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Advanced course on conservation agriculture: laying the groundwork for sustainable and productive cropping systems

119Nine trainees joined CIMMYT-Mexico for a five week advanced course on conservation agriculture (CA). From 24 May to 25 June 2010, CIMMYT experts mentored the participants, who assisted in field activities at El Batán, Toluca, and surrounding farmers’ fields. Strong emphasis was placed on hands-on activities and interdisciplinary and problemsolving approaches.

The nine participants represented Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Iran, and Pakistan and each designed a CA dissemination plan for implementation in their respective home countries upon return. “CIMMYT has the unique position to be able to bring together and train such a diverse group of participants, overcoming borders and politics,” said course organizer Bram Govaerts during the course’s closing ceremony. “But you are the ones who have to take this knowledge, use it, share it, and make it better so it can have real impact.”

The participants entered the course with varying degrees of CA knowledge. Amanuel Gebru, irrigated crop officer in Ethiopia, began the course with no CA background, though he had seen the CA work done by CIMMYT in collaboration with local NARS in a nearby area of Ethiopia. “I come from a part of Ethiopia where CA is not yet known or practiced,” he said, adding that CA could greatly benefit his home country, which is drought-prone. “When I go home, I will present what I have learned here, and I will do it in farmers’ fields so we can help disseminate (CA).”

Others, such as Mohammad Reza Mehrvar, a cereal agronomist from Iran, had some background knowledge of CA principles, but did not know how to apply them. After the course, he said he now feels confident in his ability to establish experimental plots, apply CA technologies, and share CA knowledge. One of the keys to the success of CIMMYT’s world-renowned training programs is the network it has established, maintains, and thrives upon. As Scott Ferguson, deputy director general for support services, joked while addressing the participants, “The secret is out of the bag: we get just as much out of training as you all do. It is a two-way street.” Also at the course closing, Petr Kosina, manager of knowledge, information and training at CIMMYT, alluded to the multidimensional, life-long relationship trainees have with CIMMYT, “I’m not going to say goodbye, but rather say we will see you soon again, either here or in your own country.”

Best of luck to the graduates of the CA course “Laying the groundwork for sustainable and productive cropping systems,” and many thanks to all CIMMYT staff who helped make this program a success.