Product Line 3.3. Management innovations for poor farmers in rainfed and stress-prone areas
About half of Asia’s rice area is affected by drought, uncontrolled submergence, or salinity. Yields in these areas are typically low, in the range of 1–2 t/ha, and poverty is extreme and widespread. Moreover, climate change is expected to exacerbate the frequency, severity, and extent of these stresses. Gene discovery and new breeding tools are leading to the development of new rice varieties with increased tolerance of drought, submergence, and salinity. However, to fully benefit from the genetic potential of these new varieties, new and adapted management strategies need to accompany their introduction in the target regions. In contrast to Asia, rice in Africa is mostly grown under rainfed conditions and drought is a major determinant of crop yields, often in combination with phosphorus deficiency. In addition, low-lying areas can be affected by iron toxicity in inland valleys, by salinity in coastal zones and river deltas, and by alkalinity in inland irrigation systems. There is large potential to intensify rice production by introducing mechanization. Recently, acute outbreaks of African rice gall midge in Africa have ravaged rice crops. Rice is produced in Latin America across a number of different environments, cropping systems, land and water availability, and farm sizes and socioeconomic characteristics. New fungus and bacterial disease problems are emerging, notably Burkholderia glumae. In Africa, rice yellow mottle virus can devastate farmers’ crops, whereas, in Latin America, the hoja blanca virus transmitted by Sogata planthoppers and rice blast continue to be a main threat.
Uplands worldwide are home to extremely poor farmers who rely on their rice crop for food self-sufficiency. In Africa and LAC, approximately 40% of all rice is cultivated in upland ecosystems, usually still based on slash-and-burn practices. Yields are constrained by frequent drought, low soil fertility, and soil acidity. Rice production is further hampered by biotic stresses such as blast disease, stem borers, termites, and weeds. It is important to introduce crop rotations and conservation agriculture practices that help build soil fertility and stabilize these slash-and-burn systems. Upland rice areas in Asia are highly heterogeneous in terms of climate, soil, and topography. Options exist for rice intensification as a stepping stone out of poverty by introducing lowland paddy rice or aerobic rice systems on terraces and in river valleys.
Activities include adaptive and participatory crop, water, and soil management research to accompany the introduction of stress-tolerant varieties in well-defined target areas that specifically suffer from drought, submergence, iron toxicity, or salinity. Pest, weed, and disease management guidelines will be developed that are appropriate for rainfed conditions. Options for increasing mechanization and introducing conservation agriculture will be explored in the rainfed lowlands, while new cover crops, aerobic rice, and crop rotations will be introduced and tested in the uplands. Activities will focus on farm-level improvement because rice is rarely the only crop farmers grow under rainfed lowland or upland conditions. Because of the extreme poverty found in many rainfed and stress-prone environments, special care is taken that developed management options are pro-poor.
Relying on the long-term experimental platform and partnership model developed by Cirad in Madagascar, systems research approaches will be used to (1) understand the interactions between environmental conditions and cropping systems, and (2) develop diverse and innovative upland cropping systems suited to the local rice commodity chain. Knowledge is integrated in the field around perennial but adaptive experiments conducted by researchers and around farmers’ field networks. Based on the Madagascar experience, a new long-term experimental platform will be established in West Africa for the development of conservation agriculture–based upland rice-cropping systems for this region.
3.3.1 Management options for drought, submergence, and salinity
3.3.2 Management options for pests, diseases, and weeds
3.3.3 Mechanization and conservation agriculture for low-input and upland systems
3.3.4 Land and water development options for inland valleys
Research in this product line is conducted in collaboration with a range of advanced research institutes and universities from various countries. For example, work in the drought-prone lowland and upland environments in Laos is conducted together with ACIAR, Charles Sturt University, the University of Queensland, JIRCAS, CIAT, NAFRI, and the National University of Laos. Local adaptive research and dissemination/diffusion are targeted with national and regional NARES partners (NAFRI, NAFREC, the National Rice Research Program, the Department of Agricultural Research, the Champassak Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, and the Savannakhet Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office), a large IFAD investment project (IFAD RLIP—Rural Livelihood Improvement Program), the Oudomxay Community Initiative Support Project, and World Vision. Similar mixtures of partners are used or targeted in all other countries this product line is working in. Also, a new strategy to achieve better technology out- and up-scaling is followed in two recently accepted CURE projects. In both, adaptive research partners (NARES and IRRI) will provide “technical innovation services” (TIS) to IFAD-funded investment projects and, where present, NGOs involved in technology dissemination. The TIS mechanism will provide linkages and feedback between research and development activities at the international and national level, thus helping the CURE network and collaborating development projects to improve technology targeting, delivery, and larger outreach. Partnerships with private-sector partners are still rare, mostly because many fewer such potential partners are operating in rainfed environments, but, hopefully, more collaboration can begin in the near future.
A good example of south-south collaboration is the involvement of the Japanese universities of Hitotsubashi, Tsukuba, and Kinki as well as IWMI in the development of African inland valleys, notably on the environmental and economic aspects of small-scale water management. The social settings and subsequent negotiations through stakeholder platforms are undertaken with Cirad, ICRA, WUR, and IITA. New initiatives for investigating combined biophysical and social interactions for inland valley improvement are being discussed with the University of Bonn. Specific partners in Madagascar include Cirad, the University of Madagascar, School of Agronomy, National Agronomic Research Institute Fofifa, Association for the Development of Conservation Agriculture in Madagascar (GSDT), and the NGO TAFA.
The next users are scientists from ARIs and NARES partners, who will perform adaptive work on the management systems. The Inland Valley Consortium and AfricaRice-NARES Task Force mechanisms are major means to link the development of management technologies with local partners through adaptive research and to accelerate diffusion through fostering and promoting innovation partnerships. In Africa, Cirad will play a lead role in developing farm management innovations through their collaborative upland rice-based systems research platform in Madagascar. Likewise, Cirad and WUR will lead R&D actions for integrated crop and resource management for inland valleys in the framework of the activities of the Inland Valley Consortium. In Asia, CURE is a major mechanism to link the development of management technologies with local partners through adaptive research and to accelerate diffusion through fostering and promoting innovation partnerships. In LAC, CIAT-FLAR will play a lead role in the transfer of crop management innovations through their public-private partnership to accelerate the diffusion of improved varieties and technologies to farmer groups. Once these technologies and varieties are validated, intermediate users are extension agents and agricultural experts of NGOs and the private sector. Final users are farmers. Products feed into GRiSP theme 6 and other national and regional co-investment programs for accelerated and large-scale delivery. Rice varieties developed in GRiSP theme 2 are critical inputs into product line 3.3. Products feed into GRiSP theme 6 for accelerated and large-scale delivery and linkage with other co-investments at the national or regional level.
The BMGF-STRASA project and the IFAD-funded CURE are major current funding mechanisms for this product line. STRASA is expected to last 10–15 years and its continuity is required to guarantee ultimate impact among poor farmers. STRASA focuses mainly on varietal improvement. Research on the development of low-cost water control options, multistakeholder platforms, and intensification and diversification of inland valley lowlands is funded through grants from Japan and the European Union. In Africa, existing co-investments by Cirad will be a key contribution to this product line. In Asia, CURE plays a pivotal role in linking the development of new varieties in Theme 2 with the products of this product line. In LAC, CIAT-FLAR co-investments are supporting this PL.