A Field Report from Shamba village, Ward 19, Insinza District, Zimbabwe
The Limpopo Basin Development Challenge
seeks to promote integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk. Toward this goal, ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) is leading the Farm Systems and Risk Management (L3) project
, which seeks to define the interplay between market access, crop and livestock technologies, and investment risks in water- and market-scarce environments. The goal of L3 is to help farming families enhance food security and incomes through more efficient water use.
L3’s main entry point for accomplishing its goal is innovation platforms (IP). Innovation platforms are designed to bring together value chain actors: input suppliers, farmers, traders, processors, and others, in a shared forum to explore their challenges and opportunities. This multi-stakeholder engagement is critical to designing site-specific solutions that align production and market requirements with food and cash crop production, dry season feed and animal health in the face of poor market performance.
The L3 team recently met with stakeholders (including farmers, NGOs, NARS, Rural Development Councils and private sector representatives) to establish an IP in Insiza, Zimbabwe. The two-day meeting attracted over 55 farmers, nearly half of whom were women. In his opening remarks, the Ward Councilor acknowledged that local farmers face difficulty in maintaining adequate levels of livestock productivity.
The objectives of the meeting included:
- Sharing knowledge on crop-livestock production and marketing systems, challenges and opportunities
- Assessing activities and processes at output markets in the study area
- Assessing potential strategies, which can be used to improve crop and livestock production and marketing systems in the study area
Establishing IPs in Insiza was done over two days. Day one focused mainly on diagnosing the current situation. Once the scene had been set, day 2 focused on what can be done within the IP to improve the situation.
Community members learned how an IP was different from a ‘committee’ as the stakeholders in an IP are not fixed at any given time. Different stakeholders can be involved at different times, depending upon the issues to be discussed. The challenge being addressed largely rests on defining who should be involved. While no one should be excluded, not everyone should be involved at the same time. The IP does have a core group typically including locally relevant stakeholders such as Rural Development Councils, local leaders and community based organizations.
The fundamental processes of an IP involve members identifying challenges and opportunities; reporting on these; generating new knowledge through feedback; monitoring and evaluating outcomes; and mapping the way forward. During the Insiza IP workshop a list of challenges and opportunities with regards to crops-livestock was established and prioritized by the stakeholders.
The top three challenges related to crop production were high input costs, poor market accessibility and poor soil management; for livestock the challenges were poor breeds, feed shortages and uncompetitive output markets. The L3 team and partners will identify farmers and other stakeholders who will help establish, monitor and evaluate potential technologies and market related issues. The IP team aims to help farmers understand and invest in improved production technologies; ensure market actors are aware of the potential in smallholder farming systems for market expansion; and develop market strategies suited to systems’ resource capacities.
By P. Masikati-Hlanguyo and A. Van Rooy