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Title: Innovative research approaches for mountain regions : operationalizing systems integration at farm and landscape scales
Authors: German, Laura
Date: 2006
Publisher: AHI, Kampala, UG
Series/Report no.: AHI working paper / African Highlands Initiative; no. 21
Abstract: Most research in support of agricultural development and natural resource management in densely settled mountain ecosystems continues to emphasize component over systems-level goals. Research by plant breeders, (agro)foresters and animal scientists is generally designed to maximize the yield of products within their particular areas of expertise (edible plant parts, tree products and livestock products, respectively), while soil scientists aim largely to increase soil nutrient stocks. At landscape level the same dynamic holds within the agronomic sciences, while water engineers work independently to conserve water through its isolation from broader landscape dynamics, and other common property resources remain largely ignored. Opportunities to foster positive synergies between system components, and to integrate livelihood with conservation goals, are generally missed. // This paper presents experiences of the African Highlands Initiative, an ecoregional program of the CGIAR and a network of ASARECA (the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa), in operationalizing integrated research at farm and landscape scale. Following a discussion of the shortcomings of the conventional research paradigm, the paper lays a conceptual foundation for integrated research. System components at farm and landscape level are delineated, and this somewhat arbitrary conceptual partitioning of agroecological systems shown to influence the current research paradigm as well as the partitioning of institutional mandates. Diverse meanings of systems integration are then discussed to illustrate the synergies that might be built into agricultural and natural resource research programs. The distinction between the logic of maximization and optimization is then utilized to distinguish between component and “system-level” goals. This conceptual overview is followed up with several case studies to illustrate how these concepts can guide the formulation of integrated research objectives, methods and outputs at farm and landscape scale. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of this alternative research paradigm for the structure, function and skill base of national and international research systems.
Project Number: 101592
Project Title: African Highlands Resource Management - Phase III
Access: IDRC Only
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