The social problem of food insecurity as well as the challenges West African farmers are facing to successfully adapt to climate change build the framework and scope of the project “Syprobio”. This five-year lasting project operates in three countries: Mali, Burkina Faso and Benin.
One hundred elected farmers, representing 2 – 3,000 organic farmers, are conducting on-farm research on 27 farmer-identified innovative practices. The conducive research environment is assured by actor-networks of 40 – 50 researchers and technicians, innovation platforms and a systemic communication between the three countries and FiBL researchers. Soil fertility, seed improvement, pest management, agronomy and socio-economics are the main targeted topics.
The innovations to be tested shall improve food security and climate change adaptation. The main research for development methods to be applied are trans- and interdisciplinarity, actor-network theory, focus group discussions, decentralized action-research hubs and sociology-designed communication. On–station research is conducted by the national research partners in order to complement the on-farm research and to provide further evidence on scientific differences between various farming practices (organic simple and diversified, conventional low and high input).
The findings are intended for policy makers, and practitioners. In particular, the causal relation between production form (organic, conventional), soil organic matter content and climate change adaptability will be investigated. A long-term trial in Farako/Mali is designed to provide first answers in 2015 already.
The main concern of the small scale farmers are low soil fertility levels, poor support conditions (veterinary services, credit schemes, access to information) and particular hardships for women farmer. Farmers, researchers and technicians from the farmer organizations learn mutually.
This mutual research is new for all actors and considered as a big success, as the various forms of knowledge (farmer/local; scientific/regional) combined bears fruits after only two years. The creativity, determination and curiosity of the self-organized farmer groups, embedded in a supportive research network and exiting value chains, allow a fast and effective identification of innovations to be tested and implemented.
In the last phase of the project, the dissemination of the positively tested innovations shall benefit at least 100’000 farmers in the West African cotton belt, both under ecological-organic and conventional management. Extensive socio-economic comparison studies between organic, conventional and GMO (Burkina Faso only) farms and households will also be conducted. Results will be published both in scientific journals and in technical magazines for the regional practitionern.