The Smart-valleys approach was developed by AfricaRice in collaboration with the Lowlands Division of Benin Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and the Togolese Institute for Agricultural Research with support from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Compared to conventional approaches, which involve expensive topographic studies and high investment costs to construct elaborate water control infrastructure, Smart-valleys involves relatively simple, low-cost water management structures that can be constructed and maintained entirely by farmers themselves. With only limited additional cost to farmers, it can help double rice yields through improved water control, especially if it is accompanied by good crop management practices.
Farmers in Benin and Togo, who have adopted the Smart-valleys approach, have seen rice yields under rainfed conditions increase from 1.5-2 tons per hectare to 3.5-4.5 tons per hectare. In addition to increased rice yields, major advantages mentioned by farmers, are lower vulnerability to drought risks due to increased water retention in their fields and less risk of fertilizer losses due to flooding.
The Smart-valleys approach was selected as an example of adaptation of African farmers to climate change and variability at the COP 22 Climate Change Conference, held in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016. The approach has been widely publicized through local and international media channels.
After its success in Benin and Togo, Smart-valleys is being rolled out in Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone – countries that have a high potential for development of rice-based systems in inland valleys.
The trainer-facilitator’s manual is targeted at field technicians from extension services, ministries of agriculture and non-governmental organizations. It consists of modules to accompany training sessions comprising theoretical and practical aspects and covering various phases and stages of the Smart-valleys approach.
The modules present a rich toolkit of principles and adaptable practices involved in developing Smart-valleys, based on the concept of “learning by doing.” This enables field technicians to capture farmers’ knowledge while working with them, and adapt the Smart-valleys approach to the specific conditions of each site.
The manual, developed by T Defoer, M-J Dugué, M Loosvelt and S Worou, is available in English and French. It is supported by the film “Smart-valleys: Developing inland valleys for rice-based systems in sub-Saharan Africa.”