Scalable technologies and innovative approaches

Photo credit: Africa Rising

Farmer Richard Zimba standing in front of a rotational cowpea plot, which offers leaves for relish, groundcover to suppress weeds, soil fertility improvement and grain at harvest


Getting technologies out to farmers using innovative approaches: the Africa RISING – SIMLEZA project


In Zambia, The SIMLEZA-Africa RISING Research and Development project tested a range of improved technologies such as conservation agriculture (CA), soybean agronomy, improved and stress-tolerant germplasm, maize-legume systems, inoculum and improved utilization of legume products with farmers.

Farmer Agness Phiri has had first experience with herbicides forweed control and highlighted great labour savings for weeding for women and children when applying such products Photo credit: Christian Thierfelder/CIMMYT

Farmer Agness Phiri has had her first experience with use of herbicides for weed control. She highlighted great labour savings for for women and children who usually carry out weeding activities in the farms in Zambia

To help scale-out these technologies, the project revived “mother-baby” trials, a participatory methodology pioneered by CIMMYT over a decade ago to test stress- tolerant maize in Africa and subsequently adapted for diverse agronomic practices. The approach has now been adopted by researchers worldwide. Comprising field experiments grown in farming communities, mother-baby trials feature a centrally-located “mother trial” set up with researchers’ support, supplemented by “baby trials” composed of subsets of the mother-trial treatments that are appealing to farmers. The babies are grown, managed and evaluated by interested farmers, who host them and may talk to fellow farmers, researchers and other visitors about the results.

Moving beyond trials to farmers’ fields

In 2014/2015, the SIMLEZA-Africa RISING project team identified scalable technologies in its project portfolio and encouraged farmers to choose those that could be practiced on their own farms using the mother baby trial approach. The menu of practices included crop rotations, intercropping, herbicide use and improved drought-tolerant maize varieties. Interest was high amongst farmers, 807 of whom volunteered to grow “baby trials”. Some farmers even extended their plots beyond the designated areas in the excitement of trying something new.

Read the full article: Africa Rising


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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