Excellence in Agronomy – CWANA Kick-off meeting
CGIAR's Science Team for the Excellence in Agronomy (EiA) Initiative in Central, West Asia, and North Africa (CWANA) recently held a kickoff meeting to introduce the Initiative to critical stakeholders in the region.
Smallholder farming represents over 80% of the world’s farms, mostly located in the Global South, and supplies 50% of global food. Yet such farmers typically achieve low and variable yields and income, due to a combination of challenges related to climate change, population growth and ill-planned land use. In CWANA, water scarcity, declining soil health, and land degradation are the prime reasons for low yields, resulting in food and nutrition insecurity, inequitable livelihoods and a spiraling soil infertility.
"Climate change challenges: new plant diseases, extreme temperatures, water scarcity – all increase pressure on farmer's livelihoods. CGIAR's new global portfolio of initiatives, including the EiA Initiative, are driven by their needs and market demands" - Aly Abousabaa, CGIAR Regional Director, CWANA, and Director-General ICARDA
CGIAR’s research on better agronomic practices help inform smallholder farmers on critical agronomic decisions regarding crop choice, planting calendars, and pest, disease, weed, soil fertility and water management, but held back by limited connection to stakeholder demand, often based on outdated approaches, and uptake of new approaches hampered by social, economic and institutional constraints.
“Presently there are 130 agronomists across the CGIAR working in 140+ time-bound projects. There is a need for delivering agronomic gains at scale for smallholder farmers. EiA aspires to provide data-driven solutions to resolve yield limiting factors by identifying, diagnosing and resolving in cooperation with and in response to demand from private and public sectors.”
Vinay Nangia – EiA CWANA Regional Lead and ICARDA Research Leader – Soil, Water and Agronomy
The workshop introduced how the EiA Initiative helps smallholder farmers access big data analytics, new sensing technologies, geospatial decision tools and farming systems research to better understand the impact of their activities, and improve their farming approaches. As one of 23 Initiatives CGIAR’s new global Portfolio, the Initiative also brings to the table global expertise, tools and analytics from the worldwide agronomy community to serve the CWANA region.
"Due to climate change, the farmers now have no other option than using direct seed placement which is part of conservation agriculture this system will provide more profit to the farmers and the region will become more food secure"
Daouidi Jalil - Moroccan farmers’ association representative
The meeting brought collaborating stakeholders from Egypt and Morocco to actively participate in the discussion session and share their expertise as well as develop demand-driven goals and solutions in the scalable digital agronomy space for solving targeted regional problems.
"I am sure if we all the organizations started using smart irrigation and digital farming, this we will make a huge impact on the long term especially in managing water resources," said Emad Mahmoud, Head of the Central Development of water resources and uses, Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Egypt.
Important subjects covered were delivery of quality monitoring data, early warning and decision support systems, improved services and advisories include for remote farmers, and planning together for, better forecasting and mitigating risks of crop failure.
"The Egypt case of EiA Initiative was structured under the digital augmentation of smallholder farmers in Egypt...we've been working on a mobile application for farmers to receive advisory, it was also able to gather some key field data," - Ajit Govind, ICARDA's climatologist, and EiA Egypt use case lead.
Participants were invited to actively participate in the discussion session to share country research agendas, and burning issues and strategies countries are working towards that involve the use of scalable digital agronomy. The Initiative also encompasses framework to help CGIAR and partners unlock funding to help scale research and development in the region.
"3 concepts link our approach: awareness-raising among people we work with, assisting Egyptian returnees who were mostly farmers, and responding to displacement due to climate change" – ICARDA partner Laure Grazi Liaison Officer IOM Egypt
All CGIAR Centers are currently engaged in the One CGIAR reform process to achieve better impact through more strategically integrated research, unified governance, an integrated structure, and new research modalities across Centers. This provides an opportunity for a fresh strategy toshape a stronger, more relevant science agenda for today’s dynamic world. It integrates CGIAR’s capabilities, knowledge, assets, people, and global presence for a new era of interconnected and partnership-driven research toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it will operate as a cohesive organization with a single mission, seamlessly leveraging all of our capabilities and assets to deliver real benefits to people and our planet.