Kindu Mekonnen and Peter Thorne from ILRI recently spent a week with colleagues from ther Africa RISING projects visiting the CIMMYT-led CSISA (Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia) project in Eastern India (Bihar and Odisha states) project in India.
They found the visit to be very illuminating of the contrasts in terms of both the systems practised and the approaches taken by the two projects to the issue of sustainable intensification.
They also saw a number of things to learn from:
- CSISA started from a higher baseline. The systems in eastern India are already more intensified than those of the Ethiopian Highlands. Our colleagues in India are looking at mechanisation with 4-wheel tractors while in Ethiopia we are considering lower cost approaches to reducing labour demand and drudgery.
- Africa RISING in the Ethiopian Highlands is taking a more holistic approach to intensification, reflecting perhaps a more integrated nature of the systems in our agro-ecologies.
- CSISA has a much larger on-station research component than Africa RISING and most activities appear to be under quite strong researcher control. In the short time available, we did not get a clear picture of how the linkages to innovation at the individual farm level were achieved.
- The approach taken by Africa RISING has been very participatory with stronger inputs from communities to identifiy research priorities and appropriate technologies and management practices. CSISA has focused on a number of individual innovations (e.g. zero tillage, varietal introduction, mechanization).
- CSISA is operating in an environment that is strongly driven by government subsidies. While this obviously produces advantages for adoption in the short term we were unsure about longer term implications for sustainability. This will be an important issue to consider at the larger scales of the sustainability indicator framework that Africa RISING researchers are currently developing.
- Responsibilities have been more narrowly allocated in CSISA with smaller partner groups operating individual activities. In Africa RISING, many partners collaborate to implement at site. It remains to be seen which approaches are most effective under different circumstances.
- CSISA has worked very effectively to stimulate and support local service providers; progressive farmers who are able to deliver specific services (e.g. zero tillage, three times a year cropping, compound feeds) to their neighbours. We felt that this model could potentially be adapted to the situation in the Ethiopian Highlands (e.g. input supply, contract spraying, post harvest facilities) and we will explore this further in our imminent scaling activities.
- We saw some very interesting and encouraging activities operating through NGO-supported self-help groups for women. These were operating effectively in parallel with the government delivery system to meet the needs of members more directly. We need to make this kind of activity more visible in the Ethiopian project.
- ILRI’s contribution to CSISA in terms of funding received is small but the achievements are significant. We saw real evidence of adoption of ILRI-sponsored innovations around basal diet processing (chopping), compound feed production and mineral supplementation. These are all technologies that are relevant to the Ethiopian highlands and we look forward to further experience sharing with the ILRI team in India.
- How to present activities to visitors! We were very impressed with the posters and information delivered at each site. Indeed, the public face of CSISA is generally strong; very clear web presence and nicely packaged publications.
We would like to thank our CSISA colleagues for their hospitality and excellent organisational arrangements. We also very much enjoyed the company of our colleagues from the IITA-managed West Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa, Africa RISING projects. We look forward to hearing their reflections too!
Story by Kindu Mekonnen and Peter Thorne