Our research helped farmers to optimize climate-resilient and integrated crop-livestock systems to sustainably intensify production in fragile dry areas.
ICARDA helps rural communities in climate-vulnerable regions strengthen their resilience and maintain livelihoods against a backdrop of rising temperatures and increasing water scarcity. Integrated crop-livestock systems help to cope with shifting climate scenarios, cushioning each sector from external pressure and optimizing economic, social, and environmental conditions in resource-poor regions.
Activities last year designed to optimize crop-livestock production systems included the promotion of improved agronomic practices to reduce yield gaps in rainfed systems – such as conservation agriculture, efforts to improve community-based livestock breeding, and optimized solutions that utilize plant biomass to restore soil health and provide a sustainable source of feed for livestock.
SELECTED ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES
Strengthening the resilience of croplivestock farmers in Sudan
A partnership with Sudan's Agricultural Research Council (ARC) designed and implemented integrated crop-rangeland-livestock interventions in five villages in North Kordofan. The initiative combined water harvesting, supplemental irrigation, animal health, and dairy processing to strengthen the resilience of farmers against rising temperatures and drought.
Ponds constructed around cropping areas provided a critical source of water for livestock and supplemental irrigation, which brought a three- to four-fold yield increase for sesame, pearl millet, sorghum, and other dual-purpose crops such as cowpea. Harvested water was also used to irrigate multipurpose fodder trees such as gum arabic, moringa, and different types of local acacia and forage plantations. Combined with a statewide seed collection campaign, these efforts helped farmers increase their feed stocks during the dry season.
Additional measures included the provision of veterinary services and ultrasound facilities so that farmers could check their ewes and does for uterine disorders and pregnancy, and improved dairy processing techniques and technologies to improve pasteurization, support diversification, enhance the flavor and consistency of dairy products, and improve hygiene.
Promoting conservation agriculture
Conservation agriculture combines minimum tillage, improved crop varieties, intercropping, and the retention of crop residue to help mitigate soil nutrient depletion, reverse land degradation, and increase yields. The practice brings optimal production at the minimum cost. Despite its potential, the wider application of conservation agriculture in mixed farming systems is often held back because farmers rely on crop residues to feed their livestock during the long summer feed gap.
ICARDA is working with the National Agricultural Research Institute of Tunisia (INRAT) to change this. Last year, it initiated modeling exercises to identify suitable areas where conservation agriculture could be adopted to restore soil health. Three maps, reflecting cereal distribution, slopes, and soil organic matter, were combined.
The resulting map showed that approximately 260,000 hectares of land sown to cereals is favorable for the adoption of conservation agriculture, offering a strategic opportunity to restore soil health and protect the country's vulnerable biophysical environment. To account for the competition between livestock and residue retention, ICARDA and INRAT have been working for the last four years on fine-tuning improved integrated croplivestock systems under conservation agriculture.