The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has given its support to three new CIAT projects, each aimed at reducing poverty among some of the world’s poorest farmers.
A total fund of $350,000 will enable CIAT scientists to research climate change in Tanzania, crop yield gaps in east and southern Africa, and improve farmer business models in Central America.
- Adapting to climate change in Tanzania
The north eastern Tanzanian district of Lushoto is a global hotspot for biodiversity and a benchmark site for CCAFS (the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security). Farmers there are already noticing changes in their local climate and many have altered their farming practices due to the unpredictable rains. But the rapid pace of climate change, and its impact on global food security, means a greater sense of urgency needs to be applied to putting adaption and mitigation measures in place.
With OFID support, scientists will work together with national agriculture experts and farmers to identify climate smart agriculture practices and technologies, tailor-made for Lushoto. They will also seek ways of speeding up the rate of adoption. Project leader, Anton Eitzinger, said: “This isn’t just about finding the answers for Lushoto. After the research is completed, we’ll test the same approaches on the 15 other CCAFS benchmark sites across the world, adapt them to different climates and cultures, and enable smallholders to benefit from collective knowledge on climate smart agriculture practices to accelerate their rate of adoption.”
Photo by: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
- Narrowing yield gaps in east and southern Africa
Crop yields in Africa are significantly lower than their potential. By narrowing the yield gap, smallholder farmers could significantly increase food production. Yield gaps are in part caused by poor performing crop varieties, that are less adapted to pests and diseases or drought and nutrient stress, or bad farming practices, such as late planting or inappropriate weed management. But evidence suggests low soil fertility and little or no soil fertility management should bear the brunt of the blame.
“Understanding, disentangling and quantifying the causes of yield gaps in east and southern Africa is the first step towards narrowing them. Computer simulation models can help us to do this”, said lead researcher, Rolf Sommer. “Once we develop accurate models, we will be able to determine how much and when nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers should be added, assess the long-term sustainability of soil fertility management practices and even predict the impact of climate change on future crop productivity. This kind of modelling would take decades to complete using traditional field research and lab testing techniques, but new technology means we can speed the process up. The OFID grant will enable us to develop rapid soil fertility assessment methods, including mid-infrared spectroscopy, to help farmers intensify production while building and maintaining healthy soils.”
- Improving business models for farmers in Central America
Despite growing prosperity in Central America, many women and smallholder farmers still live in poverty. One of the best pathways out of poverty is to build bridges between farmers and markets. This new OFID funded project will aim to build regional capacity to improve sustainable business models for smallholder farmers in Central America and assure them of a better return on their crops.
Mark Lundy, CIAT scientist and specialist in linking farmers to markets, said: “For this project we will work with research and development partners in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Together we’ll assess a range of business models using the LINK method, a guide developed by CIAT about business models that link smallholders to markets. This includes looking at how each model benefits small producers, how it can be improved and what cross-cutting lessons can be learned. Working with large development actors assures that these lessons will enter development practice as well as the policy dialog at the regional level. At the end of the day, more effective research and development collaboration will allow us to deliver better final outcomes for the rural poor.”
OFID’s important investment in eco-efficient agriculture research is the latest in a fruitful 10-year-long partnership with CIAT aimed at reducing poverty through agricultural research and development. Smallholder farmers lie at the heart of the agricultural sector, supporting and feeding around two billion people across the world. Since estimates state that GDP growth generated by agriculture is up to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth generated by other sectors, OFIDs investment is essential – and very gratefully received.
Written by: Stephanie Malyon