Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/unlocking-nigerias-agricultural-potential-with-cassava-legume-intensification/
Humidtropics R4D Platform Coordinator, Dr. Adedeji Adejobi giving instructions to farmers prior to the field voting for preferred practices in a demonstration trial in Akindele, Oyo State.
Sustainable intensification of production systems in the humid tropics offers the potential to address simultaneously a number of pressing development objectives, particularly unlocking the agricultural potential, adapting production systems to climate change, sustainably managing land and water resources, and reducing rural poverty (Vanlauwe et al., 2014*).
In densely populated areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, given anticipated further increases in population density and lack of access to land, agricultural intensification is a short-term requirement to alleviate rural poverty and food insecurity. Embedding sustainability principles within intensification efforts ensures that undesired impacts of intensification efforts will not affect African farmers and farming systems.
Sustainable intensification is an over-riding strategic objective for Humidtropics. Its research on sustainable intensification embraces innovative approaches that aim at enhancing total factor productivity in a sustainable way, and leading to improvements in livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Implementing sustainable intensification within a systems context requires new areas of partnership and involvement of multi-stakeholder actors.
The specific objectives of this research include:
- To identify farm type and community specific entry points within the productivity x natural resources management (NRM) x markets/institutions space towards the sustainable intensification of smallholder systems;
- To evaluate, with partners and farming communities, best-bet components aligned to above entry points towards best-fit options;
- To assess the sustainability and resilience nature of best options;
- To develop decision support and dissemination tools related to best-fit options for influencing the knowledge, attitudes and skills of the next level of users and farmers;
- To facilitate the integration of best-fit options within partner-led dissemination and promotion activities, assuring full integration of key stakeholder groups.
In this context, an IITA
project is working jointly with farmers and members of Humidtropics Innovation Platforms at selected Field Sites in Nigeria in choosing best-bet farm practices. Farmers in four locations in two states have been participating in field evaluation trials to test and choose the best combination of cassava growth types, legumes, and management practices in their farms.
The Cassava/Legume Intensification Project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and mapped onto Humidtropics, is being undertaken in Nigeria, Kenya, and DR Congo, and works on three components: seed systems, social science/agribusiness, and natural resources management (NRM). The project uses participatory rural appraisal, a research methodology that employs participatory tools such as focus group discussions or village-level discussions to understand rural problems. The process involves the full collaboration of stakeholders, for instance, farmers, rural people, and policymakers, in all stages of the research process — from defining the problem to conducting the research and thus identifying solutions to farm problems in their specific context.
A series of demonstrations and farmers’ field days were organized recently to get feedback from farmers on the options that suit their situation, and determine their reasons for favoring or rejecting these options. Dr. Christine Kreye, IFAD cassava intensification-NRM project leader for Nigeria, said “The outcome of these field days will be used to prepare options for farmers on their own farms in the next wet season, and ‘recruit’ interested farmers for these on-farm trials”.
All the farms are cocoa-based systems that also grow cassava for food security and additional cash income. The demonstrations and trials were undertaken in Akindele, Ido Local Government Area (LGA) and Lagbedu, Ogo-Oluwa LGA in Oyo State, and Osunwoyin, Ayedire LGA and Iwara, Atakunmosa East LGA in Ogun State.
The project provides planting materials (except for the local variety), inputs, and know-how; the farming community provides land, labor, and information. The project also manages the demonstration trial jointly with the farmers. After planting, at mid-term, and at harvest, researchers ask the farmers to evaluate all practices.
The “treatments” in the demonstration plots featured farmers’ current or local practice, and several best-bet options (e.g. cassava monocrop, cassava-legume intercrop to demonstrate high yield options), and several treatments where factors such as planting density, fertilizer application, and others are changed or tested. The demonstration farms used the following management practices: sole cassava using the varieties TME 419 (erect plant type/growth habit and 30572 (branching plant type) at 1 m x 1 m spacing and different options involving fertilizer (NPK), cassava-legume intercropping, spacing with a legume intercrop, and legume type (cowpea, groundnut, soybean). For the farmers’ trials, farmers will grow cassava in 2 to 4 management packages that were developed jointly during the demonstration trial phase. Farmers manage these trials by themselves. They also agree to provide information through a field book provided for the purpose, facilitate sample collection, and allow field visits from other farmers.
Humidtropics' integrated agricultural systems research recognizes that farmers are system managers themselves, and that they need to be fully involved and engaged in the research process. Beyond identification of agricultural component interventions (e.g. crop, tree and livestock choice and management) that minimize trade-offs between short term yield gains and long term provision of ecosystem services, it also includes the identification of proper enabling conditions that are socially differentiated and relevant for different scaling domains. Integrated approaches recognize that system heterogeneity is largely the rule rather than the exception, and this is why ‘silver bullet’ approaches have had limited success (Coe et al., 2014**). Understanding fine scale variation in context (e.g. biophysical, economic, social and institutional) allows adapting agricultural interventions to local circumstances, and is critical to foster processes underpinning the sustainability dimension of sustainable intensification.
* Vanlauwe B, Coyne D, Gockowski J, Hauser S, Huising J, Masso C, Nziguheba G, Van Asten P, 2014, Sustainable intensification and the smallholder African farmer, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 8, 15-22.
** Coe R, Sinclair R, Barrios R, 2014, Scaling up agroforestry requires research ‘in’ rather than ‘for’ development, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 6, 73–77.
Blog and photo by Katherine Lopez, Publishing Manager, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Blog edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics.