ACIAR-SDIP project is making a difference to farmers' livelihoods
The Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) is an Australian Government statutory authority within the Foreign Affairs portfolio and is Australia’s specialist international agricultural research for development (R4D) agency. ACIAR invests in applied research to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability and food system resilience in developing countries.
ACIAR is the agriculture partner for the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP), which is an Australian Government development strategy to increase water, food and energy security in South Asia to facilitate economic growth and improve livelihoods, targeting the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and girls.
ACIAR contributes to SDIP through the SRFSI – Sustainable & Resilient Farming Systems Intensification project. SRFSI is a collaboration between over twenty partners across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Australia with The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) leading the initiative. SRFSI addresses the need for more productive and sustainable technologies that are resilient and profitable for famers with small landholdings. The SRFSI project sites are in border areas between India, Bangladesh and Nepal, with similar agro-ecologies. The aim is to create knowledge exchanges and foster regional cooperation.
The SRFSI project is testing Conservation Agriculture based System Intensification (CASI) technologies which include minimising soil disturbance during planting, mulching and crop rotation. The project has tested the following technologies for adoption: improved varieties of rice and wheat, crop diversification (maize, lentils, oilseeds and leafy vegetables); crop and soil management strategies (zero and strip till); laser land levelling relay and intercropping; stubble/residue retention; improved water management; better bet agronomy (including weed and nutrient management); and small-scale mechanisation (e.g. planting techniques). It is working alongside national government programs to scale out the technologies.
The project has established Innovation Platforms (IPs) which are multi-stakeholder groups involved in the agricultural value chain. Farmer clubs, self-help groups and cooperatives in communities operate as agricultural services providers in areas which have very limited presence of medium to large agribusiness companies. The project has focused on women farmer participation often overlooked by both, the public and private sector. At least thirty percent women have been involved in all training, capacity building and micro-enterprise activity.
High Commissioner Ms Harinder Sidhu visited the field sites of the project located in Cooch Behar, West Bengal on 9-10 November 2017. Through the two-day visit, she interacted with farmers including women, who have adopted conservation farming technologies and had a lively interaction over their choices, lives and health. The farmer clubs which have brought together groups of farmers, trained them, made agriculture services available and are promoting the adoption of these technologies had separate discussions with her. She met agricultural officers from Cooch Behar and neighbouring districts and sought their support in scaling out these technologies which have a positive environmental effect and improve livelihoods of farmers.