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UKAID Department for International Development (R4D) 1999

Will women farmers invest in improving their soil fertility management ? Participatory experimentation in a risky environment

Women Farmers Invest

UKAID Department for International Development (R4D)

Titre : Will women farmers invest in improving their soil fertility management ? Participatory experimentation in a risky environment

Pays : Malawi, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Projet de recherche pour le Développement : R7260(C)

DFID Programme : CGIAR Competitive Research Facility and Holdback Funds

Organismes de mise en œuvre  : Lead Institutes : Bunda College of Agriculture ; Chitedze Research Station, Malawi Ministry of Agriculture ; Department of Research and Specialist Services, Zimbabwe ; Head of Women’s Programmes, Malawi Ministry of Agriculture ; International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, Malawi (ICRISAT) ; International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, Zimbabwe (ICRISAT) ; Ministry of Agriculture, Malawi ; Silsoe Research Institute ; University of Malawi

Durée : Start Date : 01-04-1999 — End Date : 30-09-2001

Objectifs  : To revise process of developing and disseminating soil fertility technologies suited to priorties of women farmers in risky, drought-prone environments. To develop methodology linking farmer participatory research and crop systems simulation modelling through case studies targetting the improvement of the welfare of women farmers.

Small-scale farmers in semi-arid areas of southern Africa have generally ignored the crop management advice provided by national research and extension services. Yet improvements in crop management are essential to offset annual production shortfalls, and to reduce the costs of drought relief programmes. These gains are particularly important for female-headed households, facing more severe resource constraints and higher levels of food insecurity. Female-headed households constitute up to 50% of the farmers in semi-arid regons of both Zimbabwe and Malawi. This is partly because incomes derived from farming are low, and male household heads travel elsewhere in search of employment. Yet sharply rising costs of living in the urban areas of both countries, associated with economic adjustment programmes, are limiting the flow of remittance back to rural communities. In consequence, female-headed households in semi-arid areas are some of the poorest and most food insecure households in each country. The project aims at resolving a critical constraint to improving productivity in semi-arid areas - the development of more practical investment options for the management of soil fertility. Such options must specifically account for the alternative investment options women have for allocating their scarce cash and labour, as well as the riskiness of cropping. This can be achieved through joint evaluation of fertility management options, and assessment of the opportunities for pursuing a more iterative set of marginal (and practical) improvements in management practices. The main problem with most current fertility management recommendations is that these target maximisation of yields or profits, without consideration of agricultural risks and resource constraints. The levels of fertiliser, manure, and rotation demanded are far beyond the capabilities of all but the wealthiest households. This project offers a more practical set of technology options. In so doing, the project aims to maximise the probability of incremental improvement in crop management. The project applies strong scientific input to facilitate experimentation with fertility management technology options of interest to women farmers. Practical crop management options are already available. These include the use of smaller and more targetted quantities of chemical fertiliser, improvements in the quality and efficiency of manure use, and intensification of the use of grain legumes, such as pigeonpea. In order to be acceptable, these options must fit within the resource levels and investment priorities of the target population. Participatory work defines current practice, including experimentation by farmers with these sorts of practices, and the relative returns pursued in crop management investments. Simulation modelling facilitates evaluation of technology performance, across years with highly variable rainfall and substantial climatic risk. Direct support for experimentation by women farmers helps ensure that their questions are answered.

Total Cost to DFID : £180,000

Présentation : Recherche for Development (R4D)

Page publiée le 10 juillet 2021