Theme 1a: Balancing yield and ecological potential for sustainable production: Soil, water, nutrient and livestock management

Agro-ecological theory states that potential yields of any crop are generally not achieved because of limiting factors like the often scarce availability of water and nutrients. This is one of the causal factors of the yield gap. Contrary to the situation in many developed countries, this yield gap is large in most developing countries, and closing the yield gap is considered as one of the best options to improve productivity. However, practices in developed countries demonstrate that closing the yield gap at all costs tends to be not sustainable. Therefore optimizing yield in balance with the ecological potential of the production area rather than maximizing yield at all costs is the challenge we are facing. An important element is the role of livestock. Livestock is an integral part of many agro-production systems, affecting the livelihood of the rural population, and interacting with soil, water and nutrient management. Another challenge is to conserve the resource base and make better use of biodiversity in conferring resilience and adaptive capacity of agroecosystems to climate change. Here diversity does make a difference, as farmers need more options for production and income diversification. This working group focuses on agronomic interventions that will help to achieve a sustainable intensification of production areas.



Paul Kiepe

Paul Kiepe is  the regional Representative of the Africa Rice Centre, ESA, Program Leader Sustainable Productivity Enhancement and IVC Coordinator. Qualifications:  MSc (1984) in land and water management and PhD (1995) in soil and water conservation, both from Wageningen University.

Specialization/Expertise: Land and water management, biological soil and water conservation, soil degradation, agroforestry, sustainable watershed management, crop simulation modelling, systems analysis, environmental change 
Major Achievements: 

  • Co-editor of conference proceedings on ‘Iron Toxicity in Rice-based Systems in West-Africa’ edited by Audebert, Narteh, Kiepe, Millar and Beks in 2006.
  • Co-developer of the West African Inland Valley Information System (WAIVIS) released in 2004. WAIVIS is a repository of inland valleys characterizations at multiple scales in twelve IVC member countries.
  • Author and co-author of a string of publications on Sahelian farming systems, which were published in one volume called ‘Agro-sylvo-pastoral Land Use in Sahelian villages’ edited by Stroosnijder and Van Rheenen in 2001.
  • Developer of agro-hydrological and crop growth simulation models on the effect of mulch and hedgerows on surface runoff in tropical cropping systems.
  • Co-author of a book on modeling maize in the tropics called ‘Simulation of maize growth under conservation farming in tropical environments’ by Stroosnijder and Kiepe in 1998.
  • Advisor on sustainable sloping land technologies in Africa and Asia.


Robert Zougmoré

Dr Robert B. Zougmoré is an agronomist and soil scientist with a PhD in Production Ecology & Resources Conservation (University of Wageningen, The Netherlands).

Before joining CCAFS, he was a senior staff within the Environment Program of the Sahara & Sahel Observatory (Tunisia) where he was actively involved in the development and implementation of initiatives pertaining: (1) to Desertification, land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) including environmental surveillance, monitoring and evaluation of DLDD, drought early warning ..., in the framework of the UNCCD implementation; (2) to climate change adaptation in Africa (analyzing adaptation strategies of vulnerable populations in arid and semi-arid zones, etc.); the aim being to contribute defining informed policies for good environmental governance in Africa. He coordinated a joint-funded IDRC/DFID project entitled "Experimenting a capacity development approach and a toolkit for monitoring and evaluation within climate change adaptation initiatives", in collaboration with UNECA, AGRHYMET, and IUCN.

Prior to that, he spent one year as a Post-Doc at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Science (JIRCAS) in Japan, working on the benefit of conservation agriculture for soil and water conservation.

From 1990 to 2007, he was senior researcher and has been Chief department of the Natural resources Management and farming systems at the Institute for Environment and Agricultural Research in Burkina Faso. Thanks to his great experience in integrated land and water management at plot and watershed scales, he has contributed developing adaptations options and strategies to climate variability and land degradation in the vulnerable arid and semi-arid ecosystems, therefore generating and sharing significant scientific knowledge for informed decision making and sound policy development. He actively contributed to the use of databases for the validation of APSIM and DSSAT models in the Sahel and their use for the dissemination of sustainable land, water and nutrient management technologies.

He has coordinated several research projects at national and regional levels in partnership with regional and international institutions (IFDC, ICRISAT, IITA, CIAT, FAO, IFAD, etc.). He was also a part-time Lecturer at the Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso on land degradation and sustainable land & water management. He is on the Board member of the African Conservation Tillage Network and is also the Secretary General of the Africa Soil Science Society. Robert Zougmore has published widely on soil erosion, integrated soil, water and nutrient management options and their economic benefits.

Tony Simons

Raised in New Zealand, Dr Simons has had a distinguished career. He graduated from Massey University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) and attended the University of Cambridge, UK, where he earned a PhD in Botany. He has been Deputy Director General of the Centre since 2008 and prior to that led the Centre’s Trees and Markets research programme. Dr Simons will play a vital role in setting the agenda for how agroforestry research in the developing world progresses in the coming decade.

Dr Tony Simons is currently the Director General of the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre.

Lijbert Brussaard


Expertise: Ecology and diversity of soil organisms; Biological soil fertility; Soil quality

  • Co-chair of the Science Committee of the DIVERSITAS cross-cutting theme agroBIODIVERSITY, which coincides with membership of the DIVERSITAS Science Committee
  • Member of EU Expert Group Soil biodiversity
  • Scientific Advisor of the International Foundation for Science
  • Member of the Standing Committee of the International Soil Zoology Colloquium
  • Member of the Netherlands Biodiversity Platform


Recommended reading materials (clickable)


Quantifying impacts of nitrogen use in European agriculture on global warming potential
Wim de Vries,Johannes Kros, Gert Jan Reinds and Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

Improving agricultural water productivity: Between optimism and caution
David Molden, Theib Oweis, Pasquale Steduto, Prem Bindraban, Munir A. Hanjra, Jacob Kijne

Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change: a critical re-examination to identify the true and the false
D . S . Powlson, A. P. Whitmore & K . W. T . Goulding

Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture
Pete Smith, Daniel Martino, Zucong Cai, Daniel Gwary, Henry Janzen,Pushpam Kumar, Bruce McCarl, Stephen Ogle, Frank O’Mara, Charles Rice, Bob Scholes, Oleg Sirotenko, Mark Howden,Tim McAllister, Genxing Pan, Vladimir Romanenkov, Uwe Schneider, Sirintornthep Towprayoon, Martin Wattenbach and Jo Smith

Reconciling biodiversity conservation and food security: scientific challenges for a new agriculture
Lijbert Brussaard, Patrick Caron, Bruce Campbell, Leslie Lipper, Susan Mainka, Rudy Rabbinge, Didier Babin and Mirjam Pulleman

Boundary work for sustainable development: Natural resource management at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
William C. Clarka, Thomas P. Tomichb, Meine van Noordwijkc, David Gustond, Delia Catacutan, Nancy M. Dickson, and Elizabeth McNie


Professor of Soil Biology

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