6 years in the making – site-specific agriculture in fruits lifts off!
Today was a big day for DAPA. After 6 years of insistence, we have secured the funding for a large project on developing site specific agriculture based on farmers experiences (SSAFE) for fruits in Colombia. The project is funded and co-lead by ASOHOFRUCOL, the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Growers in Colombia, which represents an impressive 600,000 smallholder growers. Also involved are CORPOICA, the national agricultural research program, the Secretaries of the Fruit Chains, and, well, thousands of farmers.
What is SSAFE I hear you ask….
Our Site Specific Agriculture based on Farmer Experiences (SSAFE) manifesto
The basic premises we work from are that: (a) as the conditions under which farmers operate are highly heterogeneous and farmers are always trying out something new, every time a farmer plants and harvests a crop it is an experiment, and (b) if it were possible to compile the information on what the farmer did and characterize the conditions of a large number of these experiments it would be possible to deduce optimum practices for specific conditions. In other words, collective knowledge is far more valuable than individual knowledge.
This approach is actually as old as agriculture itself with farmers constantly experimenting, observing and innovating: what is new is the power of modern information technology to exploit this approach to the full. It is now feasible to bring together multiple experiences, and through network effects, obtain vastly more valuable knowledge than that gleaned from a limited number of cases.
Today, this approach is feasible due to three major factors:
- Existence of “glocal” datasets on environment and socio-economies – these are global in extent, and local in relevance which can characterize any on-farm experiment that takes place
- Capture and delivery mechanisms for information through ICTs – mobile phones, internet
- An organizing world – revolution in rural organizations around supply chains, e.g. farmer organisations
What is the project about?
First of all, check out the presentation we used to outline the project :
In synthesis, we’ll work on four fruit crops to start with; citrus, mango, avocado and plantain. We’ll go out, get farmers to engage with the project and start sharing their experiences. We’ll analyse the data we get from the farms, and start identifying patterns of what works, what doesn’t, where and when. That can then feed back into farmer workshops, where they share their knowledge and experiences, and we support the discussion by contextualising it, and providing scientific analyses of the experiments that they are continuously making.
What do we want to achieve?
No less a revolution in fruit production in the country. We want to increase production on farm. We want to support an expansion in the area of the crops nationally. And we want to put in place a system that is sustainable and walks on its own two feet after the three years of the project. When we achieve this, thousands of smallholder farmers will have greater income and enhanced wellbeing. With a bit of luck they’ll be eating more of these delicious fruits too!
At CIAT we’ll learn from the process on developing such a system, develop new methodologies, and use the project as the foundation to then transfer to other crops and other regions. This is an area of research with potentially massive development implications. We’ll document it.
What comes next?
Well, it’ll take us a month or two to get all the papers in order, but we’ll start immediately to prepare for an ambitious and fascinating project, and through this blog you’ll hear about our progress!