Three weeks ago, the New Delhi office of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted a meeting to review the progress of farmer-led dairy feeding trials conducted within a multi-centre ‘Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia’ (CSISA). Various CSISA partners from Bangladesh, India and Nepal gathered at the S&B East Inn, in New Delhi, 4–5 Jul 2012.
This review meeting reflected on progress made and challenges faced by the first phase of CSISA, which would be used to kickstart plans for the second phase of this initiative. The meeting covered five topics: dairy feeding experiments (with farmer feedback), training of farmers, monitoring and evaluation, up-scaling and out-scaling of ongoing training and experimental activities, and future strategies.
A total of 22 participants from five organizations and four sites—the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), in Haryana; Patna Veterinary College and Self Help Group, in Bihar; Forward Nepal, a non-governmental organzation in Nepal; the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI); and CARE International in Bangladesh—participated in the review meeting. The group included veterinary scientists, agricultural economists, social scientists and developmental experts. ILRI scientists Arindam Samaddar and Nils Teufel facilitated the two-day meeting, while Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, head of ILRI Asia, chaired the training session.
The participants shared lessons learned during CSISA’s first phase, exchanging views on topics such as managing feeding trial experiments, and discussed strategies for increasing the impacts of CSISA on the ground. Each site had its own unique understanding of how to go about and manage its activities. While one group might report positive experiences in engaging self-help groups, for example, other groups would find cooperatives or other groups to be equally effective. These discussions underlined the importance of site-specific strategies when planning trials and demonstrations as well as work to up- and out-scale the initiative’s beneficial impacts.
Every partner presented results showing that CSISA had led to better yields and quality of milk. The group agreed, however, that the initial plan to involve the poorest farmers did not work, and that they should begin CSISA’s second phase by working with relatively well-off farmers, who, it was hoped, would demonstrate the benefits of adopting the interventions recommended by CSISA and in this way – attract the poorest farmers to follow suit. Each site is developing a report of its CSISA work, which will be released by the end of 2012.
The second phase of CSISA will begin in August 2012. The role of each partner in this next phase was outlined at the review meeting. A lot of time was spent discussing how to scale adoption of CSISA interventions up and out. Staff from each site presented a model for achieving this. The group discussed more efficient ways to conduct trainings to reach more farmers and better ways to measure the impacts of the initiative. They looked, for example, at ways to arrange trials and demonstrations that would attract and engage the most farmers. Micro-level experimental trials with farmers will serve as a basis for expanding these activities on a larger scale. For CSISA II, the key goal (and challenge) is to do just that: to use the lessons learned so far to help smallholder farmers across South Asia achieve even greater benefits from the initiative.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is a large-scale project that applies science and technologies to accelerate cereal production growth in South Asia’s most important grain baskets. CSISA works in partnerships in 9 intensive cereal-production ‘hubs’ in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. In India, the two teams focus on plant breeding (crop-residue utilization and dual-purpose crop breeding) and feeding systems (crop-livestock interactions and irrigated feeding systems).
Read more about CSISA at http://www.ilri.org/csisa