Farmer Field Schools are participatory advisory services, where farmers cultivate together small experimental plots and merge their understandings. Researchers Bakker et al. studied how such schools influence farmers. They observed that consultative Farmer Field Schools cause limited farmers’ changes in cropping practices. On the contrary, collaborative Farmer Field Schools encourage farmers to adapt their practices to real constraints encountered in their own fields. They initiate good processes for locally adapted cropping systems.
Which technology works best ? And for whom ? Scientists Jones-Garcia and Krishna reviewed 137 studies about farmer adoption of sustainable intensification technologies in the maize systems of the Global South. They identified the main constraints of adoption of technologies, such as limited information access and technologies not suitable for the small landholdings. They analyzed the decision-making process and proposed better research strategies toward inclusive agrarian development.
Soil fertility is key to the sustainable intensification of agriculture and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists Occelli et al. studied how traditional knowledge can shape farmers’ soil management in the Highlands of Ethiopia. They show that past and recent knowledge acquired within the household correlates with better soil fertility management, whereas knowledge acquired from social circles correlates with lower soil fertility management abilities.
Biodiversity-based agriculture that meets the sustainable development goals comes as an alternative model to industrial agriculture. A key issue for developing biodiversity-based agriculture is to build collaborative governance and management structures to increase farmers’ access to agrobiodiversity. Scientists Labeyrie et al. questioned the role of social networks’ structure and composition in farmers’ access to agrobiodiversity. They proposed a framework for developing new participatory approaches for agrobiodiversity management and collaborative governance.
Mixed cropping with several main crops increases biodiversity. However, pure stands are still favored, and mixed cropping is a challenge for farmers. Scientists Bonke and Musshoff analyzed the psychological factors motivating the adoption of mixed cropping in Germany. They highlight the importance of farmers’ attitudes towards mixed cropping, perceived behavioral control, and several social group norms. They suggest that adoption depends on both the willingness to adopt and economic reasoning.
Agricultural mechanization is on the rise across Africa. Researchers Daum et al. reckon it is changing the face of African farming and rural areas. On the upside, mechanization can reduce poverty and enhance food security. On the downside, however, mechanization may enhance deforestation, soil erosion, land-use conflicts, and gender inequalities. Mechanization strategies have to consider environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainability to ensure a sustainable transformation of African agriculture.
In the context of the agroecological restoration, exploiting soil biodiversity is the top priority for reducing crop dependence on chemical inputs. Focusing on mycorrhizae, scientists Chave et al. elaborated a methodological framework for designing efficient agrosystems. This method reveals various constraints and levers. It fosters local innovation and develops both systemic reasoning and collective actions. Such a global approach allows farmers to understand that all of them are potential “mycorrhizae producers”.
Sustainable intensification of agricultural production is needed to ensure increased productivity but for farmers, this may alter the yield-to-labor ratio. Scientists Dahlin and Rusinamhodzi recently reviewed the relationship between maize grain yield change and labor input for a range of practices proposed for sustainable intensification of smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa. They show that the examined options may increase both crop yield and labor demand for smallholder farmers.
More diversified farms can render food systems sustainable, resilient and socially just. Scientists Valencia et al. showed that the National School Feeding program in Brazil generated a large and diversified demand for vegetables and legumes. As a consequence, it transformed low diverse & high input farming systems into diversified horticultural productions and increased the hectarage of land under diversified farming systems.
The livelihood and food of rural communities is changing, possibly due to greater access to urban areas and their market economy. Scientists Silva et al. studied food consumption in slave-remnant villages in the Brazilian Cerrado. They found a transition from locally produced foods to processed items that increases with greater urban access and more government subsidies. This questions the impact of modern lifestyles on remote rural settings and maintenance of traditional livelihood.