Scaling out sustainable farming practices

January 15, 2019
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
Photo by ICARDA
Photo by ICARDA

What does it take to accelerate adoption of livestock integration in Conservation Agriculture among rural farming communities?

Scaling out the concept and practices of Conservation Agriculture among rural farming communities remains a challenge around the planet. This particularly is the case in developing countries, including Tunisia, where sustainable farming practices have been piloted by ICARDA and CIMMYT with significant impact and success for the farmers. The practices enable smallholders to integrate livestock production into farming practices in ways that reduce water consumption, protect the soil, diversify crops, gain more yield, and eventually make them more resilient to effects of climate change.

So, what does it take to get more farmers on board and scale out these best practices? And how can the agricultural expertise at national levels help create awareness among rural farmers who would otherwise intensify production at the cost of natural resources and the condition of their land?

These were among the challenges presented to 22 field and extension technicians – seven women and 15 men – from Bolivia, Algeria and Tunisia, who were gathered by ICARDA and CIMMYT in late 2018 for a workshop in Hammamet in northeast Tunisia.

Contextualized practices

The IFAD-funded Crop Livestock Conservation Agriculture (CLCA) project runs from 2018-2021 and focuses in its second phase on scaling of successfully tested CLCA farming systems. This is reflected in its project component: “Accelerate adoption through the development of delivery systems/participatory farmer-led extension systems and inform the development of contextually relevant CLCA technologies and practices”.

In order to put all major project partners on the same track, a three-day training workshop on “scaling for sustainable crop livestock production” was organized. The 22 participants from the current CLCA project countries - Tunisia, Algeria and Bolivia - work in national agricultural research institutes and international CGIAR centers. The workshop aimed at equipping participants with new knowledge and tangible tools to scaling approaches and how to develop a scaling implementation strategy.

The concept of scaling is still new to most of our national partners and we therefore start out with laying the very foundation for a common understanding of the terminology and definition of scaling being a process towards sustainable change at scale,” tells Udo Ruediger, Agricultural Innovation Specialist with ICARDA, backed by his CIMMYT counterpart and scaling expert, Lennart Woltering:

“Although reaching the numbers is important, the scaling approach goes beyond what can be done within a project context and aims for sustainability and system change that has an impact beyond the project boundaries.”

Sharing experiences from the field

The development of tangible tools is part of the IFAD-funded CLCA project and intended to help national partners and farmers in best practices for scaling. The project will now look at how to better share lessons learned through evidence-based recommendations for farmers. It will also formulate policy briefs for decision makers, and prepare CLCA guidelines to innovation systems, including extension and advisory services.

The visiting extension and field technicians welcome the approach to unlock the potential for integration of Crop Livestock Conservation Agriculture. They explain how they see technical innovations for small scale farmers being more likely to succeed when “they are easy to handle, improve income, show impact in a short time, reduce labor, require small investment and are clearly linked to the knowledge and reality of the farmers”.

New tools to scale innovations

During the ICARDA-facilitated scaling workshop in Tunisia, participants went beyond the well-known technical attributes to explore new and relevant non-technological innovations that determine the successful scaling of any innovation. The so-called “scaling ingredients” are at the heart of the Scaling Scan tool developed by CIMMYT and the PPPlab as a practical tool to determine the potential to scale and includes following 10 areas of focus: 

  • Technology/Practice - An effective and efficient solution for the issue at stake
  • Awareness and Demand - A wish and readiness or the user to use the solution
  • Business Cases - Attractive financial/economic propositions for users and other actors to respond to the demand
  • Value Chain - Effective links between actors to pursue their business cases
  • Finance - Effective financing options for users and other value chain actors
  • Knowledge and Skills - Capacities at individual and institutional level to use, adapt and promote the innovation
  • Collaboration - Strategic collaboration within and beyond the sector to scale the innovation
  • Evidence and learning - Evidence and facts underpin and help gain support for the scaling ambition
  • Leadership and Management – Effective coordination and navigation of the scaling process
  • Public Sector Governance – Government support to reach the scaling ambition

Participants identified the weakest “scaling ingredients” which need special attention. After further analysis they developed activities to address and overcome these challenges. With these tools and knowledge in their bag, participants returned to their respective home countries to further develop a sound scaling strategy enabling the CLCA-2 project to not only reach the ambitious outcome of “2,100 farmers having adopted CLCA farming systems”, but to do so in a sustainable way beyond the project.

The training took place from 20 to 22 November 2018 in Hammamet, Tunisia and was co-organized by ICARDA, CIMMYT, IRESA and IFAD.

Udo Ruediger is an agricultural innovation specialist with ICARDA working with Sustainable Intensification and Resilient Production Systems: [email protected]
Lennart Woltering is a scaling expert with