There is a first time for everything, as the saying goes. And for CIAT´s Soils Research Area, the project “Confronting the challenges of smallholder farming communities: Restoration of degraded agroecosystems,” provided the entry point for a new effort in Paraguay to enhance the livelihoods of smallholder producers through restoration of soils and landscapes that are degraded, and conservation of those that are still in good health.
With assistance from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ, its German acronym) and financial support from Germany´s Federal Ministry of Cooperation and Economic Development (BMZ), the project is focusing on two regions of strategic importance.
One is the buffer zone of the Mbaracayú Biosphere Reserve, which is a major remnant of the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay. CIAT scientists are working in this area with the Moisés Bertoni Foundation to help smallholders improve their systems for producing yerba mate (used to make a traditional beverage) in the shade of native tree species. The idea is to establish green corridors in the landscape, which has been extensively deforested, with severe soil degradation resulting from large-scale production of soybean and other crops.
Drought affects 60% of the bean-producing regions, and is responsible for total crop failure in the worst-case scenario. But this fight is not lost as demonstrated by 13 new bean genotypes developed by scientists of CIAT’s Bean Program using interspecific crosses. The work was done in close collaboration with the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.
This output resulted from several years of work aimed at achieving a better understanding of the physiological basis of improved drought resistance in common bean. A major lesson learned from this work is that no single morpho-physiological trait stands out for its unique and dominant contribution to drought resistance in common beans.
From cold snaps to intense rainfall, changing weather in the last two decades has not gone unnoticed by residents of Ma climate-smart village in Vietnam’s Yen Bai province. But weighing up options to adapt to changes and build resilience on village farms is not straight-forward.
“This water used to be a stream flowing from the mountains,” said one farmer, pointing to a small patch of water among the green rice fields. “Now because of soil erosion and water scarcity, it’s just a pond.”
He rattles off a list of other changes over the years: declining soil fertility, deforestation and extreme heat followed by cold snaps affecting crop yields of rice, cassava and other crops.
Farmers need to adapt by changing what they grow or the way they cultivate the land. But being “locked in” to local markets – for cassava, fish or timber for example – requires changes within a wider, dynamic context.
Luego de cinco meses en Ucayali, donde el sol es abrasador y las lluvias intensas, fuimos espectadores de los cambios que se están generando en este paisaje. Poco a poco la manta amazónica se convierte en un desierto, y es visible como la gente comienza a percibir las consecuencias de estos cambios.
Durante nuestro corto tiempo en la región, fue evidente la falta de comunicación y comprensión entre los ciudadanos de Pucallpa, los caseríos mestizos aledaños, y las alejadas comunidades indígenas. Esta falta de entendimiento se refleja en su distinta cosmovisión y sistema de valores. Dicha discrepancia hace que la convivencia en una misma región sea complicada e incluso confusa. A comparación de los caseríos mestizos, y en Pucallpa, en las comunidades indígenas que visitamos se observa un mayor entendimiento del bosque y del paisaje. Pareciera existir una gradiente de conocimiento en la cual las comunidades más alejadas de la ciudad tienen una relación directa con su entorno natural, y por lo tanto, una mayor sensibilidad a este. Sin embargo, aunque todos los habitantes de Ucayali viven en un entorno que les brinda variados servicios ecosistémicos, los cuales debieran permitirles una relativa seguridad alimentaria y calidad de vida, en la actualidad las comunidades carecen de un manejo eficiente y sostenible de sus recursos naturales. Los cambios en el paisaje que se observan con fines agrícolas o de extracción, no hacen parte de una estrategia socioeconómica para mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas a largo plazo. Por el contrario, las ganancias son de corto plazo y eventualmente serán superadas por los impactos negativas a futuro.
The Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation (APC-Colombia) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen sharing of good practices for South-South Cooperation (SSC) in agriculture, climate change adaptation, and rural entrepreneurship.
In a first phase, the APC-Colombia and CIAT strategic partnership will undertake SSC activities involving technical assistance and knowledge sharing with the ministries of agriculture of Senegal and Kenya (Africa); Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean); and Vietnam (Southeast Asia).
The partnership aims to help position Colombia across the world through cooperation and provide beneficiary countries with better access to innovation and scientific research through knowledge sharing in the agricultural sector.
“One national technical experience identified by APC-Colombia that is well known globally involves research undertaken by CIAT on value chains, agriculture, rural development, and climate change adaptation. We believe this work, which has shown excellent results in our country, can have the same impact in similar surroundings outside Colombia,” said Alejandro Gamboa, APC-Colombia director general.
First experiences of South-South sharing
A previous South-South exchange carried out by CIAT took place in September 2013, in collaboration with Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) within the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Representatives of key institutions from the Colombian and Honduran agricultural sector visited Senegal to share knowledge and lessons learned on adaptation to climate variability, with the aim of better preparing to manage the risks involved through new ideas and collaboration.
Adaptation measures for especially maize, common beans, Arabica coffee, banana and finger millet are urgently needed in Africa to curb future negative climate impacts. Negative impacts on livestock are projected, though more research on livestock impacts and adaptation needed to pin down region-specific responses.
After some intense 5-6 years of CCAFS research and impact, a set of newly released CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Working Papers highlight both climate change impacts and opportunities for African crop and livestock production systems. The papers summarise science on climate change impacts and adaptation, and present new information specifically targeted to the 42th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA), held in Bonn at the beginning of June 2015.
Climate change and African crop production
The SBSTA crops paper (available here), produced in collaboration between CIAT and ILRI scientists, shows that, under our current emissions trajectory (RCP8.5, where global warming by the end of the 21st century is between 6-8 ºC), common bean, maize, banana and finger millet are projected to reduce their suitable areas significantly (30-50%) across the continent, and will need some kind of adaptation plan, or be replaced with other crops.
How can we go beyond raising awareness of the negative implications of climate change for tropical cash crops and guide policies for adaptation? The project “Mainstreaming CSA practices in cocoa production in Ghana” proposes to use a transect approach to identify sites with high, medium and low climate change impacts and to develop appropriate strategies for each setting. Throughout the process local stakeholders are engaged to develop practices that are well suited to the local decision environment. Ultimately, the project seeks to develop incentives and support mechanisms that will drive farmer uptake of CSA at scale.
The next generation of smallholder farms in Africa may have no one left to run them.
A visit by a team from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya and Adjumani districts of Northern Uganda – a region that was embroiled in more than 20 years of civil war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army – presents an alarming scenario for the years ahead. Here we meet more than 158 farmers and are struck by the sentiments of the older farmers.
“The youth are not interested in farming. They prefer migrating to urban centers to look for off-farm work and engage in petty trade, mainly operating boda-boda,” said one man, who has been farming all his life. Boda-boda is a term that is commonly used in East Africa to refer to motorcycle taxis.
Separate interviews with a team of 24 local agricultural experts reveal that the average age of farmers is 45 and young people between 18 and 30 are disconnected from the farm and realities of agricultural production. For this particular region, it has negative impacts on post-conflict recovery, given the role of youth in rural community continuity and agriculture.
“Smooth sailing” is the way to describe the progress made by CIAT’s agroforestry project on biodiversity and other ecosystem services.
The project aims to promote the adaptation and dissemination of agroforestry production systems as options that can eco-efficiently respond to climate change, while restoring the provision of key ecosystem services. The project collaborates with the farmers and local organizations in northern El Salvador.
It is supported by the Salvadoran Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN, its Spanish acronym) and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It works in close collaboration with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, La Montañona Community, the Salvadoran Research Program on Development and Environment (PRISMA, its Spanish acronym), and CIAT’s Soils Research Area.
Solanum incamayoense – A potato wild relative growing in a greenhouse of the INTA Balcarce research station for regeneration (Credit: Ariana Digilio/INTA, Balcarce)
Scientists call for action to preserve potato wild relatives
Crop wild relatives are wild plant species that share a common ancestor with cultivated crops. They retain a level of genetic diversity that makes them an invaluable source of raw material for crop improvement. However, their availability for research purposes depends on the coverage and state of the germplasm collections maintained by genebanks.
Large numbers of wild potato species from Peru, the center of potato genetic diversity, are actually absent from these ex situ collections and should be categorized as “high priority” for further collecting, according to a new research published in PLOS ONE journal.
“Crop wild relatives have evolved under natural selection in their native range coming to be adapted to specific conditions such as high temperatures, salinity, and assorted pests and diseases,” explains Nora Castañeda-Álvarez, the lead author and scientist at CIAT’s Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) research team. “Such traits can be bred into crop plants, greatly benefiting agricultural production, but only if these germplasm resources are made available to breeders,” she adds.
The potato’s CWR are already widely used in global breeding programs, and their contribution to agriculture should only increase as breeders search for tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and as the development of molecular tools and biotechnology makes the identification and utilization of diverse genetic materials more efficient. As agriculture faces climate change, their potential for utilization is such that the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK are currently leading a project entitled “Adapting agriculture to climate change: collecting, protecting and preparing crop wild relatives.”
2015 is THE year that is putting soils on the global map. Everyone in the development and agriculture world is talking about it, not least the researchers, donors and experts currently gathered in Berlin for Global Soils Week (GSW).
But while those at the top search for solutions to this global crisis, they must ensure that the guardians of the majority of the world’s farmland – smallholder farmers – are included.
Today (21 April 2015) Senior Soil Scientist Rolf Sommer presented a new short film at GSW asking those present to ensure just that.
“Small scale farmers need affordable and practical solutions to protect their soil,” Sommer said. “We need to listen to farmers to find out what soil means to them, how they manage soil fertility and what information they rely on to do so. And we need to work with them so that we can develop appropriate and culturally specific technologies that they can – and, more importantly, will – incorporate into their farming practices.”
In the film, entitled Talking Soils – Farmers Voices, farmers from Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia share their views on soil, what they know and how they manage it. Perhaps the starkest observation is how knowledge and practices vary across the countries and even across communities.
Gobierno, sector privado y asociaciones de productores reconocen la importancia de la investigación agrícola en Colombia, y confían en las instituciones de investigación para seguir mejorando la competividad del sector.
La reciente renovación es una señal clara de la confianza del Ministerio y de los gremios productivos que participan de la labor que adelanta el CIAT y que cuenta con el apoyo del Programa de Investigación del CGIAR en Cambio Climático, Agricultura y Seguridad Alimentaria(CCAFS).
Después de los primeros dos años de trabajo se han generado pronósticos agroclimáticos para las principales zonas agrícolas del país; se conocen los factores de clima limitantes en la producción de maíz, arroz y fríjol y que conducen a generar brechas productivas entre agricultores en once departamentos del país.
Además, se cuentan con variedades de maíz, arroz, fríjol y yuca probadas en campo para observar su comportamiento en eventos extremos de sequía y excesos de humedad y se aplican tecnologías de cultivo para producir arroz, maíz, pastos y papa con menos requerimientos de agua y emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI). Por ello, los gremios también reconocen la importancia de la renovación este Convenio: