Our focus in this session is to converge on priorities for research investments that will be critical to making African agricultural landscapes more productive, sustainable, and inclusive.
State of Knowledge: Investment in African Agricultural R&D In 2008, African governments accounted for ~10% of global agricultural R&D spending. During 2001-2008, public R&D in sub-Saharan Africa averaged more than 20% growth Investment levels vary widely across countries Research support by global donors has prioritized a small number of countries.
Multi-disciplinary and Africa-focused scientific research is essential to apply integrated landscape management usefully in African agricultural landscapes. Investments in agricultural R&D have been shown to generate 40-60% ROI in many different contexts.
State of Knowledge: Sustainable Intensification in Agricultural Landscapes To meet food, feed, and fiber needs while minimizing agricultural expansion, researchers around the world are advancing ‘sustainable intensification’ strategies For example, in a recent ex ante study of agricultural technologies, particularly strong effects were projected in sub-Saharan Africa for improvements related to drought tolerance, nutrient use efficiency, and adoption of no-till practices (Rosegrant et al, 2014).
Consensus actions: Tackle highest priority research needs * Researchers should address widespread challenges such as targeting appropriate technologies to specific regions (Rosegrant et al, 2014), reducing soil nutrient deficits and imbalances that significantly constrain agricultural productivity (Van der Velde, 2014), improving plant and animal genetic adaptation to current and emerging stresses (SDSN, 2013), and managing ecosystems for multiple benefits (Munung et al, 2013). * Systematic assessment of the yield, income, human well-being, and ecosystem services outcomes of different suites of agricultural practices in different socio-ecological contexts at multiple scales is important for developing targeted recommendations for sustainable agricultural production (Garbach et al, in submission).
State of Knowledge: Sustainable Intensification in Agricultural Landscapes A global review of 219 published studies assessed how well five ‘agroecological intensification’ methods (i.e., conservation agriculture, holistic grazing management, organic agriculture, precision agriculture, and System of Rice Intensification) performed at increasing yields and ecosystem services and determined that these practices are largely beneficial, but with significant variation across methods and agricultural systems (Garbach et al, in submission). While the literature base does not support rigorously evaluating the potential of agroecological intensification methods in aggregate (e.g., studies tend to be short-term; measured variables are not consistent), there may be an adequate empirical basis for evaluation in specific regions or cropping systems.
State of Knowledge: Benefits of Agrobiodiversity Agricultural production systems rely fundamentally on agricultural biodiversity (‘agrobiodiversity’) – the variety and variability of animals, plants, and micro-organisms in farm fields and homegardens as well as in non-cultivated parts of agricultural and pastoral landscapes – in order to effectively adapt to external and internal drivers. Research groups like Bioversity are documenting ways in which farmers cope with and recover from weather extremes by taking advantage of landscape heterogeneity and crop diversity (e.g., by maintaining multiple farms in different micro-agroecological zones) Many biophysical and social dimensions of agrobiodiversity will benefit from increased research investment. For example, we have more to learn about how different landscape characteristics and components confer resilience.
Consensus actions: Tackle highest priority research needs With estimated climate change adaptation costs of USD 7-15B by 2020 (growing by 7% annually thereafter), strategies to anticipate and respond to severe weather, sea level rise, and associated threats to communities, agriculture, and economies represent high priority arenas for African research. Combining socio-economic, biophysical, and climate change models through multi-stakeholder scenario processes offers promise for identifying high-impact intervention strategies (Thornton and Lipper, 2014).
State of Knowledge: Achieving Multiple Climate Benefits in Agricultural Landscapes Current estimates suggest that, in Africa, adaptation benefits will be much more important, but there may be synergies with mitigation to capitalize on. A recent global study of opportunities in the land sector for climate change mitigation and adaptation. restoration of degraded or fragile lands; establishment of agroforestry and silvopastoral systems; land-use planning for a mosaic of agricultural land and natural habitat; conservation and restoration of forests, riparian areas, wetlands and peatlands Climate-related benefits can also accrue at the landscape scale through broad adoption of farm / plot level activities: sustainable land management in upland farms to control downstream flooding, restoration of riparian areas to improve water provision, use of windbreaks to protect crops and animals from wind stress farmer-managed natural regeneration.
Consensus actions: Build effective, networked agroecological research systems Each national government should have a strategy for ensuring the necessary scientific foundation for meeting the knowledge needs of its agricultural landscapes (e.g., shrinking yield gaps, increasing resilience, enhancing ecosystem services and biodiversity) that leverages domestic resources, global donor support, private sector resources, access to global knowledge repositories, and regional and global research communities, and balances investment in research infrastructure and human capacity, including women (FARA, 2013; SDSN, 2013). Regional research consortia should assess the specific strengths of governmental and scientific institutions, broker meaningful engagement among a broad set of scientific disciplines, and encourage specialization within coordinated, committed research networks including shared ownership of equipment and databases supported by transparent, equitable shared financing (FARA, 2013). International research organizations with relevant experience in farmer-driven action research should collaborate with national and regional research platforms to expand and refine this model of scientific inquiry to ensure that the innovative capacity of farmers contributes to transformative science (FARA, 2013). Global donors with significant investments in African development should contribute to robust, ongoing monitoring systems that generate data which supports research and innovation as well as M&E needs while also reviewing the costs and benefits of their allocation of funding across African countries (FARA, 2013; Harvey, 2013). Multi-institutional and public-private partnerships should build a business case for shared investment in essential knowledge systems such as seasonal forecasting and GHG emissions estimation (Brown et al, 2012; Thornton and Lipper, 2014).
For example, essential knowledge resources such as high-quality soil base maps require co-investment by multiple institutions.
"Springboards for action" In Africa, there are a number of initiatives and platforms that can support collaborative action toward improved research capacity and knowledge. Just a few examples are shown here, but there are many more that people here will be aware of and active in.
Christine Negra - Priorities for Research in African Landscapes
Research in African
Christine Negra, EcoAgriculture Partners
July 2, 2014 -World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi
Global public spending on agricultural R&D by major country or region and by
income status, 2008 (Beintma et al. 2012)
Ex ante yield impacts
for rainfed maize,
no-till, compared to
change scenario for
2050 (MIROC A1B)
(Rosegrant et al. 2014)
“Change the broader socio-technical regime”
• Appropriate technologies for specific regions
• Reduce soil nutrient deficits
• Improve plant and animal response to stresses
To manage ecosystems for multiple benefits
Systematic assessment of yield, income, human well-
being, and ecosystem services outcomes
For different sets of agricultural practices, in different
socio-ecological contexts, at multiple scales
Agroecological intensification (AEI)
● Global review of yield + ecosystem
services of 5 AEI approaches
● Conservation agriculture
● Holistic grazing management
● Organic agriculture
● Precision agriculture
● System of Rice Intensification (SRI)
● Beneficial, but variable
Assess AEI for specific regions or
as a source of
Bioversity. 2014. The
Evolving Landscape of
Africa for four
How to anticipate
and respond to
and sea level rise
Multiple climate benefits in agricultural production systems and
(Harvey et al. 2013)
Agroecological research networks
•National science strategies
Leverage domestic / donor / private sector resources and
regional / global research communities
•Regional research consortia
Help institutions to specialize within coordinated,
committed research networks
•International research organizations
Share experience in farmer-driven action research
•Global donors and public-private partnerships
Co-investment in monitoring and forecasting
to 30 cm depth
Soil Database in
Brown et al. 2012)
Water, Land and
of Tropical Agriculture
African Fertilizer and
Advanced research institutes
Forum for Agricultural
Research in Africa