Sustainable Intensification: A global approach

Around the world MAIZE and its partners are helping farmers adopt sustainable intensification practices to improve yields without adverse environmental impact. Under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project in Bangladesh, a total of 59,166 farmers implemented crop management practices recommended by the project and its partners on 17,113 ha in 2019. In Nepal 13,827 farmers — 33 percent of whom were women and 12 percent of whom were youth — made use of improved maize seed, agricultural machinery, irrigation or climate-resilient cropping practices on a total of 8,160 ha as a result of project activities.

In Mexico the MasAgro project continues to promote conservation agriculture and improved maize hybrids to help farmers increase their yields. A 2019 study found that the conservation agriculture techniques promoted by the MasAgro project can improve both long term yield and soil quality in maize systems in Mexico. The study found that maize yielded an additional 3.9 tons per hectare when planted on permanent raised beds compared to traditional tillage, and that on average permanent raised beds generated an extra profit of $18,424 MXN per hectare ($776 USD) compared to tilled treatments, giving a huge benefit to farmers. The conservation agriculture technique also increased the soil organic carbon by an average of 63 percent. MasAgro has so far developed 70 new maize hybrids specifically adapted for smallholder famers in Mexico, which are deployed in partnership with local seed companies. These companies sold over a million bags (25 kg each) of improved seed in 2019, contributing to improved yields and income for the smallholder farmers.

An assessment led by CIMMYT of scaling success among three case studies of Mechanization Service Provider Models (MSPMs) in Mexico, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh offered important lessons for development interventions aimed at increasing smallholders’ access to mechanization services at scale. In 2019 the MasAgro mechanization team conceptualized four new designs for scale-appropriate mechanization options and constructed four prototypes with local manufacturers. In total, over 50 machine prototypes have been developed for different scales of operation and a broad set of on-field and off-field activities.

In Central America researchers found that diversifying and intercropping maize-based systems can improve nutrition and food security in the western highlands of Guatemala, a region with a high concentration of indigenous people, among which 70 percent of the population is chronically malnourished.

The Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) project came to a close in 2019, after nearly a decade of helping farmers implement sustainable intensification practices. Uptake of conservation agriculture-based sustainable intensification (CASI) technologies increased farm yields by up to 38 percent with an average of 23 percent. Labor costs savings amounted to 56 percent with increased net returns of up to $600 per hectare. The project was implemented in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and directly benefitted 484,000 households.