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Project Summary

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 R4D work on increasing the efficiency with which land, water and nutrients are being used, farm power 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).

The proposed project is looking at exploiting synergies between small-scale-mechanization and CA. First of all, 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. Second, a shift from animal draught power to tractor power will reduce pressure on crop residues for animal fodder, and increase the fraction available for surface mulching.

The overall goal of the project is 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 (1) 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; (2) 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 (3) 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.

The project has four principal objectives:

  • To evaluate and demonstrate 2WT-based technologies in the four selected sites of Eastern and Southern Africa, using expertise/knowledge/skills/implements from Africa, South Asia and Australia.
  • To test site-specific market systems to deliver 2WT-based mechanization in the four countries.
  • To identify improvements in national markets and policies for wide delivery of 2WT-based mechanization.
  • To create awareness on 2WT-based technologies in the sub-region and share knowledge and information with other regions.

A large body of knowledge will be generated and strong linkages amongst stakeholders (including private sector actors involved in business models) will be established and sustained after the life-time of the project. Thus, we would anticipate that ~260 rural service providers would have emerged as a result of the project in the fourth year of the project, and ~2,300 ten years after the project’s start. We expect ~6,100 farms to benefit from 2WT-based CA in the fourth year of the project and ~70,700 ten years after the project’s start. We expect ~18,200 farms to benefit from 2WT-based transport, threshing and/or shelling in the fourth year of the project and ~164,900 ten years after the project’s start. With service providers expected to double their income, smallholders adopting 2WT-based CA expected to increase their income by 50% and smallholders adopting 2WT-based transport, threshing and shelling, expected to increase their income by 20%, such an adoption pathway would translate into an approximate cumulated economic value of 15 million USD at the end of the project and 316 million USD ten years after its start.

The project will operate 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 will be 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.

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