This program is part of the Australia Food Security Initiative for Africa. It builds substantially on completed ACIAR projects in Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It focuses on maize as the main staple and legumes as an important dietary protein source for the rural poor. Combined rainfed maize-legume cropping systems show considerable promise in boosting productivity and helping reverse the decline in soil fertility that is a fundamental cause of low smallholder productivity in the region.
To intensify maize-legume cropping systems in a sustainable way while reducing yield variability requires an integrated approach to the complex production and marketing system for these crops. Through participatory research and development with farmers, extension agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and agribusiness along the value chains, the program aims to improve maize and legume productivity by 30% and to reduce the expected downside yield risk by 30% on approximately 500,000 farms within 10 years.
Partner countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Australia, with input from South Africa. CIMMYT, as commissioned organisation, will manage the project in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), partner country research entities, other CGIAR centres and Australian partners.
The aim of this four-year (July 2010-December 2013) program in eastern and southern Africa is to improve farm-level food security and productivity, in the context of climate risk and change, through the development of more resilient, profitable and sustainable farming systems that overcome food insecurity for significant numbers of farm families in eastern and southern Africa. The program promotes the use of maize-legume technologies of adapted varieties and develops comprehensive agronomic packages that increase productivity and sustainable intensification of maize-legume cropping systems. The key focus areas of the program are farmer and stakeholder participation and economic evaluation of the new technologies. The program has a comparable set of activities in the five SIMLESA implementing countries in eastern and southern Africa. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) supports the program which is being managed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (as the commissioned organization) in collaboration with the NARS of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), the International Center for Research for the SemiArid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation of Queensland (QDEEDI/QAAFI), and Murdoch University in Western Australia. Support for NARS researchers is provided through the participation of partner institutions (CIMMYT, ACIAR ASARECA, ICRISAT, QAAFI and Murdoch University).
SIMLESA has made significant progress during the first year and laid the foundation for stronger performance in the coming years. Most of the activities planned during the reporting period were implemented and significant results produced in all the program countries. In Objective one, baseline surveys of 4,600 randomly selected households from and surveys of maize-pigeon pea, maize-beans, maize-groundnuts, and maize-soybean cropping systems in 580 villages in five countries were conducted by a total of 101 enumerators (25 of whom were women). Community
level data was also collected from these villages to complement and provide a broader socioeconomic context for the farm household data. The surveys covered several districts distributed in two agro-ecological zones in each country. The survey instruments and tools were developed by NARS staff, with additional input on gender provided by ASARECA staff. Data clearing, verification and analysis is already underway to develop various research reports in the following period.
Under objective 2, a total of 215 on-farm exploratory, 13 researcher-managed trials and 14 participatory variety selection sessions were carried out in the five countries. Different treatments of maize-legume intercrop and rotations were demonstrated in farmers’ fields. The field days which took place to enhance farmer-to-farmer cross pollination of ideas, also created more interest in community awareness initiatives. Local innovation platforms were established in four out of five countries and are showing promising results. Farmers reported challenges with weed and residue
management in some trial sites for testing agronomic and conservation agriculture systems in the target countries in the first year and this will be addressed in the following seasons.
Under Objective 3 farmers and stakeholders selected pre-released varieties suitable for their farming systems. The following maize varieties were selected: (Ethiopia-hybrids(BH661;BH543), OPVs (Melkassa 2,Melkassa 6Q, Gibe 2 & Gibe 3); Kenya-hybrids (KH500-39E, KDH3, WH105, KH500Q, KH631Q, H624, H520, KH533A & KM0406), OPVs (KDV1, Embu Synth, KKSynth2, WS303 & KM0403); Malawi-hybrids (MH26 & MH27), OPVs (ZM523, ZM623, ZM309 & ZM721); Mozambique-hybrids (CZH511 & Olipa), OPVs (ZM523, Tsangano & Chinaca) and Tanzania-hybrids (Selian H308,
Selian H208, SAH779, SAH638 & SAH636), OPVs (SA523 & SA525). Farmers considered some or all of the following factors when making their selections in the participatory variety selection (PVS) trials: yield level, early maturity, drought tolerance, pest resistance, medium height and palatability/taste. It was clear that farmers’ active assessment and strong stakeholders’ involvement (private seed companies, fertilizer companies, input dealers, local authorities, and extension) are key for the success of the PVS initiatives in both countries.
Under Objective 4, the ASARECA-SIMLESA team conducted a gender mainstreaming training workshop in Arusha, Tanzania. In addition, twenty-three NARS scientists participated in the M&E framework development workshop in Nairobi, facilitated by ASARECA. Substantial progress was made in terms of capacity building under Objective 5. Five NARS and two ASARECA scientists attended a SIMLESA/ACIAR M&E and Impact Assessment (IA) workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Two NARS scientists from Mozambique attended a BECA Scientific writing workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2010. Two scientists attended the BNF training workshop at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The first SIMLESA annual partners review and planning meeting and PSC meeting were held in March 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. Sixteen SIMLESA researchers participated in the APSIM modeling training workshop from 19 to 24 March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All participating partners undertook their year 1 and some year 2 country planning meetings during the reporting period.
Six 4WD double cabin all-terrain vehicles were procured for use by the SIMLESA country teams in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique for field activities and research related trips. This has substantially improved infrastructural constraints for the national programs and enhanced the ability to implement field activities in less accessible areas, often bypassed and unable to benefit from farming systems research. Plans are underway to procure two vehicles for the Tanzania SIMLESA teams. Various pieces of research equipment have already been purchased for the country
teams and more is being procured. A number of students were selected for Ph.D. studies.
SIMLESA is a four-year (July 2010-December 2013) project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The aim of main SIMLESA and Expanded SIMLESA Ethiopia projects is to improve farm-level food security and productivity as well as livestock productivity (Ethiopia only), in the context of climate risk and change, through the development of more resilient, profitable and sustainable farming systems that overcome food insecurity for significant numbers of farm families in eastern and southern Africa. SIMLESA promotes the use of adapted maize-legume technologies as well as improved varieties and develops comprehensive agronomic packages that increase productivity of maize-legume intercropping systems at farm level. The key focus areas of the project are farmer and stakeholder participation and economic evaluation of the new technologies. The project has an identical set of activities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. SIMLESA project is being managed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) - as the commissioned organization - in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and private seed companies from the five SIMLESA implementing countries, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), the International Center for Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) in association with Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation,(QDEEDI/QAAFI-Australia), and Murdoch University in Western Australia. Technical support for national agencies is provided by partner institutions (CIMMYT, ACIAR, ASARECA, ARC-SA, ICRISAT, QAAFI and Murdoch University).
Baseline surveys for 4,600 randomly selected households from 38 districts in two agro-ecological zones and surveys of maize-pigeonpea, maize-beans, maize-groundnuts, and maize-soybean cropping systems in 580 villages in five countries were conducted. Three baseline survey reports have been produced and writing of two reports is in progress. Eight posters and eight scientific papers were developed and presented at the second SIMLESA Annual Review and Planning Meeting (ARPM) in March 2012 in Arusha, Tanzania. Draft farm typologies have been developed for Tanzania and Kenya.
The project facilitated 230 on-farms exploratory and 22 on-station trials, and 19 field days that were attended by 5948 participants, as planned under Objective 2. Five in-country and the annual review and planning meetings were done while all stakeholder inception and planning meeting for Ethiopia Expansion project have been undertaken. The second SIMLESA Annual Review and Planning and Project Steering Committee meetings were attended by regional and international partners. This year’s conference had a session for a SIMLESA village where partner countries exhibited and showcased their achievements since 2010. ACIAR commissioners graced this year’s SIMLESA meetings. Four participants from SIMLESA spillover countries participated in the meetings. The meetings combined with the commencement of the Mid-Term Review of the SIMLESA project. Local innovation platforms have been strengthened or established in the five countries to help farmer groups and partners exchange experiences and share knowledge among themselves and key stakeholders.
Under Objective 3, the project established 50 sets of regional trials and mother baby trials (MBT) in collaboration with active 10 partner institutions. In addition, 19 maize and 18 legumes on station trials were establsihed in the five SIMLESA countries. Materials under evaluation include drought tolerant germplasm dispatched to SIMLESA target countries. ICRISAT supplied 104 medium, 245 long, and 37 Short duration varieties of pigeonpea to Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Seed road maps were developed for each country with the active participation of local private and public partners.
Under Objective 4, the ASARECA-SIMLESA team conducted a gender mainstreaming training workshop in Arusha, Tanzania. The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activities centred on further development of the M&E frameworks which included the results framework, the performance monitoring plan, the performance measurement framework and populating it with data from the field. Twenty-three NARS scientists participated in the M&E framework development workshop in Nairobi, facilitated by ASARECA. The technology inventory and knowledge transfers as well as spillover enabling conditions study was carried out.
Substantial progress was made in terms of capacity building under Objective 5. A total of 77 NARS researchers participated in an ARC-SA coordinated and facilitated capacity building that targeted at three modules: Biometry; CA principles; Soil Science and Innovation Platforms for five days. Two NARS scientists from Mozambique and Tanzania attended an IRRI coordinated workshop held in Manila, Philippines in July-August 2011. An additional 4WD double cabin all-terrain vehicle was procured for use by the Mozambique SIMLESA country team. Various pieces of research equipment have already been purchased for the country teams and more are being procured. Six PhD candidates have been awarded the AusAID and ACIAR scholarships for 2012 while 30 candidates have enrolled for MSc and three for PhD in local universities under SIMLESA.