Access to crop diversity and resilience of agroecosystems in the semi-arid regions - ARISER

The goal of the ARISER project is to provide the first systematic evaluation of the relationship between the circulation of information and seed, crop diversity, and the stability of agricultural production in African arid regions subject to high climate variability.
Bambari groundnut diversity in southeastern Senegal (Kédougou region) © V. Labeyrie, CIRAD
Bambari groundnut diversity in southeastern Senegal (Kédougou region) © V. Labeyrie, CIRAD

Bambara groundnut is a drought-resistant pulse grown by the women of the Bassari group in southeastern Senegal to make a dish known as enap. Seeds of the species are solely exchanged by gifting, and have significant cultural and social value within Bassari society © V. Labeyrie, CIRAD


ARISER analyses the effect of the circulation of seed and information on crop diversity in farming systems in the semi-arid regions. The project also seeks to better understand the implications for the resilience of these farming systems faced with disturbances, especially climate change.

The project will have an impact in the field of sustainability in science and network-based research. It aims to improve decision making among farmers faced with climate change.


The project methodology is articulated around four main activities that are interlinked and organised into focal areas:

I. Data collection

The research will focus on several aspects:

  • Characterising local methods for managing crop diversity;
  • Measuring functional diversity and yield;

The methodology used is a mixed approach consisting of household surveys, semi-structured interviews with key informants in each community, the “serious game” methodology (modelling through games), group discussions and the development of simulated data in order to improve decision making processes.

II. Simulation and modelling

An approach that mobilises multi-agent modelling tools to simulate the effect of the different types of networks on crop diversity.
A role-playing game will be designed and implemented in the form of a multi-agent model. This model will be tested through simulations according to different types of networks in the areas of intervention.

III. Statistical analysis

An approach based on social network analysis to characterise access to seed and information.

IV. Dissemination of our research findings

Through scientific publications, feedback to local communities and authorities. Social networks could also be used.

Expected results

Taking an innovative, interdisciplinary approach, the project will provide contributions to research with important implications for agricultural development.

The project will make three crucial contributions to research on this subject and adaptation policies, as well as for communities of smallholder farmers.

  1. This research will provide the first general evaluation of the effect of different crop seeds and of the knowledge network structure on smallholder access to crop diversity, as well as a unified framework for comparable future research. It will fill an important research gap, since researchers stress that the local social networks involved in seed and information dissemination play a key role in smallholder access to crop diversity, but there is no clear evidence of the decisive structural characteristics of these networks.
  2. By evaluating the role of seed and associated information networks in agricultural production stabilisation of over time in arid regions, this project will considerably enhance our understanding of the processes involved in smallholder resilience in a context of high climate variability. This is all the more important in that research on climate adaptation has only given limited attention to crop diversity management in relation to other adaptation measures, despite its potential in smallholder farming.
  3. The project will produce knowledge on inequalities of access to crop diversity between the different categories of farmers in rural communities, which has never been systematically evaluated to date. This knowledge is essential to the joint design of inclusive and equitable mechanisms aimed at improving farmers' access to crop diversity.

Finally, the project will have tangible effects beyond research, since it has implications for agricultural development and policies. The goal is to integrate all smallholder crop diversity management systems into the decision making process for agricultural development, in which the “multiple evidence base approach” is still largely underused.

- University Abdelmalek Essaadi, Faculté polydisciplinaire de Larache, département des sciences de la vie ;
- University of Antananarivo, mention biologie et écologie végétale (MBEV) ;
- École supérieure des sciences agronomiques, mention foresterie et environnement (ESSA-Forêt) ;
- Institut sénégalais de recherche agricole (ISRA), bureau d’analyses macro-économique.