ACRES - Agricultural Climate Resilience to El-Nino in sub-Saharan Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment

Abstract

El Niño related droughts are leaving many millions of southern African smallholder farmers facing hunger, whilst at the same time above average rains are being experienced in parts of East Africa. The differential impacts of extreme events on farmers who have adapted their land management practices to become more "climate-smart" are poorly understood and quantified. Assessing the impacts of Conservation Agriculture (CA) on climate resilience of smallholder farming systems is the focus of this comparative ACRES project led by an experienced cross-disciplinary team.

A temporal component to studies will be enabled by links to past and ongoing studies in SE Kenya and southern Malawi. The wider significance of such new data will be contextualised through a continent wide meta-analysis of past CA studies that will provide an easily accessible database and identification of climate specific land management advice to global partner organisations to provide context-relevant guidance on Climate Smart Agriculture practices. This will provide vital insights on the contributions of CA to enhancing climate resilience of agricultural livelihoods and explicit consideration of societal and gendered components of farmer decision-making which have been stressed as urgent needs by development NGOs and Government agencies alike.

The current El Niño event offers an opportunity for repeat study of crop pest issues in the Kenya case, especially given the recognised similarity to the 1997/98 event (NOAA, 2015). This project will also enable comparison with Malawi studies where an ongoing research programme is exploring CA decision-making, use of climate service information and monitoring of crop pests under different land management practices.
Directly comparable integrated participatory and environmental crop pest survey approaches will be adopted in both case study regions. New evidence on crop pests, diseases and land management decisions will be provided by participatory approachegaining farmers' observations about crop pests / diseases and will be cross-validated by sampling of grain stores for pests and diseases in both study areas. The comparative case study approach, and its alignment to the wider meta-analysis study, will allow for improved understanding of what works in terms of land management practices enhancing resilience to extreme climate variability. The project outputs will enable lesson learning across locations with improved understanding of the capabilities and limitations of CA in a contextualised way as required to inform extension messages and to guide future CA project planning and institutional support structures.

The project stems from a series of multi-stakeholder research planning events led from across the project team in both study countries. This co-production or research priorities will enable us to ensure that ACRES outputs are tailored to the needs of major donors (e.g. World Bank, African Development Bank, DFID), Government Departments, NGOs (Christian Aid, Care International, Concern Worldwide, Total Land Care) and to private sector companies (e.g. Ilovo Sugar in southern Malawi). These multiple stakeholder links (at range of governance levels) will ensure that findings and agricultural land management lessons are shared beyond the smallholder farmers who are the focus of the study.

Planned Impact

The main group of direct beneficiaries of this project will be farming communities and relevant practitioners that relate to farming communities (e.g. extension workers, humanitarian and development organisations) in Malawi and Kenya. This will equate to c. 400 households involved in the research, but with established routes to affect land management and post-harvest crop management systems of tens of thousands of farming households across both study regions.

The project proposal has emerged from a co-production process in both Malawi and Kenya. In Malawi, a National Conservation Agriculture multi-stakeholder workshop was held in May 2014 facilitated by the project PI & two Co-I's. 28 participants attended, representing 19 organisations (Whitfield et al., 2015), including representatives of Government Ministries, UN FAO, CGIAR institutions, Universities, NGOs and the National Smallholder Farmer Association of Malawi (NASFAM). Discussions at this national workshop identified the urgent need for new research evidence on farmer decision-making through extreme events and for further studies on the impact of land management and climate interactions on crop pests and post-harvest losses. Consequently, ACRES targets key needs identified by Government and NGO stakeholders. In Kenya, CETRAD has actively promoted training of farmers and crop extension officers in CA practices, thereby integrating CA into the activity plans of agricultural extension services on a District scale. The ACRES project provides scope for further evidence to be used to inform national debates through a CETRAD-facilitated workshop that will explore lessons from research, plan areas of further research need and to inform government plans and programmes. The promotion of knowledge exchange activities is explicitly stated in 'knowledge management and capacity development' objectives of the Kenyan National Climate Change Action Plan and is an avenue for input in sub-County response strategies as outlined in the Government's El Nino Contingency Plan 2014-18.

The ACRES project will also provide a collation and analysis of existing CA databases, to help identify the climatic and socio-ecological conditions where shifts to CA can help to maintain (& maximise) crop yields through the extreme climatic variability associated with El Nino events. The meta-analysis study will feed into advising global partner organisations with whom we have ongoing research links including Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). We will use these connections and their dissemination networks to ensure that findings link directly into global efforts to provide context-relevant guidance on Climate-Smart Agriculture practices.

Regionally we will work with Kulima Integrated Development Solutions to produce a series of briefing notes to feed into decision-making both nationally and internationally (e.g. to SADC Climate Change Committees). We will produce project outputs addressing needs identified by stakeholders, and then specifically targeted to feed into decision-making both nationally and internationally (e.g. to SADC Climate Services Centre, IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre, national ministries of agriculture and agricultural research bodies, and farmer organisations, including the National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi, Cooperative Alliance in Kenya, and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions and East African Farmers Federation. Outputs will also be tailored to the needs of major donors (e.g. World Bank, African Development Bank, DFID) and to private sector companies active in the study region to ensure that lessons are shared beyond the smallholder farmers who are the focus of the study.
 
Description Global met-regression has shown the spatial distribution of the benefits of conservation agriculture land management practices on maize yields and their resilience to heat and drought stresses. Findings show a positive impact of zero tillage practices especially in semi-arid regions with sandy soils, enabling the focus of agricultural development efforts and funding to these areas.
Exploitation Route Targeting of donor support for conservation agriculture initiatives and inclusion of this in national resilience strategy for Malawi.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/research/sri/consagric/
 
Description GCRF Growing Capability Programme
Amount £7,990,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2022
 
Description Improving Preparedness to Agro-Climatic Extremes in Malawi (IPACE-Malawi)
Amount £252,820 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S005900/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 07/2020
 
Description NERC SPHERES DTP
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2021
 
Description Government Department Visit & Consultation for National Resilience Strategy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Formal presentation to Department for Disaster Management and the UNDP to feed results into the National Resilience Strategy: Implementation Plan via their National NRS Task Force.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description National Panel Discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 120 people attended national workshop on the use of climate information held in Lilongwe, Malawi. This has guided input to the Government of Malawi National Resilience Strategy and also to World Bank Strategic Programme on Climate Resilience for Malawi.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.futureclimateafrica.org/news/umfula-meets-with-malawian-government-to-discuss-climate-inf...