How climate smart rice innovations are changing livelihoods in Madagascar
Solotiana Vaoarilinina from Andratsainimahamasina commune in Madagascar harvested 4.1t/ha of rice from about 0.45ha of land during the 2014-2015 cropping season. From this, she expects to get enough food to support her family for several months as well as raise US$ 460. The family will also use part of the money to complete a stalled permanent house which she started constructing in 2014 using other resources.
Solotiana is not the only smiling face in this location. Several farmers in the climate smart landscapes in Ankazomiriotra site in Madagascar, who dedicated on average 0.45ha of land to grow the improved irrigated rice variety, X 265 or Mailaka, tell similar stories.
The X265 is known to be resilient to dry spells during its vegetative growth stage, is tolerant to blast diseases and endures cold temperatures which occur mostly in February during the flowering sensitive stage of the crop. The variety is also known to be early maturing. It gets ready for harvest 15-20 days earlier than the common varieties. This gives farmers more time to prepare for off-season crops. Given these attributes, coupled with a good taste, the X265 is a hot item on the market.
This has been made possible through the “Sustainable agricultural water productivity enhancement for improved food and nutrition security in ECA project supported by ASARECA and implemented by Foibem-pirenena momba ny Fikarohana Ampiharina amin’ny Fampandrosoana ny Ambanivohitra (FOFIFA). Since 2011, the project has promoted the variety together with accompanying agronomic practices.
An earlier similar project on water management by ASARECA, showed that through the use of drip and supplemental irrigation, communities in Madagascar doubled the production of onions from 0.5 ton/ha to 3.5 ton/ha. The project promoted the use of innovations such as harrowing or puddling land preparation method, using recommended procedures and using young seedling transplants instead of direct sowing. In this case, three weeks-old seedlings are transplanted in lines spaced 25cm x 20cm. Other measures included the use of recommended quantities of soil fertilisers such as NPK during transplanting, urea for top dressing at panicle initiation stage and cow manure during garden preparation.
Promoting varieties like this and accompanying agronomic practices is a deliberate effort by ASARECA and FOFIFA working n collaboration with farming communities to make livelihoods possible even when climate induced changes are biting hard.
The farmers became motivated to weed twice and follow recommended water management techniques. They are encouraged to harvest only when the panicle is fully mature and use a thresher and appropriate drying materials to limit losses during post harvest operations.
As a result of increased productivity, the farmers are realising 80% yield increases compared to less than 10% before. These farmers are now three months more food secure than they were before they adopted this variety and associated agronomic practices.
With an income increase of US$ 500 per hectare, about 300 households (104 women and 196 men in the site adopted these practices during 2014-15. Additionally, farmers who have been collaborating with the project during the first phase have already committed more land to the X 265 variety.