The redesigning of cropping systems requires the adoption of technical innovations. For that to happen, the simultaneous involvement of the whole of the agricultural crop growing community, from small farmers to corporates, is needed.
The project is therefore leaning on the setting up of a network of Mauritian crop growers through pilot farms which have been inspired by the French farms DEPHY’s network model.
The accompaniment and follow-up of the farmers and the maintenance of the dynamics of these networks will be carried out by two network facilitators of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture as well as two officers from FAREI. One project assistant – under the supervision of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture – is also working on easing the communication within FAREI and between FAREI and Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture .

The network is comprised of two sub-networks of two different types of farmers:

10 corporates

Members of Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture accompanied by two facilitators of Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture

10 small growers

Being followed by the FAREI and located in two regions:

5 farmers at Plaine Sophie

Accompanied by the FAREI officer responsible of the region

5 farmers at La Laura

Accompanied by the FAREI officer responsible of the region

These two sub-networks will progress simultaneously and in close collaboration.

Despite the difference in structure of agricultural holdings, the intra and inter network discussions will give way to overall progress on the common issues and challenges faced by the farmers.
Hence, a collective reflection will be done on the agro-ecological management of pests such as the fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis, Bactrocera cucurbitae and Neoceratitis cyanescens), the leafminer (Lyriomiza trifolii and Lyriomiza huidobrensis), the thrips (Thrips palmi), the diseases (Flétrissement bactérien, racines roses, rouilles, anthracnose,…) as well as common weeds such as the herbes à oignons (Cyperus Rotondus), the anis sauvage (Cyclospermum leptophyllum) and the brèdes malabar (Amaranthus dubius).
The management of diseases, of fertilisation, or of irrigation will also be part of the reflection over the course of this project as these are the levers which would make it possible to act on the question of pests control and diseases.
The agro-ecological levers identified for the individual and collective redesigning of the crop system, should enable the enhancement of the soil and water conservation, the reduction of the usage of synthesis inputs and the optimisation of the ecosystem services through an approach relying on a biodiversified agriculture.
A combination of levers such as the reflection on culture rotation, management of fertilisation, integrated biological protection, variety breeding (plant), optimisation of ecosystem services or even the physical protection (indoor cultivation) will help to move towards more resilient systems.
These agronomic levers will also bring to the farmer some means of circumventing technical dead ends in which they are finding themselves today, or will find themselves if they continue with their current intensive agricultural model (case of the resistance of the leafminer, Liriomyza trifolii, which cause damages to the nearly all of the vegetable farming despite the weekly use of insecticides).
These levers would be implemented, evaluated and adjusted first within the network and then be shared with other Mauritian growers.
A training programme given by different local and international experts would help the farmers of the network to gain additional knowledge on the functionality of their agroecosystems as well as on the methods of agro-ecological management which can be implemented in their systems. This programme will also be a tool to strengthen interactions within the network and will question the growers on their current practices.
The phase 2 of the Smart Agriculture project started in June 2017 and will end in June 2021. The systems implemented by the growers of the network are re-evaluated every year to encourage continuous improvement. The farmers are also accompanied by a reinforcement of knowledge via the training programmes and the technical support of the CIRAD through the networks animators of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture and of the FAREI.