar Jaher Ayo SHGBadbil Rengalsahi is a remote, tribal village in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha with high poverty and low literacy rates. The village is home to 40 tribal families who mostly farm for a living. They usually grow local varieties of maize in home gardens for household consumption and sell the little surplus as green cobs in the local market. Yields are often low because farmers use unimproved varieties and traditional sowing methods and lack information about good agronomic practices, especially weed and nutrient management. Maize cake is a common breakfast and snack for children in the area, and low maize production often means they receive less food. However, this situation could soon improve thanks to women self-help groups (SHGs) like Johar Jaher Ayo. It started when a team from CSISA and state agricultural officers met with 11 women from the Johar SHG, who learned about new technologies and improved varieties. “Members were initially hesitant about growing maize with these new methods, but after learning about the benefits they decided to grow a collective test plot of maize on one hectare of fallow land,” said CSISA agricultural specialist Nabakishore Parida. The farmers bought hybrid maize seed and fertilizer using their collected savings “corpus fund” from the Large Sized Multipurpose Cooperative Society (LAMP) of the government of Odisha and plowed the field with tractors instead of the traditional wood plow. CSISA team members provided the seed-cumfertilizer multi-crop planter with an inclined plate seed metering system. The planter — commonly called a “seed drill”— helps achieve optimum plant populations and higher fertilizer efficiency by seeding in lines at a precise depth and spacing and placing fertilizer below the seeds. “The women farmers usually don’t get the right information at the right time,” Parida said. “CSISA trained them on better agronomy practices such as nutrient management and timely weed control.”Children enjoying Maize cake in badbil The women farmers are delighted with the results; their production has almost doubled this year compared to the previous year. “The work burden of these women has been reduced with the use of the seed drill,” said Kuni Murmu, president of Johar SHG.“Since women mostly do the sowing and fertilizer application with country plows, it used to take up a lot of our time.” In addition to harvesting a ton of green maize for use by their families and relatives, they have earned net profits of US $240 by selling surplus green maize and maize grain, and were even able to share green ears with neighbors. Concerned about more than financial profits, the women farmers were pleased that they could provide nutritious food for their children during the “lean” food season from August to October, when grain stores from the previous cropping season have been used up. Three women SHGs in Matiagarh village of Mayurbhanj have successfully adopted collective maize cultivation with support from CSISA. They took a fallow and bushy four-hectare plot on lease from the village landlord and used a seed-cumfertilizer multi-crop planter provided by CSISA to line sow. Site-specific nutrient management trials were also established to raise local awareness regarding the nutrient status of the soils and the benefits of balanced fertilization. “Line sowing with a seed drill has reduced our sowing cost and we could cover more area in short period,” said Babirani Sethi from Swarnalaxmi SHG. With good harvests this year, the Swarnlaxmi, Dhabaleswari and Mangala SHGs have earned respective profits of US $167 from 0.4 hectares (ha) of maize, US $242 for 0.8 ha and US $400 from 1 ha.


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