This project aims to reduce poverty in the Eastern Gangetic Plains by making smallholder agriculture more productive, profitable and sustainable while safeguarding the environment and involving women.
The SRFSI Project is a collaborative venture between the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).
More than 20 partners representing research, development and educational sectors are engaged to accomplish the objectives. These partners are expected to answer two questions:
(i) can farm management practices based on the principles of conservation agriculture system intensification (CASI) increase smallholder crop productivity and resilience?
(ii) can institutional innovations that strengthen adaptive capacity and link farmers to markets and support services for both women and men farmers accelerate change processes?
The SRFSI is a regional four-years project (May 2014 - June 2018) managed by CIMMYT with ACIAR funding. The aim is to reduce poverty in the Eastern Gangetic Plains by improving productivity, profitability and sustainability of small farmers while safeguarding environment.
This report covers the period from May 1, 2015 through to April 30, 2016 and presents results of 2014-15 rabi/winter and Kharif/summar 2015 seasons. During this period, the project conducted 986 rabi and kharif seasons trials that include long-term (276 for Rabi, 360 Kharif) trials to address the regional issues, 135 cropping systems optimization and 215 opportunity/demonstration trials that includes intercropping (62) - meant to address local (district/scommunity) level issues. In monsoon (Kharif) season, only long-term trials (360) on rice were maintained.
Project trained 2,881 farmers (22% female) on various topics (e.g. Conservation agriculture based system intensification practices, raising seedling for mechanical rice transplanters, value chain and market development, entrepreneurial skills development, seed systems, etc.); 1,753 farmers (20% female) participated in exposure/exchange visits; 5,237 (42.5% female) farmers attended FGD/Consultation meeting; 6,827 farmers (32% female) attended field days, 655 (6% female) service providers; 1,744 scientists/technicians (29% female) received local/regional/international level training imparted by different organizations on various dates and topics. In addition, as can be seen from the sections like achievements, capacity building, trial summary results, etc. that have started creating a huge interest in adopting the SRFSI validated, demonstrated, and promotted Conservation agriculture based system intensification (CASI) practices that eventually help in changing the face of agriculture in project locations through variety change (new seeds), systems intensification and diversification, introduction of new crops like maize, wheat, legumes, etc. in certain locations, intercropping vegetables and legumes with maize and of course with the introduction of mechanization based agriculture and capacity building. CASI technologies particularly Zero till (ZT) wheat and maize in India and Nepal, and Strip till (ST) maize and wheat in Bangladesh consistently showing higher yield performance with reduced production costs that has resulted higher profitability generally - depending on crop and location ranged bwteen AUD653 and AUD2051 ha-1, and with maize + vegetable intercropping as high as AUD 2,282 ha-1 (maize+greenpea), thus creating a huge interest among participating farmers and their fellow neighbours. That has helped to cover 194.6 ha with CASI technologies and expected to have higher rate of technology adoption in the future. With the convergence with national partenrs’ plans/missions more than 10,000 ha have been covered by CASI practices (personal communication)1. At least 7, 616 farmers (31% female) have been benefitted with one or more of CASI technologies through convergence.
SRFSI is trying to mainstream female farmers’ participation in order to reduce their drudgery and gender gaps to improve adoption of technologies and innovations. Of the total beneficiaries (26,400), country-level managed (18,784) and centrally organized events (568), and through convergence (7,616) the female farmers’ engagement was 31.6%, 11.4%, and 31% respectively; which considering the socio-political and cultural settings of the region this level of participation is quite encouraging, although the latter needs more improvement. The proportionately lower participation of female in regiona/central level events is manly due to less number of employees in the participating institutions. Additionally, SRFSI is not only focusing for numbers, it is rather working to offer more benefit to female farmers by enhancing their skills, which beside reducing drudgery, to some extent - will increase the productivity of their efforts thereby empowering them. The minimum required equipment support has been provided to partners so as to smooth implementation of field activities. This shows the project is on right track to achieve its envisioned objectives.
The 1st Steering Committee (SC) meeting was organised on 23 May 2016, CIMMYT Office, Delhi.
Political turmoil in Nepal and frequent change in personnel in NARES had to be postoponed the implemented of few activities (e.g. Local Service Providers training) and the central level monitoring was affected.
The SRFSI is a regional four-year multi-partnership project (May 2014 - June 2018) managed by CIMMYT with ACIAR and DFAT funding. The aim is to reduce poverty in the Eastern Gangetic Plains (EGPs) by improving productivity, profitability and sustainability of small farmers while safeguarding environment.
This report covers a period from May, 2016 through to April, 2017, and presents the results of 2015-16 rabi season and kharif 2016. However, it also presents two consecutive years’ systems results 2014-15 and 2015-16 (rabi and kharif) for system productivity and profitability calculation and understand associated energy dynamics. A total of 2,253 on-farm participatory trials in both years (2014-15, 2015-16) in Rabi and Kharif seasons were conducted.
Project trained 6,445 farmers (22% female), of which 3,564 (22.3% female) in 2016/17 on various topics and dates (e.g. CASI, value chain and market development, entrepreneurial skills development, seed systems, etc.); 2,576 farmers (34.1% female) participated in exposure/exchange visits; 1585 (44.3% female) farmers attended FGD/Consultation meeting; 5,726 farmers (37.5% female) attended field days; 33 (12% female) farmers received service providers training and 1,183 farmers (29.8% female) attended training on the concept of Innovation Plateforms. Similarly, more than 600 scientists/technicians (25% female) received local/regional/international training imparted by different organizations on various dates and topics. These events have led to enhance skills among stakeholders. For example, researchers have enhanced their skills on the conduct of on-farm research and development including meta-data management.
Field days, FGDs, training for service providers, farmers and scientists, validation and demonstration of conservation agriculture based sustainable intensification (CASI) technologies/practices have created a huge interest among stakeholders that have helped in adopting teachnologies. In addition, the introduction of new crops in certain locations like maize, wheat, legumes with new seeds, etc., intercropping vegetables and legumes with maize and of course with the introduction of mechanization has greatly helped for systems intensification/diversification.
Farmers are experiencing more economic benefit with CASI technologies. For example, in rice-maize system, the system profitability (annual) (based on partial budgeting analysis) ranged from AU$2,330 ha-1 (Sunsari) and AU$2,546 ha-1 (Coochbehar)- AU$3,630 ha-1 (Rangpur) and AU$4301 ha-1 (Rajshahi) in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively. Similarly, in rice-wheat system the profitability ranged from AU$1227 ha-1 (Rangpur) and AU$610 ha-1 (Madhubani)- AU$2268 ha-1 (Madhubani) and AU$1748 ha-1 (Rajshahi) in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively (Annex 3). The higher profitability with CASI technology as compared to conventional practices is mainly due to reduction in production cost (labour use, tillage/seeding time, irrigation time/water saving, total energy inputs, etc). The reduction in production costs for each component/experimental crop and associated systems are presented in Table 2a-e.
The energy dynamics of long term trials were computed to analyse the energy saving across different treatments in different cropping systems for 2014-15 and 2015-16. Irrespective of location and year, the net energy produced with CASI (ZT/ST in maize and DSR/UPTPR in rice) in rice-maize system ranged from 456,133 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 625,558 (Mj ha-1) (Rangpur), whereas in CT system it ranged from 456,388 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 612,796 (Mj ha-1) (Rangpur) in 2014-15, and in 2015-16, it ranged from 358924 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 609,425- 625,558 (Mj ha-1) (Rangpur), whereas in CT system it ranged from 365978 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 591797 (Mj ha-1) (Rangpur). Similarly, in rice-wheat system, the net energy produced with CASI (ZT/ST wheat and DSR/UPTPR in rice) ranged from 141,196 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 349,341 (Mj ha-1) (Rajshahi), whereas in CT it ranged from 133,070 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 318,316 (Mj ha-1) (Rajshahi) in 2014-15; and in 2015-16, it ranged from 145,310 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 312,511 (Mj ha-1) (Rajshahi), whereas in CT it ranged from 139,765 (Mj ha-1) (Sunsari) - 265,498 (Mj ha-1) (Rajshahi).
There is a huge potential in increasing profitability by adopting CASI practices in the region. To make a wider scale adoption, the key aspects are to build capacity of stakeholders at different levels, provid right machines in right group of farmers and linking them with service providers, engage public sectors for convergence and synergy, and encourage private sectors for technology marketimg and investment.
As a result of on-farm activities mainly with CASI, a total of 247.3 ha of land have been covered in all three countries. With the convergence and leverage with national partners’ schemes/plans, more than 15,000 ha have been covered by CASI practices (personal communication), and at least 2,832 farmers (30% female) have been benefitted with one or more of CASI technologies. The total area under CASI and number of beneficieries should be much higher, but getting accurate information is becoming a challenge.
Study on the use of groundwater revealed that nearly 90% of farmers in EGP rely on rental services for groundwater irrigation. Machine-reforms where poor households receive public support to own agricultural equipment and evolve into machine service providers can help reduce existing inequalities and make machine rental markets more competitive.
Groundwater-table monitoring in few locations in Bangladesh for two consecutive years (2015 and 2016) revealed that, the water table is slightly increased in 2016 as compared to 2015.
Gender has been a key focus in the SRFSI project. From the initial inception meeting, gender mainstreaming remained a key aspect of project. To achieve gender mainstreaming objective, we used a multi-pronged approach. Of the total beneficiaries (52,386) including convergence (17,568) female farmers’ participation was 29.21%, which considering the socio-political and cultural settings of the region, this level of participation is quite encouraging. The proportionately lower participation of female researcher/development workers in regional/central level events is mainly due to less number of women staff in the participating institutions. Additionally, the SRFSI is not only focusing for numbers, it is rather working to offer more benefit to female farmers by taking affirmative action in enhancing their skills, which beside reducing drudgery, to some extent - will increase the productivity of their efforts thereby empowering them.
The project success was rated highly by stakeholders including policy makers from three participating countries and reviewers during the mid-term review (MTR) conducted in February, 2017. However, MTR, indicated data management and communication are two key components where the project couldn’t deliver much as expected. With additional efforts these aspects have been taken care now. With the help of project partnres - mainly CSIRO much progress has been made in data management, which will continue. Hiring of a communication consultant to improve communication among project partners and farmers with new and high impact technological messages, etc. and open access of project data and information as the requirement of the project is in progress, which will be settled by September 2017.