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Farmers applaud Ken Sayre’s work on conservation agriculture

December 5, 2008

It seems the agricultural community in Obregón is good at keeping secrets, at least from CIMMYT Agronomist Ken Sayre, who got a surprise last week.

More than 60 farmers, technicians, extension workers, and government and agro-business representatives attended a conservation agriculture (CA) day at the Hotel Valle Grande in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora State, Mexico, on 26 November 2008. Sayre was set to give a presentation when Patronato, a group of private farmers in the area, took the opportunity to formally recognize him for his 25 years of research and work on permanent raised beds in northern Mexico and in developing countries the world over.

“It was a complete surprise and obviously I was very grateful to the Patronato for the honor,” says Sayre. “However the real recognition should go to the CIMMYT CA national support staff team in Obregón; Manuel Ruíz Cano, Jesús A Gutiérrez, Betty Martinez, Juan de Dios Sanchez, Álvaro Zermeño, and Cristobal Rascón Angulo, who have put tremendous efforts and innovation to develop useful CA-based technologies for the farmers in southern Sonora.” Sayre also thanked Obregón Station Superintendent Rodrigo Rascón and his team for their continued support and hard work and Cropping Systems Management Specialist Bram Govaerts, who took over the CA-based program in Mexico last year and has “done an incredible job to keep the momentum moving forward.”

The CA day was coordinated by AOASS (the umbrella organization for the farmer unions) and gave the general public results of CIMMYT’s CA hub and extension program on permanent beds in northern Mexico, according to Govaerts. Ivan Ortiz-Monasterio, Rodrigo Rascón, and Matthew Reynolds were there representing CIMMYT.

CA practices have reduced farmers’ costs by 20% and improved their profits by up-to 50%, says Govaerts. Two local businesses are now making parts for the multiuse, multi-crop planters and 20 technicians have received training, he adds. There has been increased interest and involvement from public and private sector partners to promote CA during farmer field days and to disseminate permanent raised beds as a CA practice for the irrigated production areas in places such as Sonora and Sinaloa.

During the event, three farmers spoke about how they have used and adapted CA technology. “It was a clear reflection of our hub philosophy of communication between researchers and farmers, and how both can learn from each other,” says Govaerts.

Sayre concluded that, “many farmers in southern Sonora, as in many other areas in the developing world, now realize that, to continue to survive economically while protecting their productivity base, they must change to the new paradigm of sustainable, CA-based crop production technologies.”