RAPs and Scenarios Workshop in Zimbabwe

How can scenarios inform the future of farming in Zimbabwe?

By Sabine Homann-Kee Tui

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Stakeholders from district to national scales in Zimbabwe met with AgMIP researchers on revising pathways that reflect trade-offs between environmental priorities and fast economic growth, useful for decision makers thinking about the future of farming in Zimbabwe. Photo: S Homann-Kee Tui

On the 25-26, October 2016 the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) South Eastern Africa Regional Team held a workshop titled “Future scenarios to inform decision making processes: National Representative Agricultural Pathways (RAPs) for Zimbabwe” at the ICRISAT Bulawayo office in Zimbabwe. The team is conducting research that aims at understanding climate change impacts on agriculture and prioritizing effective adaptation strategies.

The focus of the workshop was to illustrate the uses and contributions of RAPs for policy, research and investment decisions towards sustainable and profitable agriculture under uncertain future conditions. RAPs are set up through a rigorous process of scenario development to explore future model uncertainties.

Participants from national, provincial and district level policy makers, research and development and agricultural extension, came together at the workshop to review contrasting pathways that might shape the future of farming in Zimbabwe. The Department of Research and Specialist Services, Department of Climate Change, Meteorological Service Department, Agricultural Technical and Extension Services, Department of Livestock Production and Development, Ministry of Women Affairs, Department of Economics and Markets, Livestock and Meat Advisory Council, UNDP and Nkayi Rural District Council were all represented.

The first part of the workshop outlined the scope of the AgMIP project. Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, ICRISAT, presented the South Eastern Africa or Crop Livestock Intensification Project (CLIP) as a regional case study that tests options for redesigning mixed crop livestock farming systems facing climate change. Farming systems, like the one studied in Nkayi District, are already very vulnerable and participants understood from this case study how diversification, integration and market orientation of crop livestock farming could transform rural livelihoods. Roberto Valdivia, Oregon State University, presented the science behind RAPs, a structured research led approach to inform solutions across national to local scales.

“RAPS are an important source of information that can guide future decisions about crop and livestock production, illustrating supply and demands at national and international markets for agricultural products and processed foods, in order to prepare for future conditions, structures and capacities to meet future requirements,” said Dr. Reneth Mano, Livestock Meat Advisory Council.

The second part of the workshop focused on two different possible future scenarios named “Greener Pastures” and “Thistles and Thorns”. “Greener pastures” was defined as a future towards sustainable development including slow and inclusive agricultural growth and strong engagement of farmers’ unions and the private sector. In this scenario women would play an important role in agriculture supported by policy directives to promote inclusive agricultural development. This important role of women would directly translate into greater diversity in production and increased food and nutrition security.

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The scenario “Greener Pastures”, illustrated by Sidsel Vognsen, UNDP.

In the second scenario, “Thistles and Thorns,” assumptions of rapid economic growth dominating social and environmental considerations led to a future Zimbabwe that would look very different from the first scenario. “Thistles and Thorns” was described as a future with islands of highly productive areas while most of the people would be driven into marginal lands and greater impoverishment of the bottom poor. Under this more aggressive approach to development women would largely be excluded from decisions and vulnerable groups would secure their livelihoods off-farm, resulting in increased rural to urban migration. In addition there would be trade-offs between export oriented cash crops and nutritional crops.

The “Greener Pastures” and “Thistles and Thorns” worlds were assumed to have a queen in one case and a king in the other. Participants were divided into the two kingdom groups and adopted the role of advisors in order to make ensure that policies, institutions and technologies would follow the socio-economic and biophysical trends needed to arrive at these future worlds. The participatory approach enlightened the scenario development process across national to district scales and disciplines.

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Group of participants revising the scenario “Greener pastures.” Photo: S. Homann-Kee Tui

Pathways and scenarios can guide policy processes and dialogue with research towards creating integrated farming systems. “Informing crop improvement programs is critical, especially for supporting smallholder farmers in marginal areas, already highly vulnerable, to adapt to climate variability and change” Dr. Dumisani Kutywayo, Director of the Crops Research Division, at the Department of Research and Specialists Services, commented.

Mr. Ben Mache, Head of Crops Agricultural Technical and Extension Services highlighted, “Such dialogues help to create conditions and mechanisms that would leverage uptake of technologies and cater for shock situations, in preparation for agriculture under future climate.”

Participants expressed that web-based tools are also critical, such as the AgMIP Impacts Explorer currently in development, to make the information available to a broad range of users, and for revision and adjustment processes.

Inter-linkages between global to local levels can also guide policy decisions. Global policies and collaborations will shape investments into agriculture. Implementation of national level policies will shape the future of women in farming.

“Women carry the great amount of farming in Zimbabwe, and there is no sign that this is going to change in the future; it might rather increase as male labor leaves rural areas for wage labor opportunities. Hence what would it mean if policy evolved to ensure women equal control over resources, production factors and information? What would be the implications for food security and nutrition?” were some questions raised Dr. Amy Sullivan, AgMIP stakeholder liaison before the workshhop. There was an explicit focus on gender and nutrition at the workshop.

“Generating RAPs illustrated the need for better streamlined two-way dialogue among researchers and policy makers. Co-designing RAPs is necessarily iterative, and requires feedback from stakeholders. It is also important that RAPs represent trade-offs between economic growth, social and environmental consequences”, said Roberto Valdivia, Oregon State University. RAPs must be explicit on drivers that define the levels of wealth distribution, equity versus manifestation of having and have not. Specific organizations can then use the RAPs for shaping their own investments and strategic plans.

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Participants formulating the use of RAPs for their own organizations. Photo: S. Homann-Kee Tui

The AgMIP Crop Livestock Intensification Project (CLIP) team facilitating this workshop included researchers from ICRISAT, Matopos Research Institute, ICRAF, National University of Science and Technologiy/Institute for Development Research and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Oregon State University, AgMIP Co-leadership of the AgMIP regional economics team, supported the organization and implementation of the workshop.

Special thanks to UKaid DFID for their support of the workshop, the CLIP research team, and the AgMIP leaders in economics and stakeholder interactions, made possible owing by their awards to AgMIP via USDA/Columbia University (USDA 58-0210-1-073F), USDA/Oregon State University (USDA 58-0210-5-001F) and ICRISAT.