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Farmers applaud Ken Sayre鈥檚 work on conservation agriculture

It seems the agricultural community in Obreg贸n 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 Obreg贸n, 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.

鈥淚t was a complete surprise and obviously I was very grateful to the Patronato for the honor,鈥 says Sayre. 鈥淗owever the real recognition should go to the CIMMYT CA national support staff team in Obreg贸n; Manuel Ru铆z Cano, Jes煤s A Guti茅rrez, Betty Martinez, Juan de Dios Sanchez, 脕lvaro Zerme帽o, and Cristobal Rasc贸n Angulo, who have put tremendous efforts and innovation to develop useful CA-based technologies for the farmers in southern Sonora.鈥 Sayre also thanked Obreg贸n Station Superintendent Rodrigo Rasc贸n 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 鈥渄one an incredible job to keep the momentum moving forward.鈥

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

CA practices have reduced farmers鈥 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. 鈥淚t was a clear reflection of our hub philosophy of communication between researchers and farmers, and how both can learn from each other,鈥 says Govaerts.

Sayre concluded that, 鈥渕any 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.鈥