GCRF: CEPHaS - Strengthening Capacity in Environmental Physics, Hydrology and Statistics for Conservation Agriculture Research.

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey
Department Name: Environmental Modelling

Abstract

Two recent El Niño-associated drought seasons in southern Africa have highlighted the vulnerability of agriculture there to climate change. One reason for this is the dependence of much production on the occurrence of sufficient rainfall at the start of the growing season. This is because little water is stored in the soil profile.

One strategy for agricultural production, which is attracting a lot of interest in Africa, is "conservation agriculture" (CA). In CA farmers use minimum tillage of the soil and they mulch it with organic materials to reduce water loss. The use of appropriate crop rotations is also key to CA. However, CA cannot be offered as a panacea. Its adoption has different labour demands to those of traditional cultivation, and increased use of herbicides. There may also be competing uses for the mulching materials (animal feed, fuel). Furthermore, the success of CA varies between different soils, and so it may not be universally suitable. The evaluation of CA requires cross-disciplinary input. Part of this must be an evaluation of the extent to which CA can be expected to be more resilient than traditional cultivation under climate change.
African members of our established research network run CA trials, some long-term, and engage with policy makers and extension services. They and others have shown that there can be yield benefits from CA, but little is known about how CA affects the behaviour of soil water. In particular, does it improve the soil water supply (and so make production more resilient to delayed rains)? Furthermore, how does CA and its impact on water in the rooting zone affect the recharge of groundwater? There may be synergies if CA improves infiltration of water into the soil, reducing runoff and associated flooding and erosion, but there may also be trade-offs if more water is taken up by plants and does not serve to recharge the groundwater.

These gaps in knowlege about CA systems, critical to their full evaluation, arise from gaps in research capacity. This has been identified through critical reflection on CA research by the partnership proposing this project. Core members of the partnership in Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) and the UK are already engaged together in research on the nutrient status of crops under CA. Collectively we have recognized that the African research centres have uneven experience in the cross-disciplinary science areas that are key to address the questions identified above (soil physics, shallow geophysics, geohydrology and spatial statistics). Partners also lack the equipment and experience needed to undertake observations with modern methods used in soil physics (e.g. in-situ measurement of soil water dynamics).

In this project we will undertake learning-centred demonstration trials in all three African countries. At each site existing trials, with CA plots and controls, will be instrumented and sampled so that the fate and behaviour of water under the contrasting systems can be compared. In addition we will undertake statistically designed soil sampling to assess the variability of soils at experimental sites and to support statistical modelling for extrapolation from experimental farms to wider regions. The design of these activities will not reflect a conventional research project but rather will be focussed on capacity strengthening. Planning, execution and publication will be undertaken collaboratively by working groups with staff from all organizations, and the experiences of these groups will be recorded formally to provide a resource for future capacity strengthening at other centres. The activities will be integrated with formal training to develop relevant technical and research skills. The Capacity Research Unit at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are partners and will contribute to development and monitoring of the programme as an exercise in research capacity strengthening.

Planned Impact

This project is motivated by the catastrophic impact of two successive years of drought, triggered by El Niño events, in southern Africa. Much of the region has recorded the lowest rainfalls for at least 35 years. This has had a severe impact on the rain-fed agriculture on which about 50% of the population depend for their livelihood. Some 15.9 M people across the region are "highly food insecure". The cereal deficit for 2015/16 was 53% in Zimbabwe, and 14% in Malawi, where 30% and 20% respectively of the rural population have been affected, and while Zambia as a whole has had a grain surplus as a result of normal rainfalls in the north and west, nearly 9% of its rural population have been affected because of drought in the south of the country. Regional food-price inflation has been 9% and it is widely recognized that impacts extend to a wider contraction of economic activity in the region ("El Niño: Undermining Resilience", World Food Programme, Feb. 2016). This problem is immediate, but is also likely to become even more pressing under climate change [Cai et al., 2014. Increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events due to greenhouse warming, Nature Climate Change, 4, 111-116]

The aim of this project is to strengthen research capacity in three partner countries, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, essential for robust scientific evaluation of interventions to improve the resilience of rainfed agriculture in the region, and to understand their impact on water security more generally. The identification of capacity gaps has been undertaken collaboratively within the network. By the nature of this call, focussed on building research capability, the proximal beneficiaries are the target institutions engaged in research, through technical training, hands-on engagement in demonstration projects, development of lab. and field capability and a formal planned approach to capacity strengthening delivered by the Capacity Research Unit from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The project includes a Co-Investigator economist, who will ensure that research planning takes account of the socioeconomic perspective on the exemplar intervention which are conservation agriculture (CA) practices.

The beneficiaries of the research capacity, however, are the end users of the research findings. These are the 15.9 M food-insecure people across the southern African region, and elsewhere on the continent. Most immediately they will benefit if government policies and agricultural extension programmes are better informed about the potential of CA practices to deliver greater resilience of rain-fed production and to contribute to water security more broadly. All African partner institutions are engaged in providing evidence to government and advice to extension services. One of the partners, the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute, is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and is established to deliver research on policy questions and extension problems. Our other African research partners, universities, are similarly engaged. For example, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources directly influences government policy on fertilizer properties, and partners at University of Zimbabwe include the regional coordinator of the Soil Fertility Consortium for Southern Africa. All partners are engaged in on-farm research aimed at delivering better advice to farmers. The research capacity strengthening is therefore targeted at institutions which already play a lead role in delivering improvements for farmers.

In addition our project includes an NGO partner, the Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre in Zambia, which is engaged in extension and training and farm-scale research which reach around 10,000 small holder producers in the region. This engagement will provide critical improvement of research plans developed in the project, and a direct mechanism for further on-farm testing of results and dissemination of findings
 
Description Working Groups 1, 2 and 3 (Soil Physics, Shallow Geophysics and Hydrogeology). All sites have now been instrumented and data collection is under way. That means that we can compare different cropping systems with respect to soil water content (to 1 m depth) and how this evolves over time in response to measured weather conditions. We can also examine associated changes in groundwater levels and estimate groundwater recharge. The geophysics allows us to image water content between soil and the water table and track and compare recharge processes. In addition the establishment or enhancement of soil physics laboratory capacity has been completed (in terms of the installation of new equipment and training). This allows us to measure basic soil properties, and the effects of agricultural practices on them. Preliminary analyses have shown some yield advantages of conservation agriculture, evidence of differences in water dynamics in the soil profile, and some evidence that CA practices increase the responsiveness of groundwater to rainfall events.

Training has been or is being delivered online because of the covid-19 pandemic on interpretation of shallow geophysics data, advanced hydrogeology and modelling water movement in soil and rock. At the time of reporting we are holding an online project workshop which is reviewing data received and refining hypotheses to be tested and publication plans.

Working Group 4. We have completed and published the analysis of historical yield data from the experiment we are working with in Malawi. This has given insight into differences between conservation agriculture practices and their interactions with seasonal conditions. It has also provided lessons related to the design of experiments on conservation agriculture which our partners in a key international agricultural research centre (CIMMYT) want to take on board in their future work. We have also assembled a large body of existing data on soil physical properties in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and have nearly completed the analysis of these data to evaluate methods to predict hard-to-measure properties which are needed for modelling water in soil from properties routinely measured in soil survey. We have completed and published a formal elicitation process using a mathematical method called probabilistic inversion which analyses how experts rank the expected benefits from conservation agriculture on different soils, and uses this to identify the soil and environmental factors which most strongly control responses to these interventions. These will be useful for formulating key hypotheses to be addressed in future on-farm research.

Working Group 5 have completed capacity research interviews in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Team-level meetings have examined their findings and prioritized institutional capacity strengthening objectives for the remainder of the project. Working group staff have also published a study on research management and support services in sub-Saharan African universities and research institutions which draws on the CEPHaS research as well as research from other projects.

Working Group 6 has undertaken a systematic review of the literature on impacts of CA within the region, and produced initial summaries of key benefits (crop yield and soil properties) and uptake of these methods in all three countries. They have also undertaken a study to examine the adoption of CA practices in two contrasting districts of Zimbabwe, and examined key socio-economic factors associated with the uptake of particular components of the CA system.
Exploitation Route WG1,2,3. While at present we are collecting data and do not have results to show, we have already been able to use the project to draw the attention of the hydrogeological community to the importance of understanding impacts of farming practices on groundwater recharge (poster at IAH conference, 2019 and presentations at the SADC Groundwater Conference in 2020). We have also been able to highlight the potential value of shallow geophysics for understanding water movement in and below the rooting zone (AGU conference, 2019).

WG4. Analyses of the Chitedze long-term conservation agriculture experiment have provided the first synoptic view of yield responses to the treatments, and their interactions with seasonal effects. This will have direct impact on how Department for Agricultural Research Services interpret these experiments and the lessons that they derive from them for farmers. Of most general significance are the lessons for experimental design. CIMMYT, who were partners in this analysis, have already expressed interest in further collaboration for planning future trials to take these lessons on board, and for the analysis of other experiments in the region. The dissemination of these findings will be accelerated by the collaboration with CIMMYT who undertake such experiments at sites in the region and globally.

WG5 findings will be used by all partners in prioritizing activities in further capacity strengthening activities. This will be done within the project when planning the remaining training programme. It will also inform further applications for support to GCRF and other programmes.

WG6 findings provide interesting and important insight into the socio-economic factors which drive the uptake of CA practices in Zimbabwe. These will be relevant to NGOs and Policy Makers concerned to promote CA or other related climate-smart strategies.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL https://www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS/publications.html
 
Description Impact at present is largely limited to impact on the research process through the capacity strengthening activities of the project. There has been substantial training undertaken in this project, notably in soil physics measurements, shallow geophysics, hydrogeology and statistics. This has contributed to capacity within all partner institutions to contribute within these disciplines. We note some specific examples. First, shallow geophysics was a discipline in which partners in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi (ZZM) had very limited or no experience and capacity at the start of the project. Team members in all countries have now been engaged in installation of geophysics arrays (in many cases individuals have worked on this in more than one of the partner countries) and the establishment of the PRIME system. Teams are working towards capturing their learning and experience in Wikimanuals. This capacity could be of substantial benefit long-term to partners, not only through investigations at CEPHaS sites, but through use of the PRIME system at other sites and for other applications (e.g. assessing stability of infrastructure, monitoring leaks in dams). British Geological Survey staff have noted that, as a result of project activities to date CEPHaS ZZM partners "are now the most advanced users of PRIME outside of BGS." BGS has also developed its capacity, training materials and course structure developed for CEPHaS has been used in ODA activities on natural hazards, notably in collaboration with Amrita University in India. Additional training materials in shallow geophysics have been developed for remote study and delivered in the course of 2020. Second, statistics training has engaged a large number of project staff in the use of statistical methods in research. One noted impact has been the fact that a project team member has, in ways at least partly attributable to CEPHaS (use of particular software, data sets, examples and training materials) been able to deliver statistical training to staff in another partner organization. This was part of a wider "train the trainer" process which involved engagement of project staff in the delivery of statistics training, and review with the whole project team of "what works" in statistical training. CEPHaS statistics staff were to deliver statistical training to a group of PhD students and early career researchers in the UK in late 2020 but this was cancelled because of covid-19. However, the training group were involved in developing an online course, based on feedback from the statistics training review. This was delivered in July/August 2020 to the CEPHaS team as well as staff from University of Zambia, University of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (Zambia) and CIMMYT. We are aware of the importance of considering impacts in respect of gender and inclusion. We monitor participation in project meetings and training activities with respect to gender of participants, but also career stage, being aware that early career researchers may face particular challenges. At the time of reporting the CEPHaS project team comprises 49 individuals. Of these 20% are female (this is uniform across research staff and "other"). Of the 42 research staff on the project 25 (60%) are early career researchers. A senior female researcher in the project has responsibility for identifying issues that affect gender equality and access in the project. We have also introduced a mentoring scheme which we hope will help all project staff, particularly early career workers and women, to be supported in career development within the project. Female participation in project network meetings has improved in each of the three meetings held to date with a male: female ratio of 3.6:1 in the 2019 meeting. We have continued to monitor gender ratios in online project activities during the covid-19 pandemic. For example, 8 out of 33 participants (24%) in the onlines statistics training were female. In our engagement with stakeholders we want to ensure gender equality and inclusion. This can be difficult. For example, when outside organizations are invited to send a delegate to an event we do end up with poor gender balance. We intend in future to offer two places at such an event if at least one female delegate can be sent. In 2019 we were able to engage with the Zambian Women's Rural Assembly, and to discuss how women farmers address issues connected to water, and how they might be supported in on-farm experiments when looking for ways to improve production.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description How to embed and sustain project-initiated improvements in research capacity: good practice recommendations
Amount £120,885 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T024828/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2020 
End 05/2021
 
Description Towards transdisciplinary understanding of inherited soil surveys: an exploratory case study in Zambia
Amount £175,135 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T00410X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 05/2021
 
Description Translating GeoNutrition (TGN): Reducing mineral micronutrient deficiencies (MMNDs) in Zimbabwe
Amount £813,300 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T015667/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Title CEPHaStat collection of R functions for statistical analysis 
Description CEPHaStat is a collection of R functions for use in Conservation Agriculture research. It is currently under development, and the objective is to release it as an open R library. At present it includes some summary statistics tools including the octile skewness, Tukey fences and other statistics either not available in common R packages or embedded in graphical outputs. It also includes some specialist functions including geostatistical methods, mixed model fitting of water retention curve parameters and a function for maximum likelihood fitting of normal or log-normal distributions to censored data. CEPHaStat_2 was released in May 2020 for use in project training with some revisions and additional functions. Mr Chawezi Miti, University of Zambia, produced some new functions in 2020 for colleagues, and these are to be added to a release of CEPHaStat_3 by June 2021. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact CEPHaStat has been used by project staff. It has also been distributed and used by researchers at University of Nottingham, Addis Ababa University, Fauji Fertilizer Company (Pakistan), University of Zimbabwe and University of Zambia for use in projects on the prediction of soil properties for land-use assessment in Zambia, studies on nanoparticle impacts in soil, studies on geochemical determinants of home range in elephants, studies on micronutrient biomarker status at national scale in Ethiopia, studies on potentially harmful element concentrations in vegetables in Zimbabwe, and the analysis of experiments on biofortification of wheat with zinc in Pakistan. As from 2021 CEPHaStat functions are being embedded in an online tool which is being developed by British Geological Survey, University of Nottingham and other collaborators in the MAPS project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Micronutrient Action Policy Support, Investment INV-002855). This will allow stakeholders access to national-scale micronutrient data for the development and testing of interventions to address hidden hunger. It will also allow users to integrate their own data with other data on the platform. 
 
Title Project Procedure Manuals and Analytical Templates 
Description The project procedure Manuals (also referred to as Wiki Manuals) are cooperatively produced to capture experience in the use and establishment of particular research methods and technologies. In this project we are developing manuals particularly to cover field and laboratory soil physics methods and the establishment and operation of shallow geophysical arrays. The idea is that the manual will be part of the project legacy, facilitating the use of these methods after the project is ended both for project partners and others who wish to use the methods. Many of the manuals also come with Excel templates for data recording and preliminary data analysis. These are available for the following topics: Soil water retention characteristic measurement. Soil texture measurement. Measurement of Atterberg limits (basic soil mechanical properties). Measurement of leaf area index on experimental plots with a light extinction wand. Measurement of stomatal resistance on experimental crop plants. Penetration resistance measurement. Constant head permeability measurement. Tension infiltrometry measurement, a training video is also available with this manual and templates. Operation of soil field sensors. Field sampling protocol for soil carbon measurements. Field sampling protocol to collect intact soil cores for X-ray computerised tomography. A manual on soil sampling to support geophysical calibration has been produced and circulated within the project team. A draft manual covering the Chitedze site geophysics is in an advanced state of preparation (from early 2019) and manuals from the other sites are in development. This process has been slowed by the covid-19 pandemic, but manual development is built in to geophysics remote training, partially complete at the time of recording. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These project manuals will be made generally available in due course. At present the development of the geophysics manuals has helped to consolidate learning in the project. Manuals in place for field and laboratory soil measurements are being used as soil physics laboratory capacity is developed across the network. 
 
Title Statistical Checklist for Planning Experiments 
Description This document presents a checklist to be used when planning experiments. It is produced initially for the use of Working Groups of the CEPHaS project, but is also offered as a wider resource for capacity strengthening in conservation agriculture research. This checklist is not a substitute for a discussion with a statistical advisor prior to committing to a particular experimental design. Rather it is intended that it should help identify possible issues which a particular experiment might face, and to facilitate discussion with a statistician by ensuring that key issues have been thought about in advance. In the context of the CEPHaS project it is proposed that this checklist be completed and responses recorded in a separate document and sent to the co-leads of Working Group 4 (Murray Lark and Joseph Chimungu) along with any additional commentary as a basis for consultation and advice. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This checklist has been used in a project based in Ethiopia and Malawi, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to facilitate planning of experiments to assess impact of different agronomic biofortification practices on the micronutrient status of staple crops in those countries. 
URL http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/519477
 
Title Legacy data on soil physical properties in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi 
Description Partners in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have compiled a database, from multiple sources, which contains observations on a range of soil physical properties including compositional data and hydraulic properties, notably water content of the soil at different tensions. These are to be used for assessing and developing predictive models in the course of the project 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data are in use for the assessment and reparameterization of predictive models to generate values of hard-to-measure soil hydraulic properties from properties routinely measured in soil surveys. The data are also being used in the associated AHRC project (AH/T00410X/1. Towards transdisciplinary understanding of inherited soil surveys: an exploratory case study in Zambia) to assess the properties of soil classifications developed in Zambia over the last 100 years. 
 
Description Collaboration with CIMMYT 
Organisation International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT)
Country Mexico 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution CIMMYT initiated the Chitedze long-term conservation agriculture trial and we are collaborating with them in the analysis of past yield data from that experiment (from its inception in 2007). We are analysing the data with linear mixed models to give insight into (i) the overall message from the experiment about the resilience of maize yield under different agronomic systems and (ii) the implications of the variability of the experimental results for the design of future trials. CIMMYT and University of Zimbabwe collaborate on experiments at the Domboshava Training Centre, including the trial which has been instrumented under the CEPHaS project. The CEPHaS project is therefore adding value to an established trial, and benefits by being able to examine effects of CA practices on established plots. CEPHaS statistical staff have developed scripts for the analysis of repeated yield measurements on plots of this experiment. In 2020 some CIMMYT staff took part in training in statistical computation delivered by the CEPHaS statistical working group.
Collaborator Contribution CIMMYT have made yield data available (Chitedze trial) and are contributing to the discussion and interpretation of the analyses. Other regional data have been shared for further analyses to forward CEPHaS objectives and to contribute to the design and analysis of new CA trials in the region. CIMMYT's collaboration at the Domboshava Training Centre, allows CEPHaS to work on established CA trials. CIMMYT have been asked to contribute to the CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives series of short papers, and one is currently being edited for publication.
Impact The analysis of the Chitedze experiment has been completed and published in Experimental Agriculture (Lark et al, 2020. doi:10.1017/S0014479720000125). The analysis enhanced CIMMYT's understanding of their experiment in two ways. As the first longitudinal analysis of the entire trial data set it gave insight into key treatment effects and their interactions with seasonal differences. This is of relevance to the interpretation of the results and the advice to farmers which is based on it. In particular it was apparent that crop rotations have a larger impact on maize yield than does intercropping, and that El Nino seasons reduce this advantage. Second, power analyses based on the longitudinal model showed that the experiment is rather poorly powered, and that such trials should aim for simplification (numbers of treatments) and better replication. CIMMYT have indicated that they will take this on board, and have suggested that the CEPHaS team should contribute to discussion about the design of new long-term trials in the region. We are in the process of discussing how the CIMMYT collaboration in Zimbabwe could be strengthened. A field meeting for CEPHaS and CIMMYT staff was planned for Domboshava in March 2020 but had to be cancelled because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with Delta T Devices Ltd 
Organisation Delta T Devices Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Delta T devices are commercial partners in the project. The academic partners have participated in detailed discussions with Mr Daniel Caiger Smith from Delta T in the course of the project's first Network Meeting.
Collaborator Contribution Daniel Caiger Smith from Delta T attended the first project Network Meeting (costs of attendance are Delta T Device's in-kind contribution) and contributed to discussions, particularly to planning activities for the soil physics working group. He also visited the experimental site at University of Zambia farm and this facilitated planning equipment requirements for the site. In January/February 2019 Mr Tony Peloe from Delta T contributed to on-site training on the soil physics equipment and its installation, attended by project staff from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi and Rothamsted Research. In the course of 2020 Mr Steven Williams from Delta-T is now involved in technical support to the project. TP and SW have given, and continue to give, very considerable support to the project. They have attended monthly team meetings via Zoom, and given remote help to teams troubleshooting problems with sensors and loggers in the field. They have also set up WhatsApp groups which allow guidance to be given to teams when they encounter problems in the field. They have also helped with logger programmes. This has been very helpful in keeping the field measurements going during conditions of the pandemic.
Impact The outcome of this collaboration has been the identification of the best sets of sensors to be used for field measurement of soil properties in the course of the project (although not all equipment to be used is provided by Delta T Devices). In addition, the participation of Delta T staff in on-site training in soil physics has contributed to the quality of the training delivered.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS), Malawi 
Organisation Government of Malawi
Department Department of Agricultural Research Services
Country Malawi 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution DARS manages the long-term conservation agriculture trial at Chitedze experimental station, near Lilongwe, which is being used for soil physics, shallow geophysics and hydrogeology studies in Malawi. Instrumentation has been done in collaboration with DARS staff alongside LUANAR staff and UK partners, who have delivered training alongside the installation activities. DARS staff have therefore benefited from training delivered by CEPHaS. DARS is also collaborating with project working group 4 in the analysis of past yield data from the Chitedze trial. At the project's Board Meeting in July 2019 it was agreed that DARS be asked to nominate a board member to represent the department. The Director of DARS accepted this invitation and nominated Dr Moses Munthali, Principal Soil and Plant Nutrition Scientist for Chitedze Agricultural Research Station. Dr Munthali participated in his first board meeting in January 2019.
Collaborator Contribution DARS staff participated in instrumentation at the Chitedze site in 2018 and early 2019, including on-the-job training in shallow geophysics arrays and their establishment and the establishment of soil physics sensors and loggers in situ. They have continued to collaborate with LUANAR staff in the maintenance of the equipment post-establishment. The DARS project manager, Dr Ivy Ligowe, has collaborated with project working group 4 in the analysis of past yield data from Chitedze, including exploratory analysis and error-checking in the original data files, and the specification of treatment contrasts for investigation. She is a co-author on a paper describing this work (Lark et al 2020, in the publications associated with this grant). Dr Munthali and Dr Ligowe have contributed to two proposals made by the CEPHaS project for further funding. One of these (unsuccessful) was to the BBSRC/NERC sustainable enhancement of agriculture & aquaculture production translation call, and one (currently in progress) was for a Royal Society Newton Fund post-doctoral fellowship.
Impact In due course DARS will continue to collaborate in the interpretation, analysis and reporting of data from Chitedze. It is expected that ongoing collaboration in the analysis of yield data will also help with the future management of the trial.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre 
Organisation Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC), Zambia
Country Zambia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre is an NGO based in Zambia which undertakes both research and training aimed at improving sustainability of smallholder production in Zambia and Malawi. We have engaged with KATC in developing our ideas for the project.
Collaborator Contribution Daniel Kalala from KATC gave a talk on the centre's work during the network meeting, participated in the planning activities, particularly with respect to Working Group 6 (evaluation) and attended the inaugural meeting of the project board on which he represents KATC. Daniel Kalala wrote the first in the series CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives, published on the project website. These are described in the Engagement Activities section of the report.
Impact Daniel Kalala wrote the first in the series CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives, published on the project website. These are described in the Engagement Activities section of the report. The series aims to stimulate discussion about the role of conservation agriculture in adaptation of agriculture to climate change in the region.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Interactions with the Water Resources Management Authority, Zambia 
Organisation Water Resources Management Authority Zambia
Country Zambia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution It was necessary to obtain permission from Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) for some of the monitoring boreholes sunk during the project. Dr Kawawa Banda, co-lead of the CEPHaS Hydrogeology working group, took the opportunity to engage with WARMA about the project, and in 2018 made a presentation about the data that will be collected. This engagement has continued throughout the project
Collaborator Contribution WARMA have expressed interest in the project data, and discussions are ongoing about the possibility of CEPHaS monitoring stations becoming a long-term groundwater monitoring facility.
Impact Discussions about long-term plans for groundwater monitoring, and how CEPHaS installations could contribute to these. This is not a multi-disciplinary collaboration as such, but rather an engagement between the CEPHaS scientists and a key policy and regulatory organization in Zambia.
Start Year 2018
 
Title Lightning protector module for the BGS PRIME system 
Description The BGS PRIME system enables continuous monitoring of the near-surface - through the permanent deployment of sensors and measurement instrumentation, which is controlled remotely using telemetry. When deployed in areas that are subject to severe electrical storms, damage to the sensitive electronics within the system can result. BGS has therefore developed a new lightning protector module for the system, which can be retro-fitted to existing systems. The lightning protector module is an array of gas discharge tubes that divert current away from the PRIME system when a certain voltage is exceeded at the Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) electrodes. This limits the voltage that can reach the circuitry of the Prime to within a non-harmful level. Due to the number of ERT electrodes and the need to keep the ERT electrodes electrically separate, a commercial electrical surge protector was not suitable 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The new lightning protector module will allow the BGS PRIME system to be operated effectively in areas subject to intense electrical storms, and will reduce costs associated with system repair due to lightning strikes. 
 
Description Briefing Document Series for Distribution to Stakeholders and Download from the Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Project briefing documents have been produced regularly from the start of the project. There are now 11 in the series with two in preparation at the time of reporting, and plans for further titles.

Project briefing document one (February 2018) gave a general introduction to the CEPHaS project, its objectives, plans and the composition of the team.

Project briefing document two (June 2018) described the work undertaken to instrument the project experiment at Liempe farm near Lusaka. The document explained the broader context of the project, plans to replicate this instrumentation in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and outlined the scientific questions the work addresses and its potential impact.

Project briefing document three (November 2018) described the work undertaken in Zambia and Malawi to establish shallow geophysical arrays at the experimental sites to allow the monitoring of water in the rooting zone and below.

Project briefing document four (December 2018) described the work undertaken in Zambia and Zimbabwe to establish the hydrogeological observatories for quantifying CA impacts on groundwater recharge.

Project briefing document five (June 2019) described the work on capacity strengthening, explaining the role of the LSTM Centre for Capacity Research and the work being undertaken both to focus and to evaluate capacity strengthening objectives of the project.

Project briefing document six (October 2019) described the work of the statistics working group, covering the support given to project activities (e.g. in experimental design, data analysis and modelling) and the research strands undertaken (on evaluation of predictive functions for soil hydrological properties).

Project briefing document seven (February 2020) described the work of the farm systems working group, describing the key findings of a review of regional CA studies, and summarizing the main practices used in each country and evidence for impact on soil quality, crop yield and livelihoods.

Project briefing documents 8, 9 and 10 (April, March 2020) described the CEPHaS field experiments in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe respectively. Each document described the physical setting of the experiments, their design and layout, and the activities undertaken to monitor soil water and groundwater with soil field sensors, shallow geophysics and monitoring boreholes.

Project briefing document 11 (September 2020) was written by an early career researcher on the project from Malawi (Mr Innocent Sandram). It gives an overview of Conservation Agriculture, explaining the principles and practices and outlining the perceived advantages and disadvantages, as well as the knowledge gaps which the CEPHaS project is addressing.


At the time of reporting documents 12 and 13 are being prepared for publication. They are both written by early career researchers from University of Zambia, and will address, respectively, how CEPHaS engages with stakeholders, and whether conservation agriculture can be regarded as both an adaptation to climate change and a mechanism for mitigation.

The aim of these documents is to give project partners a mechanism for informing practitioners (extension workers, researchers), policy makers and other stakeholders (donor organizations, NGOs) about the project's goals and scope. Hard copies of the document are provided to partners to distribute (for example, booklets of all briefing documents have been shared at Network Meeting Stakeholder days, booklets were distributed at the University of Zimbabwe Research Day (August 2019) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources distributed briefing documents from their stand at an agricultural fair in the country in 2019. The briefing documents are also shared on publication with 27 stakeholder organizations. Finally, the documents are all advertised and linked from the front page of the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021
URL https://www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS/index.html
 
Description CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives document series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives series is a companion to the project briefing documents. It is a mechanism to reach out to stakeholders with whom we have some level of engagement, and to discover their perspectives on the place of conservation agriculture among the options available to farmers for adaptation to climate change in southern Africa. So far two Perspectives documents have been published on the project website (they are listed on the front page with links), two are about to be released and a fifth is being edited for publication. These have taken a common questionnaire format, in which we have asked:

1. What are the main ways in which you have seen smallholder farmers adapting to climate change in southern and central Africa in recent years?
2. In what sets of circumstances (biophysical, socio-economic etc) are conservation agriculture practices most likely to be beneficial to rural communities, and in what circumstances are they least likely to be useful?
3. What components of conservation agriculture systems are most problematic from the perspective of farmers?
4. What do you think are the main research questions that need to be addressed to support food security in sub-Saharan Africa under climate change?

We have approached immediate partners in the project (e.g. Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS), Malawi and the Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre, CIMMYT), but also other stakeholders (the NGO Foundations for Farming in Zimbabwe and the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute in Zambia). These have given us a range of perspectives. For example, DARS undertakes work to support the Government of Malawi's policy to promote CA. Foundations for Farming advocates for CA and offers training. In contrast, Kasisi ATC advocates organic farming interventions and is critical of aspects of CA. We are keen to give space to a range of views in what can sometimes be a polarized debate. The series also serves to keep the CEPHaS team aware of a range of perspectives regionally and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS/index.html
 
Description CEPHaS project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The CEPHaS project website provides information about the project, its goals, the experimental sites, the team members and general background to conservation agriculture. It also has a page with links to project publications. The CEPHaS briefing documents and CEPHaS Conservation Agriculture Perspectives documents can also be accessed from the site.

In the year ending 28/2/21 the website had 9,355 visitors, and 36,716 pages were viewed. CEPHaS briefing documents or perspectives documents were downloaded 1057 times, and the average number of downloads for each briefing document available throughout that reporting period was 96.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www2.bgs.ac.uk/CEPHaS/index.html
 
Description Production of the first Briefing Document on the project for distribution to stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A one page briefing document has been produced for the project and sent to all partners for circulation to stakeholders. This is intended (as described in the original project proposal) to be a regular publication to disseminate information about the project to a wide audience, but aimed primarily at policy makers and the agricultural extension sector. The first briefing in this series gives an overview of the project, an introduction to the team, and account of the project's objectives and activities, and provides contact details for country leads in Africa and the project PI. Please note that this briefing document has just been sent to all partners, with paper copies dispatched to country leads in Africa. A meaningful estimate of the numbers of people reached cannot be provided yet. All partners have been asked to record to whom they send copies. Copies have also been sent to all members of the project advisory board, the stakeholder panel and the scientific panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Stakeholder Engagement Day, Third Project Network Meeting, Lusaka, July 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Thursday 11th July 2019 was a Project Stakeholder Engagement day, divided between the University of Zambia campus and the University farm. The representatives attending were divided between NGOs (4), private sector (2), public sector (6) and one consultant (with FAO) and a representative of the Zambian Women's Rural Assembly.

Stakeholders were introduced to the project, and were engaged in discussion about key questions relating to the role of CA. Two attendees also gave presentations, covering the role of the Zambian Meteorological Department in agriculture, and the place of CA in the research agenda at ZARI.

During open discussion issues raised were how the private sector could be engaged in the promotion of conservation agriculture, the particular concerns of women with food security for families and how farmers can be effectively engaged with research. The group was then taken to the UNZA Soil Physics laboratory to hear from Mr Gideon Musukwa about the new equipment installed by CEPHaS and to see it in place. This was an opportunity to discuss the significance of soil water properties with stakeholders.

After lunch EP gave a short introduction to the CEPHaS experiment at the UNZA farm. The group was then transported there. They were shown a monitoring borehole, the weather station and PRIME system for geophysical monitoring of the site, and the arrays of soil water sensors located in the plots. Again, this provided an opportunity for wider discussion of the experiment, and for stakeholders to familiarize themselves with what the project is doing.

All stakeholders were invited to complete a questionnaire about the day, and all provided a return. All participants rated the relevance of the CEPHaS agenda as "Very Good" or "Excellent". There was particular interest in the following issues:

It was suggested that the project might address organic farming systems, and organic carbon content of the soil in relation to crop yield.
The question was also raised of how indigenous knowledge of farmers might be investigated.
It was suggested that estimates of the rate of water loss from conventional farming systems might encourage adoption of CA.
Interest was expressed in wider aspects of soil water management.
The question was also raised of the spatial scale at which groundwater impacts of CA would be manifested, and the difficulty of monitoring effects of contrasting land uses
Interest was expressed in approaches to monitoring soil water, the significance of groundwater variations and possible links to agriculture, the use of resistivity measurements and possible impacts of CA on water retention by soil.

Further feedback was given on the design of future events. We agreed to maintain email contact with participants (all agreed in writing to necessary data sharing), and a follow-up document summarizing the day, with photographs, was circulated to all participants.

As with the 2018 Malawi stakeholder event, a key impact was encouraging stakeholders, primarily interested in agriculture, to think about water and food security as related issues, and to reflect on possible tradeoffs between crop resilience and groundwater recharge under different systems of land use.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Stakeholder workshop at the second project network meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Wednesday 12th July was set aside in the agenda of the second Network Meeting as a stakeholder workshop. Working groups spent time in the previous two days preparing their contribution to the workshop (see below).

Participants are listed below.

1. Kefasi Kamoyo Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. Department of Land Resources
2. Patrick Mlomba Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. Department of Water Resources
3. Mahara Nyirende Development Fund of Norway
4. Zwide Jere Total Land Care (NGO).
5. Cyprian Mwale DARS (Public sector research).
6. Benjamin Chisame DARS (Public sector research).
7. Hendrex Kazembe-Phiri DARS (Public sector research).

Patson Nalivata (LUANAR) welcomed all to the meeting and there were introductions. Murray Lark (BGS-UoN) then gave an outline of the CEPHaS project and its objectives.

Mr Kefasi Kamoyo (Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development) described the status of conservation agriculture in Malawi with respect to drivers, adoption, barriers, the evidence base and research gaps. This gave rise to considerable discussion. Dr Kazembe-Phiri (DARS) then described some research on mechanization in conservation agriculture, particularly focussed on the ergonomic challenges and relative efficiency of "jab-planters".

The WGs then each presented a small number of slides, explaining their scope and plans to the stakeholders, and then raising three or so questions for discussion where the group particularly wanted to know the stakeholder perspective. This led to a lively series of discussions and questions, and elucidated a number of issues, including variations between countries in the definition of "conservation agriculture" for policy purposes. A key outcome of the activity, see next section, was that every participant stated that the question of how conservation agriculture might impact groundwater recharge was an important one, and one that they had not given previous consideration. The potential for the project to encourage more integrated thinking about landuse decisions and water resources was highlighted.

At the end of the session all stakeholders completed a questionnaire. We note that all stakeholders attending this meeting were male, an issue to address at future meetings. We have also noted that farmers should be included among the stakeholders in future. We shall also aim for distinctive groups of policy makers and extension workers. Two stakeholders were from government and one from an NGO, one from an international donor and three from a public sector research organization.

We note that six out of seven stakeholders rated the relevance of CEPHaS's questions as "very good" or "excellent". In our log-frame indicators for Goals 7 and 8 required 75% response at this level from policy makers and extension workers respectively. Our group is too small for such granularity, but this result is satisfactory.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018