The primary purpose of the CIMMYT Global Conservation Agriculture Program (GCAP) is to co-develop sustainable intensification options for and with smallholder farmers in maize- and wheat-based farming systems in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Doing so contributes to CGIAR intermediate development outcomes on food security and poverty reduction. GCAP initially focused on conservation agriculture (CA) principles and high-quality, site-specific field agronomy research in a wide range of agro-ecosystems. Over the past few years, GCAP broadened its research portfolio in close collaboration with the CIMMYT Socio-Economics Program (SEP) to more holistically address sustainable intensification pathways and tackle adoption and adoptability of technical innovations.
In short, sustainable intensification of agriculture seeks to increase farming enterprises’ productivity in regard to land, water, labor and input productivity of farming enterprises in a socially equitable manner while preserving the natural resource base and the environment. This is easier said than done as the sustainable intensification paradigm requires understanding of the complex interactions (synergies and trade-offs) between bio-physical, environmental and socio-economic/market/policy factors at different scales/levels (field, farm, landscape, regions) in order to develop viable options in changing rural environments.
Not being ‘lost in, but dealing with complexity’ is GCAP staff members’ primary concern in order to achieve impact at scale and propose site- and farm-specific integrated adoptable solutions. This requires the use of systems research approaches and the development and use of conceptual frameworks. An example of this is the partnership with Wageningen University funded by the MAIZEand WHEATCRPs.
Reaching impact at scale also requires strategic partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders – from advanced research institutions to government and private extension agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector. GCAP’s flagship projects in South Asia (CSISA), Africa (SIMLESA) and Mexico (MasAgro/TTF) were all designed specifically to use agricultural research for development (AR4D) to intensify farming systems. At the same time, these projects implement innovative approaches with effective methodological use of gender and innovation. A specific program to backstop gender and innovation in GCAP projects is led by the Royal Institute of the Tropics (KIT) of the Netherlands and funded by the MAIZE and WHEAT CRPs.
GCAP operates on the principles that technical innovations and scientific progress have great potential to help smallholder farmers when properly put in context. Therefore, a large part of the GCAP research portfolio is still focused on technical innovations and on the following themes:
Conservation agriculture and its contribution to sustainable intensification (i.e. the Nebraska Declaration).
Small-scale mechanization and labor saving technologies (i.e. the FACASI project).
Decision support tools (DSTs) for site-specific nutrient/water management and precision agriculture/remote sensing for smallholders farmers.
Effective use of information and communication technologies.