Farm Mechanization & Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI Project)

Introduction

Intensification is both a need and an opportunity for sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. For intensification to occur with minimum negative environmental and social consequences (i.e. sustainable intensification), it is widely recognized that all resources have to be used far more efficiently than is presently the case. Although a lot of emphasis is being placed in current Research for Development work on increasing the efficiency with which land, water and nutrients are being used, mechanization appears as the ‘forgotten resource’. However, farm power in SSA countries is declining due to the collapse of most hire tractor schemes, the decline in number of draught animals and the decline in human labour (e.g. stemming from rural-urban migration). Another aspect of low farm power is high labour drudgery, which affect women disproportionally (in, e.g. threshing, shelling and transport by head-loadings).

Undoubtedly, sustainable intensification in these countries will require an improvement of the farm power balance through increased power supply – via improved access to mechanization – and/or reduced power demand – via energy saving technologies such as conservation agriculture (CA).

Project implementation

FACASI project investigates synergies between small-scale-mechanization and CA. The suppression of soil inversion in CA systems reduces power requirements – typically by a factor of two – making the use of lower powered and more affordable tractors such as two-wheel tractors (2WTs) a viable option. Secondly, a shift from animal draught power to tractor power reduces pressure on crop residues for animal fodder, and increases the fraction available for surface mulching.

The project operates in four sites (two per country) half of them selected as a subset of existing ACIAR-funded project sites (SIMLESA and Crop × Livestock), the other half representing sites where NARS (or national NGOs) have conducted long-term CA and/or mechanization work. A range of methodologies are employed to accelerate delivery of 2WT-based technologies to smallholders in these sites, including:

  1. On-station and participatory on-farm evaluation of 2WT-based technologies;
  2. Business model development;
  3. Market and policy analysis; and
  4. Establishment of a permanent knowledge platform.

A common M&E system including gender disaggregated data will be developed by adapting the M&E system used by the SIMLESA project. The project will be implemented mainly via national agricultural research centres or national NGOs and regional networks in each participating country. There will be strong links with CGIAR, Australian and Asian partners who will provide specific training on agricultural engineering, as well as mentoring, capacity building, and academic support. CIMMYT will coordinate the project implementation through its Ethiopia office.

Although the adoption of CA is both low and slow in Eastern and Southern Africa, three of the four countries targeted by this project have a substantial area under CA: Kenya with 15,000 ha, Zimbabwe with 7,500 ha, and Tanzania with 6,000 ha (Derpsch et al., 20101). CA has been promoted for the past decades in all four countries targeted by this project, and a strong knowledge base thus exists amongst national researchers, extension services and farmers.

For more information on the project please click here

Project goal – to improve farm power balance, reduce labour drudgery, and minimize biomass trade-offs in Eastern and Southern Africa, through accelerated delivery and adoption of 2WT-based technologies by smallholders. The scope of this project is derived from the fact that

  •  A variety of 2WT-based technologies are available regionally and globally but have not been tested in a systematic way in Eastern and Southern Africa;
  • The collapse of most government-run tractor hire schemes in the region demonstrates the need for innovative unsubsidized systems delivering mechanization to smallholder farmers; and
  •  Cases such as Bangladesh and Tanzania illustrate the role of national policy and market environment in accelerating delivery and adoption of 2WT-based technologies by smallholders.

Principal objectives:

  1. To evaluate and demonstrate 2WT-based technologies to support CA systems in the eight selected sites of Eastern and Southern Africa, using Expertise/knowledge/skills/implements from Africa, South Asia and Australia.
  2. To test site-specific small scale commercial systems to deliver 2WT-based mechanization in the four countries.
  3. To identify improvements in national institutions and policies for wide delivery of 2WT-based mechanization.
  4. To improve capacity and create awareness on 2WT-based technologies in the sub-region, share knowledge and information with other regions.

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CA Experience NVsha & Ntagu May 2012 042

Project partners and donors:

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Charles Sturt University, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), KENDAT, Directorate of Research and Development (DRD) Tanzania, University of Zimbabwe, African Conservation Tillage network (ACT), International Development Enterprise (iDE) and FAO.

KENDAT also works in partnership with the University of Nairobi’s Department of Environmental and Biosystems Engineering to integrate farm power and agricultural mechanization development training, applied research, production, policy, value addition and technology transfer to stakeholders with the aim of increasing farm productivity and value chain development support for agribusiness excellence and renewed national development. For more details see link

Project Areas:

The model farms are in :

  • Bungoma
  • Laikipia