EU support to agricultural research for development – helping smallholder farmers improve food security and resilience to climate change

EU support to agricultural research for development – helping smallholder farmers improve food security and resilience to climate change

The EU Global Programme on Agricultural Research for Development – GPARD

Smallholder farmers in 90 villages of Bangladesh, India and Nepal came together under the Strengthening Adaptive Farming programme to collaborate with scientists, researchers, students, local agricultural and extension officials. On farm research and multi-stakeholder partnership approaches are proved to be the key factors particularly in building resilience to climate change.

Sunil Simon, Safbin programme coordinator, Caritas Organizations

CONTEXT

In most low-income economies, agriculture plays a primary role in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction. Despite its potential, agriculture continues to face pressures such as land degradation, climate change shocks, changing dietary patterns influencing production, animal diseases, growing demography and urbanisation. Research is fundamental in providing innovative solutions for smallholders to become more resilient and transform challenges into opportunities. Research activities need to be in tune with the needs of the smallholders they serve and make full use of local expertise.

OBJECTIVES

  • The purpose of the Global Programme to support Agricultural Research for Development is to promote agricultural innovation for smallholder farmers in developing countries in order to improve their food security, enhance adaptation to climate change and strengthen economic development.
  • GPARD projects contribute to promote research and innovation in partner countries by:
  • - directly supporting research activities in the field (research programmes and projects, including field and laboratory activities),
  • - Increasing the capacities of research actors working on the improvement of coordination mechanisms among research institutions, dissemination of research results, training, inclusion of research activities into the education system, institutional development.
  • GPARD projects address a host of issues, such as: livestock diseases, plant protection, specific crops (rice, millet, sorghum, maize, cotton, cassava), product transformation, conservation agriculture and organic agriculture, drylands and rainfed farming systems, bio-cultural innovation system and traditional technologies, commercialisation systems and access to markets, and resilience to climate change.

RESULTS

  • More than 200,000 smallholder farmers, and numerous national research organisations, universities, and farmers’ organisations have been the direct beneficiaries of the actions. Some concrete results, among the many others, include:
  • Improved resilience to the effects of climate change. In India, Bangladesh and Nepal the SAFBIN project worked with 270 small holder farming collectives, by helping them to identify the problems of climate variations and developing a participatory research approach to promote community-led adaptive farming practices. Thanks to this project, among other positive effects, there was an overall increase in the production of focal crops at least to the extent of 20 – 25% over the baseline yield.
  • This has led to an increased by 71% of different food items available for consumption across various project locations. More broadly, the project revitalized the culture of experimentation into the farming community instilling confidence among farmers that it is possible to address climate change impacts through correct adaptation strategies.
  • Increased agricultural diversification in order to increase farmers’ income and food security. In three Andean countries (Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia), the MERCADOS CAMPESINOS project contributed to the development of alternative systems for collective farmer commercialisation of high quality certified products.
  • Among other beneficial effects, thanks to training and to the direct support delivered to more than 6000 smallholder producers, 80% and 67% of the family farmers supported by the project in Ecuador and Bolivia respectively have adopted agro-ecologic systems. Moreover, it is estimated that between 25,000-30,000 consumer families have had access to healthy and quality food, due to the improved market opportunities created by the project activities.
  • Empowered smallholder farmers and improved productivity through better use of traditional knowledge (TK). In China, India, Kenya and Peru, the SIFOR project worked with 35 communities to develop tools for the better use of traditional knowledge systems benefiting 64 indigenous and traditional communities and directly involving 940 households in action-research activities.
  • Among other outputs, in Kenya, four community registers of TK-based innovations have been digitised and two herbal groves established for priority food and medicinal trees. In China, 10 villages completed community crop diversity registers with more than 400 species/varieties, and a community seed bank was established to help farmers invest and be prepared to shocks.
  • Improved control of endemic neglected diseases threatening both agriculture and livestock production. For instance, the TRYRAC project in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Togo, South Africa and Burkina Faso, helped livestock producers to set up competent and functioning laboratories and veterinary services to develop control strategies in tsetse infected areas.
  • It contributed also to develop modern herd management schemes and biological monitoring, promoting strong cooperation among interested actors, such as animal health workers, laboratory and official veterinarians (also within the ministry), pharmacists, veterinary drug wholesalers and, most importantly, the smallholder livestock keepers.
  • Improved smallholder farmers access to markets. In Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi, the CASSAVAGMARKETS project, helped smallholder cassava farmers in the development of market linkages to sell high quality cassava flour to be used as a replacement for wheat flour in the bakery sector, in plywood manufacture and also as an alternative component in traditional cassava products.
  • Working in collaboration with private sector companies, the action established best bet solar, bin and flash drying technologies that contributed to reduce by 50% no-fuel use, among other effects. Moreover, the project worked on the identification of a cassava virus free plant in order to improve the opportunities for commercialization.
  • Other uses of the cassava have been also experimented to prepare new products (prawn-crackers, cassava-crackers, cassava-cowpea-flour-extruded snack product and a high fibre fried snacks were developed through product formulation, physico-chemical quality assessment and sensory evaluation, and tested with ten relevant industries (six in Nigeria, three in Ghana and one in Malawi).

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • The GPARD was launched as a call for proposals under the Food Security Thematic Programme in 2009. 16 projects have been funded for a total commitment of EUR 41 million, of which EUR 36.8 million.
  • The programme has been working in 44 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, involving more than 80 partners: research and academic organisations, farmers’ organisations, agricultural research centres, IOs, CSOs, etc.
  • Adoption of improved agricultural developments takes time, but the number of potential final beneficiaries of the GPARD actions is in the order of millions of smallholder farmers.
  • GPARD projects look for changes in smallholder farmer behaviours in their fields leading directly to improvements in their livelihoods, and having the potential to be transferable to other farmers and hence to have impact at scale.

TESTIMONY

Drought Tolerant Rice Varieties helped farmers to cope with climate change – a case from Bangladesh

I am Md. Anamul Haque, 40 years old, and live in the village of Gopinagar, Patnitala upazila under Naogaon district in Bangladesh. I left school when I was in class nine and got married with Most Nazma Khatun. Later I became father of three children. I had only one acre of cultivable land which was under rainfed ecosystem and struggling with rice cultivation due to cause of prolonged droughts, irregular and insufficient rainfall. 

 In 2011, I came in contact with the assistant and cooperation of Caritas for the community people through Strengthening Adaptive Farming in Bangladesh, India and Nepal Project (SAFBIN) and became a member of SAFBIN project. I did not know how yield reduction, due to drought, will minimize performance of the new varieties in real condition to pest resistance, weed competitiveness, yield, duration etc.  I was impressed and pleased to discover how the performance of the new varieties might be different when cultivated by farmers without the on-farm support compared to those helped by the project. 

Being a member I got the opportunity to receive different skill development trainings and meeting and support of on farm action-research (OFAR). I received inputs and invested for implementation of trial plot in 6 decimal of land adjacent of my homestead. According to trial design, I used five cultivars of relatively short duration, droughts tolerant, and drought escaping varieties. Then I prepared the land considering layout and planting. There were fifteen plots and every plots size were 3 x 4 meters. I collected different data with the assistance of smallholder farmer committee (SHFC) member and staff of SAFBIN project.

Details of the rainfall data were analyzed during several months. Five drought spell were observed during the crop growing period. 

I feel very happy now. I got new drought tolerant varieties of rice. This on-farm action-research  is helping me to get drought tolerant rice seeds, meet food security and get financial support. I sincerely thank Caritas and the PROACT programme support: this helped me to be self-reliant.