New Approach in Research Education to Solve Problems of Dryland Farming in Africa
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For quite some time now, Africa has faced food shortages that are largely due to deterioration of agricultural environments and high population growth rates, leading to a combination of production pressures. The agricultural problems are particularly pronounced in dryland farming, and the means to mitigate them have to be mainly of a low external input nature. A case study from Kenya of an integrated research education approach holds much promise for contributions to solve such food production problems in the dry lands of Africa and other low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA). The approach emphasizes interdisciplinary research education of local scientists by problem-oriented research in tackling environmental hazards facing the farmers. Six primary sequential steps, from problem identification via field quantification to the contributions to solutions, are distinguished as essential. In the Kenyan example, it was possible to give a "weather advisory, " that is, an extension message with strong agroclimatological components, on the biophysical and economic limits of alley cropping Cassia siamea with maize in a semiarid environment. Adaptation requirements of some commercial instruments under tropical conditions were also covered. Such a range of subjects is essential if research education is to contribute to protection from environmental hazards in dryland farming.