Agriculture and forestry: mainstreaming research findings that work for communities

Partnerships are fundamental to conducting research. Douglas Sheil/CIFOR

PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay (12 November 2012)_Small-scale farmers in many tropical nations depend primarily on their crops for survival, but without additional income generated by nearby forests, they would often be unable to weather through the hard times. This is why agricultural and forestry institutions should partner up when conducting research aimed at determining activities that will be most beneficial to communities and the environment, said scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research.

The perception often is that farmers only do one thing: farm.

“But growing or managing forests for wood and non-wood products, both for subsistence and sale is very common. “It is also a very sensible strategy, both in terms of maximising incomes and minimising risk,” said Peter Kanowski, Deputy Director General of CIFOR, at the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research Development (GCARD2) in Uruguay. The conference discussed hopes for a future where agricultural innovation ratchets up production, and the welfare of small-scale farmers is assured. (Read the full blogpost on blog.cifor.org)

Brazil: Innovation and smallholder partnership provides nutritious foods to school children

Brazilian school-feeding programs buy 30% of their produce from smallholder farmers. Photo: WFP

Experts who gathered at the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) in Uruguay say they want to march into a future where agricultural research remains fast paced, innovation ratchets up production, and the welfare of small-scale farmers is assured. They call for a science that not only fuels development but improves the lives of farmers producing on a small scale. Farmers must be equal partners in the goal to raise food production and improve lives.

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The second freedom for women

Does investment in agricultural research really benefit the rural poor? Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

In the wake of green revolution, notable increases in agricultural incomes and subsequent contributions to food security were noticed among many farmers in the world. Amidst all this, a majority of rural dwellers still wallow in poverty. This differential poverty is what has fueled a growing need to embrace new sources of innovation that are capable of shifting from conventional technological solutions to improving the lives of millions of these rural dwellers.

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HarvestPlus: “NGOs Are Our Feet on the Ground”

Anna-Marie Ball and Sylvia Magezi in a farmer’s field in Uganda. (Photo: HarvestPlus)

NGOs played a crucial role in HarvestPlus’s efforts to roll out the first of the biofortified crops – the orange sweet potato (OSP) – in Uganda and Mozambique. From 2007-2009, 24,000 households in areas with vitamin A deficiency were targeted. More than 60% of farmers in the project areas adopted and began eating the vitamin A-rich OSP. As a result, vitamin A intake increased dramatically especially among children and women in both countries.

In Uganda, we partnered with two local NGOs, FADEP-EU and VEDCO, that were already established in the districts that we planned to work in. They had a strong reputation locally and were known to be able to deliver—and they did.

In Mozambique, there were few local NGOs that had sufficient expertise, or the field presence, to implement our project. So we worked with the local offices of two international NGOs, World Vision and Helen Keller International. World Vision has had a strong history of agricultural projects, and Helen Keller International had experience in promoting vitamin A.

In both countries, the national agricultural research systems had already identified varieties of OSP that were ready to disseminate to farmers. So we did not involve the NGOs at that level, but relied on them to hire local extension staff and use their established networks to identify farmer groups who could participate in the project. (Read the full blogpost on HarvestPlus.org)

Blogpost by Anna-Marie Ball, Uganda Country Manager, HarvestPlus

“Shed your organizational heart…”

What does it mean to actually build a local network of partners? A case study from Ghana shows us that it’s possible. Photo: Peter Casier

“…and put in your community heart!”

To adapt communities and local agriculture to the impacts of climate change, organizations can’t maintain an individualistic outlook, said Jesse Naab of CSIR-Ghana in a session on Partnerships for Environmental Resilience and Climate Change, day 2 of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2). Instead, they must strive to collaborate and be on the lookout for ways to build capacity-enabling networks.

But tell us, Dr. Naab, how does that actually work?

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