COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, has received an additional $12.5 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Small Scale Irrigation.
The Borlaug Institute is completing the fifth year of the competitively awarded cooperative agreement with USAID. The initial phase of the agreement was funded at $12.5 million for five years. At the Texas A&M College of Agriculture Development Council meeting on Oct. 5, USAID Counselor Chris Milligan announced a five-year $12.5 million extension of the agreement.
The extension provides a ceiling allowing optional funding of an additional $10 million from other sources such as the USAID Missions. The long-term partnership between Texas A&M and USAID was extended to 10 years with a potential total funding of $35 million, according to program coordinators.
The Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Small Scale Irrigation, also known as ILSSI, is conducting small-scale irrigation research in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana.
Texas A&M partners with three Centers in the Consultative Group for International Research – the International Water Management Institute, International Livestock Research Institute and International Food Policy Research Institute. It also partners with multiple national universities and other institutions.
Research is conducted to evaluate small-scale irrigation, also known as SSI, strategies in farmers’ fields. Household surveys are conducted in the areas surrounding field studies to evaluate economic, nutrition and gender related impacts of SSI. Also, an integrated decision support system, also known as IDSS, is used to assess the production, environmental and economic consequences of SSI farming systems.
Results of field studies are extended to national levels and used to plan and evaluate regional and national introduction of SSI schemes. With the ILSSI extension, it is considering expanding the agreement to other countries in Africa and Asia.
Dr. Neville Clarke, director of ILSSI, said smallholder farm families in the countries where ILSSI works typically grow grain crops in the rainy season and store them to be consumed in the dry season.
“The introduction of irrigation for these families is providing year-round access to fresh vegetables and fruit,” Clarke said. “Irrigation is improving both the quantity and diversity of diet for participating farm families as well as increased income. New methods of water lifting from wells, such as solar-powered pumps, are increasing the availability of water for irrigation and reducing the labor costs, especially for women.”
The amount of fertilizer and other inputs to the farming system are being defined to assure optimal income and environmental sustainability, he said. Water management practices developed in these studies are helping to assure efficient and sustainable use of this limited resource.
“Results from these studies are being used by government planners to initiate new irrigation practices in those parts of the country where water resources can be sustainably used,” Clarke said. “The extension of the first phase of this program involves continuing the engagement with national governments and private sector stakeholders to translate and extend research results to practice.”
The overall goal of research such as this is to transform subsistence farmers, who feed their families with what they grow, into small businesses with stable and sustainable incomes enhancing and ensuring quality of life. The research also aims to help small farmers better withstand unpredictable shock from drought and other natural or market adversities, Clarke said.
He said the ILSSI’s studies in Africa seek the best combination of production, environmental and economic consequences of new irrigation practices.
“The general principles developed in Africa also apply to and are being used by Texas farmers,” Clarke said. “Similarly, research results on water use in Texas done by A&M AgriLife Research are being applied in Africa. The principles being modeled in the IDSS are the same as those being developed in collaboration with the USDA and EPA for environmentally and economically sound principles for U.S. farmers and are being used in practice across the country.”
Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University, discussed the importance of the international agriculture program as part of the AgriLife portfolio and noted that projects such as ILSSI will be core elements of future expansion.
–Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
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