Smart-valleys, developing inland valleys for rice production

  • 30th May 2017
  • by secretary

Smart-valleys: Trainer-facilitator’s manual.
Smart-valleysManuel du formateur-facilitateur
Defoer, T, Dugué, M-J, Loosvelt, M, and Worou, S. 2017.
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire: Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice). 130 pp

This manual is made up of modules, which are to be used by the trainer-facilitator during the training of the technician-facilitators who are in the position to facilitate the Smart-valleys development process on the ground. The manual is therefore, first of all, meant for the trainer-facilitators interacting with the technicians during the training workshop. These training workshops, and consequently the accompanying modules, are based on the principle of training by discovery and by action-training.

The AfricaRice Knowledge Management Unit is currently preparing distance learning courses for the approach that will allow AfricaRice to reach even more farmers in the end.

SMART-valleys’ is a low-cost, participatory and sustainable approach to develop inland valleys for rice-based systems. Major advantages mentioned by farmers are the increased water retention in their fields, less risk of fertilizer losses due to flooding and increased rice yields.

  • The SMART-valleys approach follows a step-wise procedure focusing on design, lay-out and construction of low-cost water control infrastructure after a careful selection procedure paying attention to both socio-economic and biophysical factors and making extensive use of farmer knowledge.
  • The SMART-valleys approach starts with the identification of inland valley sites with potential for rice cultivation. This is done by a technical team working with farmers and village chiefs in the field. The team should be comprised of members that are trained in the SMART-valleys approach, able to comprehend the social and hydrological setting of valleys with potential for rice cropping. Together they put together a dossier containing information about the valley/s to be developed, importance of rice in the surrounding community, potential to grow and market rice, suitability of the soil and water source for rice cropping, land tenure, etc. The dossier allows the technical team to discuss with the communities that want to exploit the valley and those that are downstream that might be affected by the development.
  • The plan and design of the development is based on this dossier, consultations with technical teams and farmers’ knowledge and experience of water flow and retention on the soil surface. Such a design outlines the water intake, drains and bunds to enable greatly improved water retention in the valley lowlands and drainage of excess water from the valley. It may also include simple structures to divert water from a natural source and provide irrigation to thirsty rice fields when needed.

Back in 2009 the SMART-IV project was started in Benin and Togo. Since that year it supported rice farmers with improvement land and water management approaches. Despite a slow start the SMART-IV project has become a great success. With hard work and good collaboration it achieved the goals that were set by the donor, the Ministry of Agriculture in Japan.

The SMART-valleys approach was rewarded a second phase then called the SMART-VALLEYS project and it expanded the project to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola affected the timely implementation of the activities but since this year field technician and farmers are exposed to the Smart-valleys approach and it conducted agronomic research to improve the yields in terms of quantity and quality.

In the meanwhile new projects are introducing the Smart-valleys approach in GIZ funded projects in Burkina Faso and northern Benin. The approach was showcased as an example of adaptation of African farmers to climate change and variability at the COP22 Climate Change meeting in Marrakech last year. Both Radio France International and the German sister Deutsche Welle broadcasted the Smart-valleys approach.

The coordinator of the project, Dr. Roland Issaka (picture), is succeeding to Sander Zwart who coordinated the project from 2009 until 2017.



4-5 April 2017. Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Technologies, Platforms and Partnerships in support of the African agricultural science agenda. A meeting was held co-hosted by IFPRI and AfricaRice, to strengthen linkages and forge stronger partnerships around new ideas, tools and technologies that contribute to developments in agricultural science, technology and innovation. The meeting was attended by over 60 participants from international development institutions (World Bank, Africa Development Bank, IFAD and USAID) and technical partners (CGIAR Centers, national partners including universities, sub-regional organizations, private sector and NGOs). It demonstrated how new technologies and their assessments, delivery mechanisms, shared platforms, and new tools will support agricultural transformation and economic development in Africa.

Funding support for the Scientific and Technical Partnerships in Africa program was provided by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The Meeting:

  • Reviewed and discussed initial highlights and results from IFPRI and partners three workstreams as proof of concept in technical support of the Science Agenda.
  • Explored examples of country level applications of technologies, technology platforms, and their delivery mechanisms.
  • Prepared for specific business cases for technologies and examined further the role private and public sector partnerships play in technology investment in Africa.
  • Explored opportunities to create synergies in agricultural R&D that could make a difference in brokering institutional and technical partnerships moving ahead.