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    The productivity and sustainability of the prevailing crop production systems are being challenged throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Limiting water resources, depletion of soil fertility, social changes and economic developments drive the current modification of the crop portfolio, reflected in its spatial-temporal patterns and of cultivation practices. In Nepal, this concerns particularly the rice-wheat annual double cropping system, which is the dominant food crop rotation in both the subtropical lowland as well as the temperate Himalayan mid hills of Nepal. As a results of continuing urbanisation and shifting consumer preferences, a drive to replace of wheat with high-value vegetables during the cold dry season is gaining momentum, in the peri-urban fringes., simultaneously, emerging water shortages are preventing permanent soil flooding during the monsoon season, leading to partial substitution of lowland rice by less water-consuming upland crops. Such system shifts and associated changes in soil aeration status are altering the nutrient availability, while increasing the crop demand for the critically limiting micronutrients boron (B) and zinc (Zn). Therefore, compared the B and Zn levels in the traditional rice- based system (under anaerobic condition), in the water-saving maize-based system (aerobic conditions) with both conventional winter wheat and the emerging vegetables as rotation crops. Under controlled conditions in a dysfunctional greenhouse and under field conditions at two representative production sites and soil types (e.g. Acrisols in Kavre in the mid-hills of Nepal and a Fluvisols in Chitwan in the lowland), determined were(1) differential effects of system shifts on the soil supply and crop demand of B and Zn (diagnosis trials), (2) the effects of applying mineral B and Zn fertilizers on yields and economic returns of wheat vs. cauliflower and tomato (response trials), and (3) longer-term carry-over effects of a one-time application of soil B and Zn on biomass accumulation and nutrient uptake by maize (residual effect trials). Inclusion of an aerobic soil phase (e.g. maize instead of rice) resulted in declining soil C and N contents and consequently negatively affected dry matter accumulation and wheat grain yield. Concurrently, the shift from wheat to cauliflower and tomato increased the demand for B and Zn, and these vegetables showed deficiency symptoms at both sites and in both soil types. Particularly the B concentrations in the biomass of non- amendments crops were always below the critical limits of <10 (wheat), 21 (cauliflower) and 23 mg B kg-1 (tomato). In wheat, the application of Zn tended to increase yields under field conditions, while a B application showed no significant effect, irrespective of the site or soil type. On the other hand, biomass accumulation, nutrient uptake, and economic yield of cauliflower and tomato increased with B (and Zn) applications, but response attributes were unaffected by changes in soil aeration status. These responses were generally more pronounced in the lowland than the mid-hill sites, while overall yields of wheat and temperate vegetables were higher in the cool mid-hills than in the subtropical lowland. Despite low application rates of 2.2-4.0 kg ha-1 of Zn or B, positive residual effects on subsequent non -fertilized maize were observed with Zn in the Acrisols and with B in both soil types. Soils in larger parts of Nepal are low in available B and Zn. A shift towards aerobic cultivation in the wet season will reduce soil C and N contents and concomitantly the supply of B and Zn. At the same time, the current shift from wheat to vegetables increases the crops’ demand for B and Zn. While the application of B and Zn fertilizers can moderately improve the performance of the traditional rice-wheat rotation, with a shift towards vegetable cropping, B and Zn applications become imperative to sustain production. Both the public and the private sectors will increasingly be challenged to develop and make available B- and Zn-containing fertilizer formulations that respond to the changing needs of the emerging production systems. These findings are also pertinent in other environments and for other farming communities in the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Himalayan foot-hills beyond Nepal.

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    Using Sierra Leone – a post-conflict country in West Africa – as a case study, this dissertation addresses pressing issues on how to make smallholder agriculture more nutrition-sensitive, mitigate the adverse effects of seasonality on food security, and strengthen rural households’ resilience against shocks and stressors. The study utilizes self-collected panel data from 836 smallholder cocoa, coffee and cashew farming households in Eastern and Northern Sierra Leone between 2017 and 2019. The primary data is complemented with secondary data from the Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey. The first study exploits the quasi-experimental design to study the impacts and related pathways of an integrated agriculture-nutrition intervention. A focus is on the dietary outcomes of the interventions for cash cropping. Using a doubly robust estimator, the study finds that combining support for cash crop production and nutrition training led to a significant increase in household, maternal, and child dietary diversity and consumption of nutritious foodstuffs. The nutrition intervention alone is found to increase maternal intake of micronutrient-dense food groups significantly. However, the results indicate that solely supporting the production of the cash crops may significantly inhibit both household and individual dietary diversity. Improving caregiver’s nutrition knowledge and confidence in influencing food-related decisions are found to be the key pathways linking the combined intervention to better dietary outcomes. Utilizing data from two waves of the national household survey, the second study finds that agricultural seasonality imposes significant fluctuations on household dietary diversity and food security in Sierra Leone. The results show that rural households are most vulnerable to food insecurity during the lean season, during which they are compelled to frequently limit portion size at meal times and skip meals. Most importantly, the study finds that households residing closer to food markets consume more diverse diets and are more food secure in both lean and non-lean seasons than remoter households. The final study employs the panel data on smallholder cash cropping households to examine the drivers of resilience capacity and its effects on food security in the face of shocks. Relative to non-participating households, the interventions are found to significantly increase the resilience capacity of the beneficiaries, by enhancing their adaptive capacity and ownership of productive assets. The empirical analysis also shows that more resilient households have superior future food security outcomes and are better positioned to effectively deal with shocks. Based on these results, the thesis concludes that incorporating a nutrition component into cash crop interventions promises to deliver larger nutritional benefits than implementing them in isolation. Additionally, development strategies aimed at strengthening market access, adaptive capacity, and access to productive assets will not only alleviate seasonal hunger but also enhance the resilience of rural households against shocks and preserve their food security and overall wellbeing.

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    There is an increasing interest of acquiring farmland abroad, especially following the food price crisis in 2007/08. East Africa is a hotspot of activities, and given the high prevalence of poor people in the area, impacts on rural livelihoods are expected to be substantial. Following significant primary data collection in Ethiopia and Uganda, the study analyses the impact of two such large-scale land acquisitions on the rural economy and the local population’s livelihood, using Theory-based Impact Evaluations (Hemmer 2011) within an analytical framework of layered social analysis (Williamson 2000). Impact is assumed to manifest through five major channels: land, labour, natural resources, technological & organisational innovation and institutional change. The study consists of five chapters: The introduction surveys the global trend, reviews existing evidence and relevant theory to elaborate a conceptual and an analytical framework for the research. The second chapter takes stock of trend and types of large-scale land acquisitions in Eastern Africa, using national official data from Ethiopia and Uganda. While there is a clear increase in number of land transactions, media reports are only confirmed in a small fraction. Investors are coming from Europe, the Arabic peninsula as well as other emerging economies in the global South (South Africa and India, specifically). However, a surprisingly large number of acquisitions is done by domestic investors. The third chapter analyses the early stage impact of a large scale land acquisition in the far western lowlands of Ethiopia. A Saudi-Ethiopian investor tries to develop 10,000 ha for irrigated rice production. Building on primary household data and qualitative information gathered in the area in 2010, a mathematical programming model is calibrated to quantify likely impacts ex-ante. The investment is found to have poverty reducing potential, mainly due to employment creation and growth of the rural non-farm economy. However, the local population has to bear uncompensated costs of lost forestland and local inequalities are likely to widen in consequence of unequal participation on employment and business opportunities. The fourth chapter examines a forty year old large-scale investment in Uganda to understand long-term impacts, especially regarding technological and organisational innovation, as well as institutional change. Using an institutional economic analysis, changes at the organisational structure of the investment can be related to broader changes in the surrounding rural economy, indicating the significant impact a LSLAs can have on rural transformation. Again, the investment has overall contributed to poverty reduction, but organisational flaws and the collapse of a contract farming scheme indicate the difficulties to govern the large farm well. The emergence of a land market for wetlands, adoption of rice as a new crop and organisational improvements among smallholders can be considered as major outcomes of the investment’s activities. The fifth chapter synthesises the early three empirical chapters and locates the findings within a broader set of trends regarding the commercialisation of the agri-food system, the discussion on optimal farm size for production and poverty reduction, and the importance of functioning land and labour markets for poverty reduction and rural transformation in developing economies.

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    Mobile phones have become the most ubiquitous telecommunication technology in developing countries. To take advantage of this trend, businesses, government agencies and non-governmental organisations are increasingly turning their attention to the delivery of services through mobile phones (m-services) in areas such as health, education, agriculture and entertainment. In the agriculture sector, information services are most common while m-payments, virtual markets and supply chain management systems are also expanding. The use of mobile phones in agricultural service delivery is still at an early stage, however, and most of the services have yet to reach scale and long-term financial sustainability. The dissertation examines how m-services could facilitate the participation of farmers in agricultural innovation processes, including the development and adoption of agricultural technologies. Four types of services are identified: information and learning, financial services, access to inputs and access to output markets. Existing empirical evidence in this research area is still scarce. To date, most of the research has focused on mobile phones as such. Only a few studies have looked specifically at m-services and their findings are not clear-cut. Several of them highlight benefits for farmers, including improved management practices, higher productivity or higher prices, while others do not find positive impacts. Kenya is widely seen as frontrunner in the development of m-services in Sub-Saharan Africa. The growth of the vibrant technology scene was facilitated by a number of factors, including the improving network infrastructure, government regulations and a supportive innovation environment that offers access to innovation hubs, finance and human resources. The growing customer base provides a promising market for m-service developers and through the mobile payment service M-Pesa, many Kenyans are already familiar with the use of their mobile phone for non-call related activities. A range of m-services are available for Kenyan farmers. However, the reach and scale of these services is still limited despite the conducive environment and their impacts have not been assessed. The dissertation presents the case study of M-Farm, an m-service that offers price information and marketing services to Kenyan farmers. It examines how the service has impacted farmers' decision to adopt agricultural technologies and their ability to generate income from their use. Farmers were very enthusiastic about the positive impact of M-Farm on production decisions and income, but the study finds little other evidence to support this positive perception. Other constraints, such as risk of crop losses, lack of insurance and limited finances, were generally seen as more significant obstacles. The study also shows that the radio provides a viable alternative to disseminating price information in the early stages of production, while M-Farm becomes more important closer to the selling stage. Existing m-services in the developing world are barely scratching the surface of what is technology possible. The dissertation examines how current technology trends may impact m-service delivery to farmers in the future. Three trends are identified, i.e. the growing diversity of mobile connected devices to access m-services; the 'Internet of Things' which links objects and people through the network; and the increasing ubiquity of mobile networks and expanding user base. The dissertation presents two scenarios for the evolution of mobile technology trends (Status Quo and Big Leap) and assesses their implications for agricultural service delivery.

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    This set of interviews is part of the 'Farmer Empowerment' project that focused on the impact of farmer organizations (FOs) on the socio-economic development of their FO-members. The interviews were conducted within a second field research in order to gather information on specific impact pathways of selected FOs that work to empower respective FO-members.

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    This set of interviews is part of the 'Farmer Empowerment' project that focused on the impact of farmer organizations (FOs) on the socio-economic development of their FO-members. The interviews were conducted within a second field research in order to gather information on specific impact pathways of selected FOs that work to empower respective FO-members.

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    This set of interviews is part of the 'Farmer Empowerment' project that focused on the impact of farmer organizations (FOs) on the socio-economic development of their FO-members. The interviews were conducted within a second field research in order to gather information on specific impact pathways of selected FOs that work to empower respective FO-members.

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    This set of interviews is part of the 'Farmer Empowerment' project that focused on the impact of farmer organizations (FO) on the socio-economic development of their FO-member. The interviews were conducted within a first field research in order to gather information on institutional settings of FOs and to identify empowering approaches and empowering areas of Farmer Organizations.

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    As people change their livelihood preferences, they change the way they relate to the natural resources around them. Anticipating and managing these changes, where possible, is a major challenge for sustainable land-use planning and natural resource management. This is most evident in the Amazon, a region of immense biological and cultural diversity but also a region of rapid change and transformation, quickly integrating through transportation infrastructure (roads, harbors, airports, etc.) with other South American regions and the rest of the world. This project analyzes social and ecological change taking place in indigenous settlements of the Amazon region, as they transform their subsistence economies to fit into a western model of living. It uses social ecological systems as a framework to identify and explore the linkages between changes in these two domains, and aims at understanding natural resource management from the perspective of the user and the utilized resource. This, we argue, requires an understanding of collective decision making (governance) of the variations in land and resource use in a community governed in a specific way, and of the response of forests to small-scale human intervention. The way decisions are taken and the way a group of people structure their governance system will affect the ecological system in different ways. We observed fast transformation and diversification of formerly indigenous communities and fast-track integration into western systems of organization resulting in hybrid governance systems with different combinations of traditional and western ways of social organization and resource management. Palms are an ideal study group because their use and ecology is well documented throughout the region and have more recently become an important source of income for many Amazonian populations. Changes in the management of three utilized palm species served as indicators of change in the social ecological system. We investigated palm abundance and management in the three land-use categories: cultivation areas, moderately disturbed forest, and low disturbance forest. Palms are not sown from seed or transplanted into cultivation areas rather they are passively cultivated (protected from fire, weeds, pests, falling branches, etc.). Although palm species are appreciated either for commercial or domestic purposes, seldom did we observe or document active cultivation taking place. In forested areas the most abundant of the three, Socratea exorrhiza, recognized as a generalist or oligarchic species, showed a positive response to moderate levels of human intervention. The second most abundant species, Astrocaryum chambira, is a near generalist, with more restrictions for its dispersion and establishment than S. exorrhiza, and therefore a less favorable response to moderate levels of intervention. Abundance of Phytelephas macrocarpa was the lowest; as a soil specialist its distribution is uneven and its overall response to intervention most difficult to assess. Changes in palm management betrayed a general shift from a view of cultivation areas as the community’s pantry to a view of cultivation areas as the sum of individually owned plots where only commercially valued species are harvested. The distinction between the three zones was blurred in the community with greater access to the west, there was a pressure towards privatization, to erase the traditional zoning regulations, since both palms and land are seen as a commodity. Indiscriminate extraction is taking place in forested areas and in cultivation areas pressure and conflicts are increasing and leading to formalization of property rights and new forms of representation, thus pushing integration further. Transportation infrastructure will continue its expansion, the pressure for oil and mineral extraction will increase in the Amazon and it will be necessary to accept and understand these paths of change in order to minimize the negative consequences that they might have for the social ecological system as a whole.

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    Integrating the ecosystem services (ES) approach into the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of spatial plans is seen as a suitable option for considering the value of nature in decision making and policy processes. However, there is an increasing concern about the institutional context and a lack of a common understanding of SEA and ecosystem services for adopting them as an integrated framework. This paper addresses this concern by analysing the current understanding and network relations in a multi-actor arrangement as a first step for moving towards a successful integration of ES in SEA and spatial planning. We based our analysis on a case study in Chile, where we applied a questionnaire survey aimed at the principal actors behind the planning process. The questionnaire focused on issues such as network relations among actors and on conceptual understanding, perceptions and challenges for integrating ES in SEA and spatial planning, knowledge on methodological approaches, and the connections and gaps in science-policy. The main findings suggest that a common understanding of SEA and especially of ES is still in an initial stage in Chile when we consider the context of multiple actors. Additionally, the lack of institutional guidelines and methodological support is considered the main challenge for integration. We conclude that preconditions exist in Chile for integrating ES in SEA and the spatial planning practice, but they strongly depend on an appropriate governance scheme which encourages a close interaction science-policy as well as collaborative work and learning.