Technological change in agriculture: a model from Tunisia

May 9, 2012 at 7:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keep talking… Dr Mahmoud Solh (right), ICARDA Director General, presents a mobile phone to a lead farmer, launching a new initiative for technology transfer

The regional project Enhancing food security in Arab countries, led by ICARDA, is implemented at large-scale pilot sites in six countries in West Asia and North Africa. The project is supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Kuwait Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development. One of two project sites in Tunisia is Chebika, 160 km south of Tunis, located in a region that accounts for 40% of the country’s irrigated area. Experimental trials at Chebika, conducted by the Institut National des Grandes Cultures (INGC), are helping to evaluate new wheat varieties and improved irrigation methods. New wheat lines are being tested for yield, heat tolerance, and suitability for local cropping systems. The irrigation experiments test different tools (e.g. water balance measurement, use of tensiometers) that can help farmers decide when and how much to irrigate, in order to maximize water-use efficiency.

On-station research is complemented by demonstration plots on farmers’ field that promote drip irrigation and improved irrigation scheduling, using methods developed by another project partner, the Institut National de Genie Rural, des Eaux et Forets (INGREF). Other on-farm trials showcase a new high yielding durum wheat variety known as Maali, in conjunction with improved management practices such as recommended seed rates and balanced fertilizer application.

The project is also testing a new method of technology transfer. ‘Lead farmers’ are identified, who will each mentor ten ‘satellite’ farmers. The project has provided mobile phones to the lead farmers, for easier communication with other farmers, the extension services and researchers. This approach is adapted from similar methods used in India.

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