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REQUEST FOR PREPROPOSALS: THE SOIL MANAGEMENT CRSP, 1996-2001
PROCESS AND ELIGIBILITY
The Soil Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SM-CRSP) is
soliciting preproposals for a five-year grant period beginning in the 1996
fiscal year. The projected funding level is $2.5n3.0 million per year. The
application process involves two steps:
i Interested parties must submit a preproposal by November 17, 1995.
i Those whose preproposals are selected will be invited to submit a full
proposal, from which the awardees will be selected.
Any technically qualified institution is eligible to participate in the
SM-CRSP. The program will be jointly funded: in part by the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and in part by cost-sharing
from participating institutions.
Part 1 of this RFP outlines the programis objectives and the general
research framework within which individual projects will operate. Part 2
presents the preproposal topics. Part 3 presents the guidelines for
submitting preproposals and the criteria upon which they will be judged.
This document is posted on the World Wide Web at the following address:
PART 1: PROGRAM OBJECTIVES AND RESEARCH FRAMEWORK
USAIDis Mission, Goals, and Strategic Objectives
The SM-CRSPis primary purpose is to help the USAID achieve its mission,
goals, and strategic objectives.
USAIDis mission is to promote sustainable development, defined as economic
and social growth that does not exhaust a countryis resources; that respects
and safeguards the economic, cultural, and natural environment; that creates
opportunities for enterprises and incomes to grow; that builds effective
institutions; and that empowers citizens. Two Agency-wide goals are
particularly relevant to the SM-CRSP: economic growth and sustainable
The three strategic objectives articulated by USAIDis Office of Agriculture
and Food Security (AFS) will serve to focus the SM-CRSP:
1. To ensure adequate quantities and qualities of food
2. To increase access to food among poorer households
3. To promote agricultural practices that enhance the natural-resource base.
The SM-CRSP will work to develop, evaluate, and promote the transfer of
soil-management and integrated nutrient management technologies that
increase agricultural productivity, enhance food security, and serve the
economic and environmental interests of developing countries and the U.S.
To respond most effectively to USAIDis mission, goals, and strategic
objectives, the SM-CRSP will work:
i To develop products necessary to overcome the principal soil-management
constraints to agricultural productivity and environmental stability.
i To disseminate those products in areas where a lack of information or a
failure to adopt improved technologies limits agricultural performance.
The SM-CRSP will maximize its impact by funding interdisciplinary
product-development teams. These teams are expected to establish an
implementation plan and an operational framework involving constraints,
products, and tasks.
The constraints identified in Part 2 of this RFP are problem areas with a
high potential for being overcome by the SM-CRSP. Overcoming a constraint
will increase agricultural productivity and environmental stability; it will
require a holistic approach that integrates expertise in soil science,
biological sciences, socioeconomics, and outreach. Teams will be most
effective if they recognize the interrelationship of various constraints.
Products are knowledge-based tools that enable users to diagnose and reduce
constraints. They can take a variety of forms (e.g., policy-making
guidelines, decision support systems, improved management strategies, and
new technologies). Product attributes will vary depending on the constraint,
the magnitude of the information gaps, and the targeted users. More than one
product can be produced by a single team. Team members must determine what
balance of products best serves the usersi short- and long-term needs.
A wide range of social- and natural-science information must be integrated
if SM-CRSP products are to help USAID achieve its strategic objectives.
Decision support systems have shown great promise as products capable of
achieving this integration. Product-development teams should give careful
consideration to their relevance in overcoming constraints.
Tasks are activities leading to the development and dissemination of a
product. They can range from summarizing and interpreting published and
unpublished literature, to conducting applied field experiments, to
undertaking basic research. Specifics will depend on what information is
needed and what must yet be done to produce and disseminate a reliable
Each product-development team needs to integrate developmental research,
strategic research, and outreach activities. These activities are briefly
Developmental research will synthesize information to generate a
problem-solving product. The current knowledge base should be the starting
point for this kind of work. As the National Research Council (NRC) has
concluded, the fundamental problems of soil and water management are largely
predictable and our understanding of the principles of soil management is
good, but our ability to apply this knowledge to problems in complex local
settings is weak.
SM-CRSP teams must develop products that enable existing information to be
used more efficiently. Developmental researchers will analyze and
synthesize information, identify knowledge gaps, and generate, test, and
refine products. Refinements will be based on input from end users, outreach
specialists, and strategic researchers on the product-development team.
Strategic research will (i) close knowledge gaps that limit product
effectiveness and (ii) explore new research avenues with the greatest
potential for reducing the target constraint. Most constraints are unlikely
to be overcome by a single product. The development of as yet unforeseen
products and product refinements will require a continued, but carefully
directed, expansion of the knowledge base.
This kind of directedness can be best established in a team context where
strategic and developmental researchers plan complementary activities with
outreach specialists. The team approach should also provide clear-cut
mechanisms for incorporating new information into useful products.
Outreach activities will help identify, develop, disseminate, evaluate, and
refine the teamis products. The ultimate beneficiaries of these products
should be farmers, policy-makers, and planners. Each teamis strategic
implementation plan must include measurable indicators that show how
outreach efforts are linked to impacts at the ultimate-beneficiary level.
Outreach specialists can work through in-country transfer agents or they can
work with such agents and the ultimate beneficiaries themselves. Ideally,
outreach efforts would integrate representatives from both groups into one
To maximize impact, outreach specialists must (i) clarify the needs of the
ultimate beneficiaries, (ii) support adaptive research, (iii) train transfer
agents/ultimate beneficiaries to use and disseminate the teamis products,
and (iv) provide feedback to developmental and strategic researchers so that
the products can be refined in ways that respond to usersi needs. Outreach
specialists should insure that usersi needs are reflected in all phases of
product development, testing, refinement, and promotion.
In order to overcome soil-related constraints to sustainable development,
soil-science information must be integrated (i) within the discipline and
(ii) across other disciplines. The SM-CRSPis product-development teams
should integrate research components into a holistic framework. Teams will
be most effective if they employ a systems approach that links agricultural,
natural-science, and social-science components at each phase of the
research, product-development, and outreach process.
Teams will be expected to package their products for one or more of the
i Developing country farmers and land users, for increasing food production
and access, as well as for preserving environmental quality.
i Policy-makers and planners, for evaluating long-term economic and
environmental outcomes of alternative soil-management practices and land-use
i Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), and Private Voluntary Organizations
(PVOs), extension agents, and teachers, for diagnosing and overcoming
location-specific constraints to food production, food access, and
sustainable natural-resource management.
i National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and research scientists,
for identifying knowledge gaps and helping to solve high-priority problems.
i Agribusinesses, for estimating economic value and the environmental
side-effects of agricultural inputs on a location-specific basis.
i Regulatory agencies, for assessing benefits and costs, as well as the
risk and consequences of enforcing government regulations.
i Banks and lending agencies, for assessing the demand for credit and the
risks of agricultural loans.
i Private consultants, for expanding the range and quality of service to
Collaborative is the first word in the CRSP acronym and its most important
program descriptor. Because no single organization has sufficient expertise
to resolve the complex constraints the SM-CRSP will address,
product-development teams will necessarily include collaborators from a
broad range of disciplines and backgrounds.
Any technically qualified institution is eligible to participate in the
SM-CRSP. The range of potential participants would thus include, but not be
limited to, the following organizations.
i A land-grant university must be involved in all SM-CRSP projects and it
must serve as the Management Entity. Land-grant universities have
historically integrated basic and developmental research to create
technological packages for testing and promotion by outreach specialists.
i National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) or
universities from developing countries must be involved in all SM-CRSP
projects. These collaborators should be involved in all phases of product
development, testing, and promotion.
i International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) are repositories of
technical knowledge that can contribute to CRSP products, and their global
networks can provide an effective means of expanding product impact.
i PVOs and NGOs can (i) insure that products respond to usersi needs, (ii)
disseminate products at the field level, and (iii) provide feedback for
i Private-sector agribusinesses can provide valuable product-development and
i Other CRSPs and projects should be encouraged to collaborate with a
product-development team when their specialized expertise can help to
overcome a constraint.
Impacts denote change from one condition, status, or behavior to another;
they should not be confused with outputs. Product-development teams must
establish quantifiable and verifiable indicators of their impact on USAIDis
goals and strategic objectives. Detailed operational plans for developing
each product should describe the specific problems to which the product can
be applied, the means by which the product can help solve those problems,
and a well-defined set of criteria by which product impact can be evaluated.
Projects should be structured to answer the following questionsobefore,
during, and after the development and dissemination of research outputs.
i How do products advance USAID-supported goals and strategic objectives
(i.e., increasing food production, improving food access, and preserving
i How do the products address the agronomic, economic, and environmental
needs of ultimate beneficiaries as they define those needs?
i How do the products help to develop policies that increase soil
productivity and safeguard the resources upon which future generations will
PART 2: PREPROPOSAL TOPICS
An Integrated Approach
The SM-CRSP will employ an integrated approach to constraint managementoan
approach sensitive to the interrelated factors that affect food production
and environmental stability. This approach extends the concept of integrated
nutrient management to other constraints such as erosion, land degradation,
and water deficiency. Constraints should thus be overcome through the
optimal balance of purchased inputs and on-farm biological resources (e.g.,
crop rotations, cropping patterns, legumes, animal production systems, and
manures). This optimization will require that natural-science information be
integrated with social, economic, and political information.
The following constraints are perceived to have the greatest impact on
global food production and long-term environmental security. A preproposal
must address one or more of these topical constraints.
1. Nitrogen deficiency constrains plant production on more than 50% of all
cultivated soils. Rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, and millet production are
most frequently restricted by N availability. Not only do plants require
more N than most other nutrients, but N is also the most expensive input.
Even with the best technologies, only 40n60% of the applied N is recovered
by the plant. More efficient use of fertilizer N is imperative. So too is
maximizing the benefits from biological nitrogen fixation (BNF).
Technologies that improve N-use efficiency, from organic and inorganic
carriers and through the use of BNF, could dramatically increase crop
productivity and protect the environment.
2. Phosphorus deficiency constrains food production on an estimated 92% of
all cultivated soils. Because P supply is finite in all soils, supplemental
P is required to sustain agricultural productivity.
The efficiency of P amendments could be significantly improved by (i)
decision aids that promote enlightened fertilization practices and policies
and (ii) technologies and management strategiesoincluding the use of biotic
factorsothat increase P availability.
3. Soil acidity frequently constrains crop yields to 50% of optimal levels.
Among soil chemical problems, acidity and phosphorus deficiencies are the
only constraints that can reduce yields to zero. Worldwide, about 32% of all
soils are acidic, and that figure increases to 50% in the tropics. Acidity
problems tend to be especially prevalent in areas most desirable for
agricultural production (i.e., where rainfall exceeds evaporation).
Although some acidity issues require additional research, management
principles are, on the whole, well-understood; decision aids that help to
apply the current knowledge base can thus significantly increase soil
4. Water deficiency during critical stages of plant growth is among the
most serious constraints to plant growth and one that occurs across
agroecological zones. The causes range from low rainfall to high runoff,
restricted absorption to inefficient utilization. Nutrient- and water-use
efficiencies are highly interactive: nutrient-use efficiency decreases when
water supplies are inadequate, and water-use efficiency decreases when
nutrient supplies are inadequate.
Significant benefits could be derived by addressing the interaction
between nutrient management and water-use efficiency. A variety of
problem-solving tools are needed to combat this constraint.
5. Erosion and land degradation are major constraints to sustainable food
production and responsible environmental management. Soil erosion degrades
the chemical, physical, and biological properties of land resources
(on-site) and the resulting sedimentation and non-point source pollution
destroy valuable downstream investments and resources (off-site). Land
degradationowhether by erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of biological
properties, poor soil structure, or other factorsoreduces soil quality and
is a major constraint to sustainable agriculture.
Sufficient information exists on erosion-control processes, but products
that lead to farmer-acceptable erosion-control practices are needed. Much is
known about other causes of soil degradation; methods to quantify the state
and resilience of a system, and to ameliorate problems, are less well
PART 3: PREPROPOSAL GUIDELINES, FORMAT, EVALUATION CRITERIA
A funded proposal must present a team approach that comprehensively
addresses one or more constraints. Preproposals should thus be developed by
a team. However, to insure that meritorious ideas are not overlooked, the
SM-CRSP will also review single-component preproposals and, where
appropriate, advise those who submit such preproposals to contact related
teams to determine if a relationship can be established.
Preproposals must describe the development and delivery of products that
address one or more individual constraints. Because products must address
both the technical and socioeconomic issues relevant to a constraint, teams
are expected to employ a multidisciplinary approach. The primary terms of
reference for guiding proposal development and evaluation are listed below.
i Preproposals must clarify the mutual benefits to the U.S. and LDCs.
i Preproposals must address one or more of the strategic objectives
identified by USAIDis Office of Agriculture and Food Security (AFS).
i Preproposals must demonstrate linkages with developing country
i Preproposals should clarify linkages with other CRSPs, IARCs, NGOs, PVOs,
and the private sector.
i Preproposals should clarify how the team will integrate developmental
research, strategic research, and outreach activities.
i Preproposals should describe how the proposed project will measure impact
relative to AFS objectives at the transfer-agent and ultimate-beneficiary
i Preference will be given to preproposals from teams that address the full
range of technical issues for one or more constraints and that offer a
management plan for integrating and disseminating information.
i Preference will be given to preproposals that aim to increase the
sustainable productivity of agriculture (i.e., intensification of
i Preference will be given to preproposals that affect the greatest number
of people or that show promise of producing the greatest impact on AFS
strategic objectives during the course of the project.
i Preference will be given to preproposals that are integrated with projects
addressing other constraints.
A preproposal should be no more than 5 single-spaced pages (excluding
institutional arrangements and budget) printed in 12-point type. It should
follow the following outline:
i Identification of constraint(s)
i Problem statement
i Justification in terms of USAID goals and AFS strategic objectives
i Project objectives
i Project strategy and activity plan
i Project outputs
i Expected agronomic, economic, and environmental impacts
i Institutional arrangements, including names and affiliations
i Implementation strategy
i Budget, including estimated cost for personnel, equipment, supplies,
travel, and overhead.
Preproposals must be postmarked by November 17, 1995. Please send 10 copies
Soil Management CRSP
NCSU Campus Box 7113
Raleigh, NC 27695-7113
Attn: Tim McBride
Evaluations of preproposals will be based on the following criteria:
i Importance of the problem: 30%
i Technical merit: 40%
i Institutional capabilities: 20%
i Implementation strategy: 10%
Notification and Selection of the Management Entity
Notification of acceptance or nonacceptance of preproposals will be sent by
December 15. Notice of acceptance will include guidelines for submitting a
Representatives from institutions of awarded proposals will select the
Management Entity, which must be a land-grant university. Thereafter,
representatives will develop a global plan for submission to USAID.
Those who need clarification concerning substantive or procedural issues
should contact Tim McBride at 919-515-3922 or send e-mail queries to:
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Subject: Request for Preproposals: The Soil Management CRSP