During 01-02 November 2011, agricultural science, extension, and development leaders, key researchers of South Asian national agricultural research and extension systems, and representatives from regional CGIAR centers, FAO, USAID, NGOs, and farmer associations, met in New Delhi, India, for a dialogue on conservation agriculture (CA) in South Asia. The meeting focused on conservation agricultural research for development (CAR4D) and greater impacts on small-holder farmers, and was organized jointly by the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural research Institutions (APAARI), CIMMYT, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Raj Paroda, Executive Secretary, APAARI, emphasized the dual challenges currently facing food security in South Asia, namely resource fatigue and decelerating productivity growth. These factors are being further exacerbated by rises in the costs of food and energy, depleting water resources, vulnerability of soil to degradation, and climate change. Producers’ profits are decreasing, making farming unattractive and unsustainable in the region. CA is seen as a key driver in the Millennium Development Goals to improve efficiency and sustainability through systembased management, optimization of crop yields, economic benefits, and environmental impacts. Whilst the pace of adoption of CA in the region has slowed in the past few years, it is hoped that meetings such as this can provide a common regional platform for stakeholders to share information and define priorities for the deployment of CA, develop common strategies for local problem resolution, facilitate the exchange of knowledge, products, and experiences, and map the future of CA in South Asia.
Other speakers at the event included AK Singh, Deputy Director General (Natural Resource Management), ICAR, Peter Kenmore, IPM Expert, FAO, Thomas Lumpkin, Director General, CIMMYT, and S. Ayyappan, Director General, ICAR. Ayyappan spoke of the successes achieved by the Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains (RWC), including increasing the use of CA technologies in the region. He also highlighted the current importance being given to CA, through the National Initiative on Conservation Agriculture that will be launched by the Indian Government as part of its 12th five-year plan for special programs. Lumpkin reiterated these points, mentioning that CA will play an important role in most of the CRP’s (the CGIAR mega-programs for rice, maize, wheat, climate change, etc.).
CIMMYT’s Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist, ML Jat, presented the global overview of CA with several key recommendations, including the need to establish long-term basic and strategic research in different production systems, define appropriate CA technologies for different systems with improved access for farmers, and develop communication tools to better enable sharing of knowledge, experiences, and farmer innovations between all stakeholders.