In general, in all SIMLESA countries food and economic security is adversely threatened by a number of grand challenges. Not least are climatic challenges, but also institutional bottlenecks. For instance, in addition to flooding in some parts of Malawi in 2014, drought was experienced.
In 2016, in both Malawi and Mozambique, season, rains were too little, too late, due to the effects of El Nino. The same year (2016), Tanzania received excessive rains and a similar phenomenon of flooding was experienced in southern African countries in early 2017.
An example of institutional capacity gaps was observed in Malawi.An important capacity gap had to do with limited experience of seed company
staff. Most seed companies’ staff involved in seed multiplication programs needed fair amount of constant backstopping.
The national systems (including the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) had to help with this. The problem of overstretched national agriculture research system partners with limited number of new scientific corps coming into the system (has become somewhat chronic and typical in the region.
Within the SIMLESA program, improvements in experimental, data generation and scientific report writing capacity has been observed.A number of SIMLESA research by NARS scientists has been presented at international scientific conferences an example of which as shown in this video.
The program has developed a variety of communications products such as videos, television and radio programs and, in some countries, especially Mozambique, has embarked on an innovative delivery of information to farmers and rural communities through SMS/mobile phone technology.
The SMS efforts in Mozambique have concentrated on the following:
(1) That simple heuristics for crop management and other information at key times during the year to registered mobile users (service includes information from global seasonal climate forecasts, and in-crop nitrogen management tools).
(2) Technical, social networking (e.g. information on field days, trials, farmer to farmer exchanges (m/f), etc.), and market information to farmers, extension officers and other participants in the maize-legume value chain.
In all SIMLESA operational countries, participatory scaling methods have been used at various points in the research to farmer chain. These efforts have been complemented by the establishment of local agricultural innovation platforms (AIPS) giving more sense of belonging. This enables effective transfer of technologies to many farmers in a sustainable manner.
Another scaling innovation was the Competitive Grant system where private, public and community entities compete for funds based on scaling proposals and the most promising scaling ideas are funded through a modest grant to the winning idea.
In Mozambique for example, the project team managed to educate 50,000 households on the use of conservation agriculture and improved inputs to promote increase of maize and legume productivity in Tete, Manica and Sofala provinces. Additionally, 150 Village Based Agents (VBA) were trained and as local trainers and farmer trainings conducted by the VBAs reached 15,000 farmers within target sites.
SIMLESA has been mindful of the need to sustain program activities and benefits in selected communities and beyond as evidenced by the strategic choice of implementing through NARS. However, there is need to develop a comprehensive and documented exit strategy through consultative process of key stakeholders.
A series of policy have been an part of the program and supported capacity building for national agricultural research systems of partner countries; the creation of enhanced partnerships and collaboration with established innovation platforms for a coordinated scaling out SIMLESA generated options and practices.
A legacy of the SIMLESA project would be ensuring sustainability of the program. Strengthening capacity in scaling within the NARs is an enduring legacy. Broadening the partnerships beyond the implementing institutions and countries remains part of building this legacy.
These partnerships with ministries for agriculture and major development finance institutions will be crucial so that SIMLESA’s concepts, principles and technologies can be institutionalized for lasting impact.
|International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center(CIMMYT) is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)