India: Integrated Farming System (IFS): Talking point of SAFBIN Research Workshop at Nepal

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is aiming to address the most pressing challenges of our time and goals like ‘No Poverty’, ‘Zero Hunger’, ‘Responsible Consumption & Production’, and ‘Climate Action’ gives a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Smallholder Adaptive Farming and Biodiversity Network (SAFBIN) is one such regional programme for promoting local food and nutritional security through adaptive small-scale farming in four rain-fed Agro Ecosystems (AES) namely India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan in South Asia. Recently, a Research Workshop was organised from 18th – 22nd of February 2019 at Kathmandu, Nepal with 24 country representatives to develop the IFS system to increase farm yield and manage resources to address all three critical aspects of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. The IFS is an interrelated, inter-dependent-interlocking approach to agricultural research and development that view the whole farm as a system and focus on the interdependencies between the major farm components (crop, soil, water, livestock, poultry, fishery, homestead, biomass etc.) under the control of smallholder farmers (SHF) households. These farm components interact with each other (connections) in respect of physical, biological and socio-economic factors which are not under the control of SHF households.

78% of small and marginal farmers who contributes to the food requirement are struggling to enable these connections in rain-fed conditions. SAFBIN programme is working on doubling farm production and Income, increase access to balanced diet and nutritional self-sufficiency, control over land and secure access to knowledge, farm-based entitlements, and increase Resilience to climate change and disaster while maintaining farm ecosystem. The teams shared the learning of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) conducted in all villages of the programme. Research scientist from each country were also part of the meeting with the aim of involving them right from the initial phase of the programme.

Based on the findings of the local Food Ecosystem, Trade-in and Trade-Out, Bio-resource flow and Agro-ecology mapping, the teams shared an appropriate Small Holder Farmer (SHF) friendly IFS model. Giving emphasis on connections among available farm components to use sustainably produced soil nutrients, cultivation of diversified food crops, improved livestock management, and allied enterprises to enhance overall farm productivity with local environmental resources.

Adoption of Integrated Farming System leads to sustainability and stability in farm income through multiple components that aim at maximum utilization of available natural resources to meet the family needs. IFS provides an opportunity to profitably engage the available resources in the farm family throughout the year leading to higher income and family satisfaction. A good IFS aims at least dependency on outside resources and efficient recycling/reuse of available farm resources.

The team discussed that though IFS can be explained as a system comprised of several mutually inter-connected and complementary agro-based components, no common model can be suitable for all the situations. IFS model has to be developed based on the agro-climatic situations, holding size, availability of farm resources like land, water, labour, marketing facilities, risk factors, family size, the ability of the farm family to participate in the farming activity, their capacity, knowledge and skill level.