In the Eastern, North Central and East Central Regions of Burkina Faso, agriculture of sorghum, millet and cowpeas and animal husbandry are the foundation of the rural livelihoods. Significant decline in soil fertility and productivity in recent years have been caused by: increased population pressure on the land, reduction or elimination of the fallowing practices traditionally used to maintain soil fertility, and climate change. This has caused increases of food and nutrition insecurity of the most vulnerable rural households. Research has increasingly demonstrated the effectiveness of agroecological intensification (AEI) techniques to improve soil fertility, food production, and diversify farming and livestock systems for better food security. In 2012, the NGO “Groundswell International” together with the NGO “Association Nourrir Sans D truire” (ANSD), the farmer organization “Association Minim S ngP nga” (AMSP) and the National Institute of Environmental and Agricultural Research (INERA) of Burkina Faso contributed to AEI in these regions of Burkina through a three-year project supported by the McKnight Foundation of “Farmer-led agroecological intensification”. This research initiative, now completed, examined research questions on how farmers could test adopt and spread AEI techniques. As a result, 4,000 farm households in four communes across two buffer agro-climatic zones undertook on-farm trials, farmer field schools, trained volunteer farmer experimenters, promoted farmer-to-farmer training, increased access to improved seed, established village AEI committees and strengthening the organizational capacity of farmers’ associations. Data on the agronomic effects collected to date, including from farmers themselves, show promising results. There is an urgent need to adapt and continue spreading proven AEI techniques to meet the needs of heterogeneous small-holder farm households in the buffer agro-climate zones I and II. An initial review of the three-year project supported by the McKnight Foundation indicates serious gaps in knowledge about how to promote AEI to more effectively reduce food and nutrition insecurity of diverse social categories, including women and more vulnerable households. Key research questions to be addressed include how to effectively integrate equity/women’s empowerment, nutrition, and small-scale livestock into the current AEI approach. Over three years, Groundswell International and its existing partners of AMSP, ANSD, and INERA will undertake action research in 16 pilot villages to address these knowledge gaps, while continuing to spread already proven AEI techniques, adapting them to meet needs of specific groups within 80 villages already reached in Phase 1. These are fully consistent with CCRP strategies, but shift to emphasize equity, inclusiveness, nutrition and strengthening of social capital, to complement existing strategies to strengthen productivity/scaling.
Determine how to effectively integrate equity/women’s empowerment, nutrition, and small-scale livestock into the current AEI approach of ANSD and AMSP, while continuing to adapt and scale out proven AEI technologies.
Support participatory adaptation with communities of proven AEI technologies to increase rate of spread to reach a “critical mass of adoption” in villages already reached.
Identify methods and strategies to integrate and strengthen the synergy of the equity, women’s empowerment, nutrition and livestock dimensions of existing AEI work, contributing to improved and lasting benefits for poorer and more vulnerable farm households.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Expected outputs. Phase 2 is expected to generate new knowledge and context-specific documentation that will consolidate and build the evidence base on the effects of AEI approaches on:
Initial establishment an initial Farmer Researcher Network (FRN) across the communes reached;
A resource guide for fostering practical but intensive learning by Farmer Innovators enabling them to develop a practical long term vision of how to transform their own farming system, by apply a systems approach to AEI, including adapting key AEI principles, processes and innovations to their own farms;
Long term plans developed by each Farmer Innovator on how to apply AEI principles progressively on their entire farm system to achieve optimum benefits (productivity, sustainability and resilience); and
New priority options and opportunities, as perceived by different categories of farmers, for taking forward the AEI process to optimize potential benefits, with a particular focus on equity, women’s empowerment in agriculture, and dietary diversity.
Expected Outcomes. As these knowledge-related outputs are generated within the 80 villages and across 4 communes, they will contribute to the following outcomes in Phase 2:
Increased rates of adoption of appropriate AEI processes, principles and related innovations, that address priority issues determined with and by communities, across different categories of farm households (including for poorer, more vulnerable households).
Increased food production and income by women farmers.
Improved dietary diversity by members of adopting households.
Consolidation of communication and collaboration for AEI between a strengthened, locally adapted “Farmers Research Network” and research institutions, and NGO technical extension staff.
Strengthened organizational capacities of extension staff and community based farmer groups/ and emerging Farmer Research Networks to promote a systems approach to AEI that optimizes potential benefits, sustainability, resilience, and dietary diversity.