Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Connecting the SRFSI dots: annual review focuses on need to remove policy constraints for adoption of CASI technologies


The Eastern Gangetic Plains of Western Bangladesh, Eastern India and South-Eastern Nepal is a region of extreme poverty, food insecurity and severe climate risk in South Asia. The Sustainable and Resilient Farming Systems Intensification (SRFSI) project is focused on reducing poverty and food insecurity and improving agricultural productivity in resilient ways through conservation agriculture based system intensification (CASI) in India (Bihar & West Bengal), Bangladesh and Nepal. The project is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) under the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP), with a co-investment by ACIAR. It is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and implemented by 20 national, international and Australian partners. The implementing partners belong to agricultural research institutions, government agriculture departments NGOs, and Australian universities.

The partners and some key stakeholders meet twice-annually to review, share progress and plan future activities. The review and planning meeting for 2016 was held from 18-21 September in Darjeeling, India. The partners presented the status of their project components including trial results, socio-economic activities, innovation platforms, APSIM modelling, gender mainstreaming, private sector engagement, studies on groundwater irrigation and mechanization.

ACIAR is actively engaged with the private sector to bring additional investments to conservation agriculture. The meeting focused on the means to scale out to benefit  the targeted 1.5 million households by the year 2020-21. The participants also considered how to shift the focus in Phase 2 from farm level innovations/technologies to removing policy constraints for adoption of these technologies and strengthening local markets and value chains. With this in mind, discussions during the meeting were consciously aimed at encouraging the team to think and plan for the second phase of the project and find more effective and significant ways of regional cooperation.  


Participants of the SRFSI regional meeting held fro 18-21 September, 2016 at Darjeeling, India. Photo: ACIAR

The SRFSI project benefited greatly from 18 months of preparatory capacity building, pilot research and studies. The project is in its third year of implementation and is progressing  well. More than 26,000 farmers are already involved in the project, with inclusion of 30% women in key  project activities. There has been the successful introduction of CASI technologies like new crop varieties; systems intensification and diversification; introduction of new crops like maize, wheat, legumes, etc.; intercropping vegetables and legumes with maize; and the introduction of mechanisation based agriculture. CASI technologies, particularly Zero till (ZT) wheat and maize in India and Nepal, and Strip till (ST) maize and wheat in Bangladesh, are consistently showing higher profits, with huge savings in labour, water and energy for the farmers. The higher profitability has created a huge interest among participating farmers and their fellow neighbours. CASI technologies are thus expected to be more widely adopted in the future, not only in the project nodes but with scaling out to neighbouring villages and districts.

The SRFSI team in West Bengal has capitalised on the farmers clubs/local NGOs established by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). These farmer clubs have been oriented as micro entrepreneurs for single window services like access to mechanisation, quality inputs, knowledge and capacity building. The Department of Agriculture in West Bengal has endorsed CASI technologies for widespread adoption. In Bangladesh, the SRFSI partnership has enabled efficient input supply to farmers practicing CASI, including machinery service providers and has provided technical support to development agencies and farmers on the ground. Nepal has successfully experimented with the concept of Community Business Facilitators (CBF), who are seen as agents of change to facilitate adoption of CASI technologies by farmers. It has also successfully demonstrated laser land levelling in both districts of Sunsari and Dhanusha. In Bihar, SRFSI has been able to attain major participation of women in the project through their partnership with Jeevika, a rural livelihoods project of the government of Bihar.

Author: John Dixon, Research Program Manager Cropping Systems and Economics
 
 

 

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