YAMSYS is a new inter- and transdisciplinary project involving eight partners. Yam is an important food crop feeding 155 million people mainly in West Africa, but it is classified as an orphan crop. Yam is also a cash crop and has an important cultural value in West Africa. Traditional yam production practices are known as drivers of land degradation e.g. encroachment in landscapes that are rich in biodiversity and soil nutrient unbalance. The objective of YAMSYS is to develop and implement innovative soil management technologies for increased crop productivity, food security, profitability, and environmental sustainability of yam cropping systems.
In West Africa, yam (Dioscorea sp) is an essential crop for food security and income generation with socio-cultural significance. Traditionally, yams are grown without external inputs as the first crop after a long-term fallow. With demographic developments in the region, this increasingly leads, to deforestation, soil degradation and low yam yields after exhaustion of fertile soils. Unfortunately, there are large gaps of research in yam systems, especially on sustainable soil fertility management. Given the high prevalence of food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation in West Africa, measures to improve the sustainability of yam cropping systems are pertinent.
YAMSYS is an inter- and transdisciplinary project which aims at developing sustainable methods for soil and crop management by incorporating yams in long-term sustainable crop rotations which increase tuber yields and net income of farmers and other value chain actors involved in yam marketing and processing. The project will be working at four sites located in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso that are representative of the West African yam belt.
Within the project, the land degradation surveillance framework is used to map the biophysical characteristics of the four sites. Rapid rural appraisals and other participatory methods from social sciences are used to gather information and understand the economic and institutional context at the four selected sites. This will allow for establishing innovation platforms at each site with the most important stakeholders to develop site-specific solutions. A detailed assessment and description of yam growing households and the involved production systems in each of the four sites will provide the basis for evaluating effects of innovations on income and production assets using a farm household optimization model.
The main project outcome relates to the development and diffusion of income enhancing integrated soil fertility management innovations for yam production systems. The project has a strong capacity building component involving five PhD and twenty MSc students from West Africa, who will be interacting very strongly with local actors. Project results will be shared through stakeholder events at the local and national level, and different social networks. The project will increase the global knowledge on yam systems and impact the discussion on how yams can contribute to improved food and income security, and environmental sustainability in developing countries. The approaches developed in YAMSYS shall be useful throughout the tropics for assessing and promoting other underutilised root and tuber crops.
Socio-economics and responsible for outcome 3 (State-of-the-art facilitation of innovation and adoption patterns in yam systems). Sociological and transdisciplinary methods are used to ensure impact and sustainability (Nicolay) and the economic farm household optimisation model (Bernet) for scenario building.