Saturday, April 19, 2014

Africa RISING establishes a partnership platform for adoption of innovations

Africa RISING works with farmers in testing technology packages on sustainable intensification.
Project partners and the Babati District Council have launched the Babati District research-for-development (R4D) platform in Tanzania to support the uptake of the project’s innovations, help research priority setting, and ensure the sustainability of the project.

About 60 farmers, local and regional government officials, national and international research institutions, extension workers, nongovernmental organizations, private sector representatives, and policymakers met for two days last week to launch an R4D platform in Babati, Tanzania. Each group selected two members to represent them on the R4D Platform Management Committee. The Babati District in North Eastern Tanzania is one of the intervention areas of the IITA-led Africa RISING project.

The Manyara Regional Commissioner, Hon. Erastus Mbwilo, officially opened the launch event, assuring the project of his support as its aim of improving the livelihoods of small-holder farmers in the region was well in line with the government’s development goals.

He was particularly happy to note that the Africa RISING project was working to improve the productivity of both crops and livestock through modern farming methods.

“Livestock is very important for our farmers in Babati. There are over 1.4 million heads of cattle in the district without counting the goats, the donkeys, and the chickens. Unfortunately, many development partners often neglect livestock and focus on crops only. Therefore, the livestock sector faces many challenges including pests and diseases, poor breeds, lack of feed and overstocking, and the farmers are not able to maximize on their livestock to increase their income,” he said. “If these challenges are tackled through these research efforts, then, the project will surely make a difference in improving the livelihoods of the farmers in Babati.”

He further lauded the Africa RISING approach of conducting research together with the farmers through demonstration plots which he said will ensure that the new technologies developed get to the farmers. He urged for the research findings to be scaled up and out beyond Babati District to include the whole of Manyara Region.

Also speaking during the official opening of the workshop, Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Africa RISING Program Coordinator, said the R4D platform was very important in ensuring the sustainability of the project’s impacts. She noted that the platform will help solve some of the constraints that limit the uptake and adoption of new technologies by farmers and which are beyond the project scope.
“Africa RISING alone is not able to tackle all the challenges faced by farmers in their livestock and crop production, hence, the need for an R4D platform. Furthermore, significant change in farm productivity will not happen through a few individual farmers who will adopt the technologies developed. Rather, it will depend on the simultaneous changes in all interdependent stakeholders including farmers, extension agents, research institutions, policymakers, finance institutions, market agents, and representative of different local and regional authorities among others,” she said.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Of “super” farmers and integrated farming systems

“Super” farmer Andrea Mayi shows visitors his farm where he had applied some of the technologies from Africa RISING.
In far-flung Seloto Village, Babati district, Manyara Region, Northern Tanzania, a trail-blazing farmer participating in the Africa RISING project shows researchers how farming system integration works.

Farmer Andrea Mayi, 58, is successfully integrating crop, livestock, and tree farming in his 4.2-hectare farm consisting of 1.2 hectare each of crops and livestock farming systems, and a tree farm.

Andrea, who is also a village leader, is one of the early farmer-adopters of innovations introduced through the Africa RISING project. In a visit by the USAID and Africa RISING teams to research project sites in Babati and Kongwa districts, Tanzania, last March, Africa RISING researchers showcased ongoing research in the different work packages with selected farmers in several project intervention villages.

Farmer Andrea practices a mixed intensive farming system that shows how to optimally merge crop growing and livestock production with tree farming. Every inch of his farm is used to the optimum, with an area planted to crops that include maize and legumes, and trees; a space for raising pigs, goats, cattle, and chicken; and a tree farm that grows fuel and fodder wood species. From the animal manure he makes biogas that supplies energy for home cooking. Crop residues are fed to the livestock or composted to be added to the soil. Andrea’s farm is one of 12 farmer trial sites in the two regions in Tanzania visited by the team.

The USAID team included Jerry Glover, Senior Sustainable Agricultural Systems Advisor, Office of Agriculture, Research & Policy, Bureau for Food Security; Laura Schreeg, Science and Technology Policy Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/USAID; and Elizabeth Maeda, Research and Production Advisor at USAID, Tanzania.

The Africa RISING team was led by Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Coordinator of the West Africa and East and Southern Africa (ESA) components of the project, and Mateete Bekunda, Chief Scientist of ESA. IITA DDG for Research, Ylva Hillbur, also joined the visit to the Babati and Kongwa project sites.

Farmers with scientists and researchers from IITA, other CGIAR centers, and partner organizations leading and working on the various work packages were on hand to talk about their experiences and trial results.

The visit provided the team an opportunity to interact with other farmers’ groups in the project sites in Seloto and Long Villages in Babati, and Chitego, Kibaigwa, and Laikala in Kongwa, and to see what was happening in farmer-installed and managed trials, and how the project is impacting farmers in the project sites.

In one village visited, the women welcomed the team with a song in the local language praising the project and describing the benefits of participating in project activities. Farms visited showcased work being undertaken on Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, postharvest handling and mycotoxin management, crop management efficiency, traditional postharvest storage system, climbing beans, fodders and feeds, maize-legume intercropping, vegetable and maize, pigeon pea, and livestock and water management.

The Africa RISING project in Tanzania builds upon results of implementing the 2012-13 research plan. Africa RISING promotes an integrated approach that is based on technological innovations addressing context-specific improvements. The earlier work packages conducted discipline-specific baseline studies to understand major constraints to improved livelihoods and identify opportunities for targeting research options.

Several innovations of inputs at the level of crops, livestock, and farm technologies were tested or initiated, mainly as potential components of integration during subsequent studies. According to Mateete Bekunda, lessons from these earlier studies showed the need to integrate tested innovations and led to the redesigning of work packages. 

The new work packages now address crop management efficiency, livestock and watershed/landscape management, prevention of mycotoxin contamination along food and feed value chains for maize, improved postharvest handling, and human dietary diversification through integration of vegetables into cereal-based systems. New work packages are being included to address the maize lethal necrosis disease outbreak, integrated management of the most common livestock (poultry) in the farming systems, connecting farmers to external markets, and introducing innovations related to institutional arrangements (R4D platforms).

After the visit, Jerry Glover said: “I am very happy to be involved in Africa RISING as the voice of USAID, and excited about the multidisciplinary systems approach of doing research evolving from this project—we need a new model for agricultural science and development, and Africa RISING can be that model.”

However, he also said that if the project wants to come up with a coherent program, “we need to address the issue of data management; we cannot leave the individual scientists to curate, aggregate, and manage their own data. We will develop a way to curate data so the information is accessible, managed, stored, and archived for future use.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Project boosting legume production to improve soil fertility, N2Africa, launched in Tanzania

N2Africa is seeking to increase the production of legumes such as cowpea, common beans, groundnuts and soybean, among small-holder farmers, due to their ability to enrich soils with Nitrogen and for their nutritive and commercial value.

Trials on the use of fertilizer to boost yield of climbing 
beans in Butere, Western Kenya as part of 
N2Africa Phase one activities.
The Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work in Africa (N2Africa) project which aims at encouraging smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to grow legumes due to their ability to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils thus improving soil fertility, and for their nutrition and commercial value, has launched its activities in Tanzania.  
N2Africa was officially launched by the Director for Research and Development in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Fildelis Myaka on behalf of the Permanent Secretary Ms Sophia Kaduna at the start of a two-day project planning workshop, from 19 – 20 February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 

It was hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) ―one of the project’s implementing partners. 

Speaking at the event, Dr Myaka lauded the project for singling out legumes. He said despite their obvious benefit to the country’s food security, employment, and even contribution to GDP, their productivity was low and yields were far below their potential. 

Expanding area under legume production and increasing yield

Dr Fidelis Myaka, Director for Research and Development 
making the opening remarks.He lauded the initiative for  
focusing on legumes.
He attributed the low yield to inadequate application of scientific knowledge by both farmers and development practitioners and other factors. He was therefore pleased to note that N2Africa was working to expand the area and enhance yields of grain legumes through the application of scientific knowledge including the use of improved varieties and rhizobium inoculants to maximize the yield potential of grain legumes. 

“The application of scientific knowledge, especially by smallholder farmers, has always been constrained by poor targeting of the technologies to the diversity of farmers and farming conditions, poor packaging of technologies, and issues relating to input supply and output market. I am aware that N2Africa’s approach puts into consideration all these factors through farming systems analysis to target technologies to the farming conditions of smallholder farmers and through a value chain approach,” he added.

Development for Research model
Other speakers at the forum included the Director of the Project, Prof. Dr Ken Giller from Wagenigen University who gave an overview of the project. Dr Giller said the aim of the project entitled ”Putting Nitrogen Fixation to Work in Africa” aims at increasing the land area cropped with legumes. 

Prof Ken Giller gives an over view of the project.
He said the project was following a Development-for-Research model and was disseminating the already available technologies for legume production such as improved varieties, and use of innoculants. The research would now focus on the challenges farmers were facing in adopting and adapting these technologies in their farming systems. 

Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for Central Africa, also at the event, conveyed greetings from IITA’s Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga. Dr Vanlauwe noted the initiative was important to IITA as part of its Natural Resource Management activities.

According to Dr Fredrick Baijukya, N2Africa team leader in Tanzania, said the project will be implemented in the Southern, Eastern and Northern parts of the country in Iringa, Ruvuma, Njombe, Lindi, Mtwara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Shinyanga and Dodoma regions. It will focus on cowpea, common bean, groundnuts and soybean which are amongst the most important legumes in the country.

The project launch brought together a wide diversity of stakeholders from those in legume production, input development, and supplies including seeds and fertilizers, processing, marketing, and regulatory bodies to policy makers.

The project which is now in its second phase is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Wagenigen University. Phase one of the project initiated in 2009 was implemented in DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. The second phase started in January 2014 and will focus on five core countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda but will maintain activities in the other countries under Phase 1. 
N2 Africa target areas for Tanzania

Implementing partners are IITA, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). They will collaborate with the National Agriculture Research Systems and local and international NGOs.