Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Friday, June 5, 2015

What African smallholders want from research

4 June 2015. Most of the food produced in Africa is supplied by small-scale farmers, many of whom are struggling. New knowledge could help to boost these micro-operations and their contribution to food security, but smallholders are rarely consulted when research agendas are set. An EU-funded project focused on stimulating the necessary dialogue.

The aim of the INSARD project was to get smallholders, scientists and policymakers to talk to each other. “A lot of the agricultural research and development being done is coming up with solutions that aren’t very well suited to smallholder farmers,” says Ann Waters-Bayer of ETC, the Dutch non-governmental organisation (NGO) that led the project consortium.

INSARD involved a number of African farmer organisations and NGOs as well as partners in the EU. It encouraged smallholder farmers and researchers in Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia to explore research needs, capacities and opportunities together. Farmers in all three countries seized this opportunity to identify research activities addressing their priority topics.

The prevailing disconnect between agricultural research and smallholder farming means that the scientists and farmers involved aren’t necessarily aware of their complementary skills and expertise, says Waters-Bayer. INSARD, which ended in December 2013, helped these groups become more aware of the ways in which they can help each other, she reports.

The “research outlines(43 pages) that the participating farmers and scientists jointly developed in Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia reflect this willingness to engage with each other. They focus on challenges specific to the individual countries and highlight aspects that could be addressed through research. Priority topics notably include optimising local seed systems, improving low-input methods to boost soil fertility and shedding new light on various issues regarding land tenure.
  • Identification, evaluation and characterization of local/indigenous maize seeds in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania
  • Soil fertility improvement through processed animal manure application in Zambia
  • Involving small scale farmers in marketing models that can effectively guarantee improved incomes for their produce in Zambia
  • Securing family farms in the context of increasing private investments (agriculture, mining, tourism and real estate) in Senegal
  • Land, pastoralism and pastoral mobility in Senegal: securing pastoral areas and resources.
  • Land Governance in Senegal: promoting a participatory approach, building local sustainable alternative land tenure security of family farms and vulnerable groups
Implementing these research outlines was, however, not part of the project’s remit. The INSARD partners have submitted proposals for new projects building on these outlines to a number of national and international institutions funding this type of research.

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