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A Decision-Making Tool to Efficiently Manage Smallholder Farms

(Valerie Poire) #1

Originally published at:
Smallholder farms, all over the world, have diverse activities and a highly variable management capacity. In the last few decades, across Central America, partner organizations, national research institutes and CGIAR Centers have developed, tested and implemented many tools to help smallholders improve their decisions regarding various aspects of crop and livestock management. However, to date the tools remain dispersed and have not been integrated in a user-friendly way for routine use of diversified smallholder farms with multiple cropping/livestock activities.

During the recent Territorial Analysis (in Spanish) conducted in three different territories of the Nicanorte Action Site in the Central America and Caribbean Flagship Project, the theme of developing a science-based tool to enhance the capacity of smallholder farmers to make better decisions at the crop, system and farm level was proposed as one of the research priorities. It was argued that such a tool would help smallholder farms increase their productivity and reduce adverse effects on the natural resources of the farms and the landscape.

Three partner organizations from the territories of Nicanorte in Nicaragua, in alliance with CIAT, Bioversity International and fifteen other local organizations, formulated a Research for Development (R4D) proposal entitled Improved decision making on diversified smallholder farms in the Humidtropics Northern Nicaragua Action Site (in Spanish) and obtained financial support from Humidtropics to implement the initiative over the next three years.

The proposed R4D initiative aims to test the feasibility of developing an integrated and systemic crop/livestock management tool for site-specific management that can be used by smallholder households with high variability and diverse activities integrated within their farms. It also aims at better understanding the potential impacts of different management decisions on key variables as well as trade-offs, which influence decisions taken at the farm and component level.

During 2014-2017, researchers at ASDENIC, CUCULMECA and FUMAT, with help from CIAT and Bioversity International research advisers will implement the proposed work encompassing three components: tool development, collective learning and training, and field testing to adapt the tool at crop and farm level. The digital interface of the tool will enable the collection of on-farm data (observations and decisions) from a large number of farms to carry out systems analysis in order to provide feedback into the two previous components.

New decision-making tool will help women cocoa farmers strengthen farm management and crop commercialization.
New decision-making tool will help women cocoa farmers strengthen farm management and crop commercialization.

It is foreseen that this R4D initiative will contribute to Humidtropics’ following Intermediate Development Outcomes:

  • Increased income for smallholder farmers – The proposed work will increase farm profitability through application of the integrated management tool to increase farm resource use efficiency and improve management and productivity of marketable crops and livestock.
  • Increased total farm-level productivity – The crop and livestock management decision tool to will contribute to increasing farm productivity through improved farm and crop/livestock management practices.
  • Reversing adverse environmental effects of integrated systems intensification and diversification – The crop and livestock management decisions will use agro-ecological approaches to intensification aimed at increasing resource use efficiencies and ecological services.
  • Empowering women and youth to have better control over and benefit from integrated production systems – Women will participate in all components of the work including project and tool development, field based work, and monitoring and evaluation. The analysis of the tool’s impact on decision-making processes will be disaggregated by gender and characterize the role of and impact on women in different crop and livestock management decisions and activities.
  • Building innovation capacity within agro-ecological and livelihood systems at the local level – Strengthening of regional innovation systems in coffee, cacao, and maize-bean-livestock systems through knowledge mobilization and collective integration, analysis and adaptation of improved decision-making tools. The tool will be developed using an interactive design methodology incorporating feedback from tool users and developers.
Humidtropics’ Central America and Caribbean Flagship Project is implemented in three Action Sites: Nicanorte located in the northern part of Nicaragua, greater Trifinio area located in the border region of Honduras-Guatemala-El Salvador, and the border region of Haiti-Dominican Republic.

Blog and photo by Falguni Guharay, Scientist, R4D Platforms, Humidtropics and PIM, CIAT. Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics.