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http://www.trust.org/item/20130703191424-defi9/

Agricultural researchers must back local climate innovation

Author: Jerome Bossuet, ICRISAT

Ethiopian farmer Temegnush Dhabi worked with researchers to test drought-tolerant chickpea varieties and now grows her preferred variety, ‘areti’ (which means not afraid of drought), on over half her farmland.

Agricultural research has generated many innovations in the past decades to help small farmers grow better crops and raise more meat and fish. Among them, efficient pest-control techniques, a super tilapia breed and fertiliser microdosing to boost cereal yields in the Sahel have improved livelihoods for many.

But the scale of these successes is not enough. Marginal farmers who face many development threats – including climate change, population growth and access to water and other natural resources – urgently need more capacity to be able to adapt and innovate in their complex and challenging environment.

This was one of the major themes debated at a recent two-week workshop held by the CGIAR network of international agricultural research institutions, where donors, researchers and development partners discussed challenges, opportunities and ways forward for CGIAR’s research programmes.

Patrick Dugan, director of a programme on agricultural aquatic systems, said scientists need to do things differently to help achieve the U.N.-backed “Zero Hunger” goal.

To reach the ambitious outcomes set for each programme, the CGIAR and its partners must find faster and more sustainable ways to scale up effective agricultural innovations.

BARRIERS TO SUCCESS

The adoption rate of innovations among poor farmers is often inadequate. One key reason is that solutions nurtured by scientists are not always adapted to the local needs of farmers. Constraints from inside and outside the sector, such as poor infrastructure or dysfunctional institutions, can also prevent scaling-up.

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About Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.
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