Jo Cadilhon represented the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the meeting and helped facilitate the process. He reports on the outcomes.
Humidtropics aims to help poor farm families, particularly those led by women, in tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas, to boost their income from integrated agricultural systems’ intensification while preserving their land for future generations.
ILRI is responsible for the situational analysis component of the whole research program. This meeting in northwest Vietnam was the start of an integrative process to deliver this research output with the help of other CGIAR centres and national partners.
The situational analysis is meant to paint a broad picture of the agricultural system in the action site where we will work. This short exercise, which should not last more than five months, involves gathering and analysing already available data and complementing this with key informant interviews in the field. Some of the questions we want to answer through the situational analysis are:
- System overview. What is the current situation in terms of rural development (incomes, poverty, nutrition)? What are the legal frameworks, social and cultural institutions? What is the current situation in terms of the environment and natural resources management?
- Agricultural production systems. What are the main agricultural production systems? For example, I encountered two radically different production systems when traveling through the mountains of northwest Vietnam. One was a mix of upland maize and rice with irrigated rice terraces, farmhouse gardens of banana, fruit trees, vegetables and cassava, water buffalo, one traditional-breed sow with its piglets, and a few chicken (see picture right). The second (picture below) was much more commercial and integrated tea, cassava and pineapple with a tree cover to protect the slope from erosion. This section of the situational analysis will go deeper in characterizing production systems like the ones defined above.
What are the main cropping practices? What are the current yields and their past and future trends? Where are the major crops and livestock located? What are the interactions between crops, trees, livestock, labour and the environment? Is agriculture still a major part of farmers’ livelihoods or is off-farm work becoming more prevalent? What are the roles of women and youth in the agricultural production systems?
- Markets and institutions. This section of the situational analysis will focus on the products investigated by the previous section to determine the markets available for them and the institutions that facilitate or hinder their production and marketing. What is the current and potential market demand and structure? What are prices like along the value chain from input suppliers through farmers, processors and traders to consumers? What are the forms of collective action (cooperatives, groups, associations, supply contracts) between producers and other actors of the value chains to help link farmers to markets? I was particularly impressed when I encountered this red truck in the small rural town of Muong Khuong, in northwest Vietnam. It is a truck taxi service company, which farmers or traders can call on to transport their wares to the market in the big city of Lao Cai. This type of useful service allows smallholder farmers to send their products to markets and receive some income.
- Natural resources and the environment. This part will describe the key trends and issues faced by Humidtropics’ ecosystem of the action site: Deforestation, soil degradation, water quality and availability, biodiversity, etc. In particular, we will try to find the innovative and traditional practices being used to protect current natural resources and the environment. For example, out of the two cropping systems described above, what are their impact on deforestation, soil degradation, water quality and biodiversity? The answer might not be as straightforward as one may think.
- Recent and existing research-for-development interventions and players. This last section of the situational analysis will review the current development programs already in place in the action area: Who has been doing what? What are the main success stories and past failures? Who are active development partners in the action site? What data bases are available to allow further analysis?
But what is all this information going to give us? By also determining the main opportunities and constraints faced by the agricultural and livestock system for each one of these five topics, we expect to generate a list of priority interventions or pilot research trials that may improve the current systems.
The results of the situational analysis will be reviewed, validated and prioritized by a research-for-development platform composed of various key actors from academia, but also from government, NGOs, farmers’ organizations, the women and youth unions, and the private sector. They will tell researchers which interventions or field trials we should be focusing on in the next stage of the research program where we will assess the costs and benefits of these innovations for farmers and their value chains.
Results from this situational analysis in Northwest Vietnam are expected by early 2014. The same process will be launched this year in Western Kenya and Nicaragua. Many more will follow as the research program starts its activities in other action sites across the humid tropics.
Story by Jo Cadilhon, ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program