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Sharing Best Agroecological Practice for Resilient Production Systems in Dryland and Drought Conditions

Final Report Summary - ECODRY (Sharing Best Agroecological Practice for Resilient Production Systems in Dryland and Drought Conditions)

EcoDry – Sharing Best Agroecological Practice for Resilient Production Systems in Dryland and Drought Conditions
This joint exchange project aims to enhance understanding and share knowledge on strategies to build the resilience of farming systems to natural and man-made impacts in dryland and drought situations, including climate change, through collaboration of joint research and capacity building activities between participating universities. The specific objectives are as follows:
1. To identify and build a body of knowledge on innovative agroecological strategies to mitigate threats of natural and man-made nature for drylands and drought.
2. To build a network of expertise on agroecological innovations through workshops, conferences and seminars.
3. To provide opportunities for research on cutting-edge agroecological approaches in the natural and social sciences for postgraduate students.

The project partners comprise: Coventry University UK, University of Extremadura Spain, University of Yucatan Mexico, Stellenbosch University South Africa, and National Centre for Research and Development, Jordan. With the project running for three years from February 2014, cooperation and exchanges between the different research centres across three continents will enable the testing of different agroecological practices and research and extension techniques in different contexts. These will enable the construction of common methodologies and approaches to address the challenges of dry lands and drought which is especially necessary in the current scenario of global climate change.

Work performed and achievements:
The project has supported knowledge exchange trips for 127 researchers in total, comprising 83 Experienced Researchers and 44 Early Stage Researchers, between the UK, Spain, Mexico, Jordan and South Africa.

The project Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy and Plan: “Participatory Research on Soil and Water Management and Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation 2014-16” was developed in collaboration with all project partners has been guiding the project. since inception. The project website can be viewed here: http://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/current-projects/2014/ecodry/ and a video description of the project and interviews with partners here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9B1ICDcQcg

Formal Memorandums of Association have been developed between partners UE Spain and UY Mexico, and also between the Centre for Complex Systems, SU South Africa, and the Centre for Agroecology, CU, UK. In addition an Agreement of Collaboration has been signed between the National Commission of Water (CONAGUA), Yucatan Mexico and the of the University of Extremadura, Spain.

In terms of teaching and training, an International Doctoral Training Programme for Africa has been developed between SU South Africa and CU UK, and will support 15 PhD students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Africa. A 3-year Joint Postdoctoral Research Fellowship post has been established between SU South Africa and CU UK.
Numerous seminars and postgraduate teaching exchanges have taken place. In addition, three International Workshops have taken place; on Agroecology, Water and Climate Change, in February 2014 at Coventry University, UK (see presentations at: http://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/current-projects/2014/ecodry/ecodry-presentations/) on Water and Agroecological Practice for Resilient Production Systems in Dryland and Drought Conditions, at the Faculty of Business and Tourism, University of Extremadura, Spain, in March 2015, and an International Agroecology Symposium, UK 1st March 2016.

Early Stage Researchers undertaking doctoral field work include:
Simulating the spread of invasive plants using agent-based modelling (A Gangur)
Building the resilience of the margins – agroecology as situated co-learning for rural peace building in protracted post-conflict environments (G MacAllister)
The potential of peri-urban agriculture to meet food and livelihood needs (G Romero)
Evaluating commercial cattle production as a resilient livelihood option for emergent small hold farmers in Eastern Cape Province South Africa (L Gwiriri)
Rituals for Resilience: Reviving Food and Arts Practices for Socio-ecological Restoration (M Fabre Lewin)
Resilience of Agricultural Ecosystems to Biological Invasion (C Maclaren)
Effect of compost and foliar sprays on rooibos tea growth and yields (N Smith)
Human water governance (R Malisa)

Peer reviewed publications are lead by :
Dieppois, B., B. Pohl, M. Rouault, M. New, D. Lawler, and N. Keenlyside (2016), Interannual to interdecadal variability of winter and summer southern African rainfall, and their teleconnections, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 121, doi:10.1002/2015JD024576.
(WINNER OF THE STANLEY JACKSON PRIZE which rewards the annual best and most significant contribution in oceanography and atmospheric sciences (including environmental and hydrological sciences) in southern Africa.)
Three other publications are published, and 16 others are in preparation, with a further two in peer-reviewed conference proceedings.
Papers have been presented at 11 International Conferences.
Non standard research and knowledge dissemination methodologies and approaches include An Artists Residency at Stellenbosch University (M Fabre Lewin & F Gathorne Hardy), and a set if videos to disseminate best agricultural practice (B Cook).

As well as the above results, the socio economic impact of this project has been significant, given that the improved management of water resources will enable regions to avoid both flooding and drought which at present has huge cost and social implications in both northern and southern countries. Specifically, the research has contribute significantly to enhancing networks within the framework of agroecological strategies for drought mitigation, the research findings have contributed to knowledge on sustainable drought mitigation that influence both policy and practice, the outputs in terms of conference papers, book chapters and refereed journal articles have and are reaching an international body of academics, and the project partnership between institutes in the UK, Spain, Mexico, South Africa and Jordan has had a substantial impact on their existing research and teaching facilities and has and is establishing training programmes and a stream of talented researchers mobile across these countries.