Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/reaping-the-benefits-of-the-quesungual-forages-project/
On October 22, Humidtropics' Central America and Caribbean Flagship team conducted a Field Day for the release of the Final Report of the Quesungual + Forages Project, alongside the Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA) and representatives of research centers, public sector, and national and regional extension workers.
The event created a valuable exchange between 172 men and women farmers, government representatives, NGOs, technicians and researchers from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and was conducted in the community of Potrerillo, located 15 km from the municipality of Condega, in the department of Estelí, Nicaragua.
The main purpose of this field day was to disseminate among the region’s farmers the results of the research conducted under the Quesungual + Forages project, and how these compare to traditional systems, so as to facilitate technical knowledge and experience for farmers and decision-makers.
Marandu, Gamba, and the Quesungual + Forages System
The field day was divided into three stations, each one providing a different example of plot management: Marandu with and without trees, traditional Gamba grass, and the Quesungual + Forages system.
Farmers highlighted various positive factors of the Quesungual + Forages system implemented together with the use of Marandu and Gamba grasses. Among these were the grasses’ resistance to drought, high biomass production, and an increase in milk yield. Farmers also emphasized the protection of soil and good maize and bean yields as an advantage of the Quesungual + Forages system.
For the farmers who experimented in their farms during the last three years with different varieties of grasses and plot management systems, the event was a valuable opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues from various parts of Central America.
On the other hand, the field day provided an opportunity to analyze the changes generated in farmers’ lives by the results of these experiments, as well as developing tools for the promotion and dissemination of eco-efficient agro-silvopastoral systems for the sub-humid hillsides of Central America.
“We used to work in our traditional way, we would prune everything down to the ground, and if there was anything left we would burn it. The land would be destroyed and things weren't getting better,” recalls Roberto Pineda, a farmer who had a positive experience with the Quesungual + Forages system. “Now we have seen a change, we used to yield 10 quintals per manzana, and now we produce between 30 and 40 quintals per manzana. We have improved our natural resources, trees have grown. Before, we had no trees and there was no rain.”
About the Quesungual + Forages Project
The Quesungual + Forages project aimed to improve the livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers in the sub-humid hillsides of Nicaragua by offering a sustainable and resilient crop-livestock system alternative to the widespread practices of slash-and-burn and poorly managed native/naturalized pastures. By integrating stress-adapted crop and forage options that not only improve productivity and profitability but also facilitate and generate ecosystem services, the Quesungual + Forages system enhances eco-efficiency in rural landscapes by enabling smallholder farmers to withstand extreme climate conditions while safeguarding long-term soil fertility and food production.
The Quesungual + Forages system had many incentives for farmers: the integration of improved food crop and forage options to boost productivity and profitability, and particularly to enhance milk production during the dry season, has served as a strong motivation for farmers, facilitating the early adoption of these alternatives, allowing them to see quick benefits as they could also recognize potential long-term environmental improvements. Involving the farmers in the research process through the implementation of experiments in their plots has also been an important determinant in facilitating adoption of the Quesungual + Forages system.
Another innovative element of the project is the identification of socio-cultural and socioeconomic factors that can drive the adoption of eco-efficient crop-livestock systems. Establishing a collaborative learning community among farmers, women, and young people has been crucial, not only as part of the project's ongoing research, but also to strengthen the communities' ability to carry on the farming system on their own and share their acquired knowledge and new experiences with others. By taking into account the multidimensional nature of farm families' livelihoods and incorporating this diverse set of factors into the project's design and execution, the project gained a better understanding of the approach it takes to facilitate higher adoption rates of alternative farming techniques.
The project has been able to use eco-efficiency as a concept for implementing a more systems-oriented research that gives beneficiaries an active role in the research process and promotes innovative actions from all participants involved from partner organizations. The integrated agroforestry concept (crop-livestock in farming systems) developed in this project has become one of the pillars of Humidtropics, as well as providing important elements for concepts of compensation for ecosystem services to be applied in other related work at agricultural systems level. The research also suggests that the principles of the Quesungual + Forages system can be applied in other tropical, sub-humid parts of Nicaragua, Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia.
Blog by Shadi Azadegan, Communication Specialist, Central America and the Caribbean, CIAT. Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photos by Lucia Gaitan/CIAT, and Valérie Poiré/Humidtropics.