The main aim of the ‘long-term farming systems comparison in the tropics (SysCom)’ program is to enhance know-how on the potential and limitations of different agricultural production systems in three tropical countries, thereby contributing to sustainable agriculture. To achieve this aim, sound scientific evidence is obtained primarily from the long-term experiments (LTE) that compare different agricultural production systems (mainly organic and conventional) in Kenya, India and Bolivia. Started in 2007/08 together with local partner institutions, the LTEs capture long-term changes and monitor the effects of contextual developments through observation of agronomic, economic and ecological parameters over time. To ensure the direct benefit to local farming communities, LTEs are complemented with a participatory on-farm research (POR) approach, which aims to develop technological innovations and management practices that are adapted to local farmers’ conditions. Along with the research findings, the program makes a substantial contribution to capacity building in the partner countries. Furthermore, the program is expected to influence the regional and international dialogue on global challenges of nutrition security and environmental sustainability.
SysCom has established itself as an important research programme in the field of sustainability science, particularly in the tropical context. The project sites are well established with the functional infrastructure necessary to carry out research and development activities. In Bolivia, conventional and organic cacao production systems are investigated in monocrop (full sun) and agroforestry (shaded) systems. In Kenya, conventional and organic treatments are compared at two input levels in a crop rotation with maize, beans, vegetables and potatoes at two sites. In India, the LTE compares organic, bio-dynamic, conventional, and conventional with genetically modified Bt cotton farming systems in a crop rotation with cotton, soybean and wheat. The research results obtained so far have been published in 24 peer-reviewed publications and shared through conferences, dissemination events, lectures and media releases. All the outputs from SysCom are made available on the programme website (https://systems-comparison.fibl.org/en/scp-publications.html) and most of the scientific publications are open access. Making a contribution to capacity building of young academics, SysCom has trained over 46 students in different project areas. The main local partners in Kenya are the Institute of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and the Kenyan Agriculture & Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO). In India, bioRe Association is the main partner. In Bolivia the main partners are Ecotop Foundation, Institute of Ecology (University San Andres) and the Foundation PIAF-El Ceibo. The main local partners in each country are responsible for implementation of project activities. At the programme level the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), provides scientific guidance for the project team and supervises scientific quality of the project work. Furthermore, each country project has a National Scientific Advisory Board (NSAB). The NSABs are formed by delegates of the main and associated partners, experts in topics relevant to the project as well as FiBL.