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Conservation Agriculture for Africa: Building Resilient Farming Systems in a Changing Climate

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Tillage agriculture has led to widespread soil and ecosystem degradation globally. This is especially so in Africa where traditional and modern tillage-based agricultural practices have become unsustainable due to severe disturbance and exploitation of natural resources, with negative impacts on the environment and rural livelihoods. In addition, agriculture in Africa today faces major challenges including increased costs of production and energy, the effects of climate change, and the lack of an effective paradigm for sustainable intensification, especially for small- and medium-size holdings. Africa is facing a serious challenge to food security and as a continent has not advanced towards eradicating hunger. In addition, the population is still growing much faster than on most other continents. This pressure has led to the emergence of no-till conservation agriculture as a serious alternative sustainable agriculture paradigm. In Africa, in recent years, conservation agriculture techniques and methods have spread to many countries, as greater development, education and research effort are directed towards its extension and uptake. This book is aimed at agricultural researchers and scientists, educationalists, and agricultural service providers, institutional leaders and policy makers working in the fields of sustainable agriculture and international development, and also at agroecologists, conservation scientists, and those working on ecosystem services.

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1 Conservation Agriculture in Africa: An Overview

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1

Conservation Agriculture in Africa: An Overview

Saidi Mkomwa,1* Amir H. Kassam,2 Theodor Friedrich3 and Reynolds K. Shula4

African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi, Kenya; 2University of Reading,

UK; 3Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Havana, Cuba;

4

African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi, Kenya

1

1.1  What is Conservation Agriculture (CA)?

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is not a single technology but a systems approach to farming based on a set of three linked complementary practices formulated locally and based on the following interlinked principles as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

(www.fao.org/ag/ca):

Avoiding or minimizing mechanical soil disturbance. Sow seed or plant crops directly into untilled soil in order to: maintain soil organic matter; promote soil biological processes; protect soil structure and porosity and overall soil health; and enhance productivity, system efficiency, resilience and ecosystem services.

 

2 Weatherproofing Agriculture with Conservation Agriculture

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Weatherproofing Agriculture with Conservation Agriculture

Amir H. Kassam,1* Saidi Mkomwa2 and Theodor Friedrich3

University of Reading, UK; 2African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi,

Kenya; 3Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Havana,

Cuba

1

2.1  Introduction

Weatherproofing agriculture generally refers to protecting agriculture from the variability in weather, thereby avoiding the negative effects of fluctuations or variations, including extreme events, and of longer-term trends or changes over time and space in weather or climate. It also refers to making agriculture ‘climate-smart’ so that agriculture has the resilience to stand up to climate variability and climate change, and to be able to cope with extreme events and recover from shocks, while at the same time reducing the contribution of agriculture towards climate change or even helping to mitigate it.

Weather and climate (i.e. long-term weather) include parameters such as precipitation (rainfall, snow, hail and their amount, intensity, timing and duration, distribution in time and space, seasonality, droughts, floods), temperature (minimum, maximum, diurnal range, seasonality, heat waves, cold spells and frost), air humidity (level, duration, timing) and wind (speed, timing, duration, typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes). These parameters, and others such as solar radiation and characteristics of soil and terrain or landscape as well as crop and cropping system, define the reference agroecological potential of land at a particular location for specific crops, cropping systems and farming systems. When considered over large areas or landscapes and ecosystems, they define the reference agroecological as well as socio-economic potentials and suitability for agriculture systems development. Weather and climate parameters and their fluctuations and longer-term trends, as well as temporal and spatial patterns, have significant

 

3 Conservation Agriculture: Growing More with Less – the Future of Sustainable Intensification

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Conservation Agriculture:

Growing More with

Less – the Future of Sustainable

Intensification

Patrick C. Wall*

Independent Agricultural Research Consultant, Bahias de Huatulco, Mexico

3.1  Definitions

Sustainability:

Satisfy human food, feed and fibre needs (and contribute to fuel needs).

Enhance environmental quality and the resource base.

Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.

Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole (NRC, 2010).

Sustainable intensification:

• Sustainable increase in production per unit of land per unit of time.

3.2  Sustainability and Efficiency

There are biophysical, economic, social and political aspects to sustainability, which therefore cannot be attained through a set of agricultural practices alone; rather, the technology needs to be embedded in a comprehensive set of actions that lead to sustainable agriculture. Conservation Agriculture

 

4 Empowering Smallholder Farmers with Profitable and Sustainable Farming Using Conservation Agriculture: The Case of East Africa

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Empowering Smallholder Farmers with Profitable and Sustainable

Farming Using Conservation

Agriculture: The Case of

East Africa

Saidi Mkomwa,1* Simon Lugandu,2 Peter Kuria1 and Weldone Mutai1

African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi, Kenya; 2African

Conservation Tillage Network, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

1

4.1  Introduction

Agriculture is the backbone for East Africa (EA) economies and plays a key role in their industrial development and trade. Agriculture accounts for more than 32% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), employs about 80% of its labour force, accounts for about 65% of foreign exchange earnings and contributes more than 50% of raw materials to the industrial sector (EAC, 2015a). Agriculture is dominated by smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, who produce as much as 80% of the food consumed. Most of these farmers have 0.5–2 ha of land, earn less than US$1 a day, and face 3–5 hunger months in a year (Diagana, 2003). Many children under 5 years of age go without a balanced diet. Smallholder agriculture is often seen as a sector in which low incomes, low productivity and vulnerability predominate, with the perception of it being a source of rural poverty and food insecurity, rather than a solution. Some areas in the region are experiencing a reduction in food production by up to 50% due to land degradation, soil erosion, drought and climate change (UNEP, 2009).

 

5 Implementing the Principles of Conservation Agriculture in Malawi: Crop Yields and Factors Affecting Adoption

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Implementing the Principles of Conservation Agriculture in

Malawi: Crop Yields and Factors

Affecting Adoption

W. Trent Bunderson,1* Zwide D. Jere,1 Christian

Thierfelder,2 Mphatso Gama,3 Blessings M. Mwale,1 Spencer

W.D. Ng’oma,1 Richard M. Museka,1 John M. Paul,1

Brand Mbale,1 Obedi Mkandawire1 and Phillip Tembo1

Total LandCare, Lilongwe, Malawi; 2CIMMYT, International Maize and Wheat

Improvement Center, Zimbabwe; 3Machinga Agricultural Development

Division, Malawi

1

5.1  Introduction

Malawi faces complex social, economic and environmental problems that threaten a steepening dependency on foreign aid. The critical issues have been well documented (UNICEF, 1993; Bunderson and Hayes, 1995; World

Bank, 1995; Bunderson et al., 2002; Ellis et al., 2003; GoM, 2007a,b; UNDP, 2007;

Denning et al., 2009; Thierfelder and Wall, 2011; Thierfelder et al., 2013a; Wall et al., 2013). The heart of the crisis is the nation’s high and growing population, which is placing increased pressure on agricultural land, the country’s most important natural resource. One result is that land holdings are shrinking and becoming more fragmented. Marginal areas have been brought under cultivation and fallowing has been replaced by continuous cropping under the destructive and labour-intensive tillage practice of ridging. Recurrent drought, reduced export earnings and declining terms of trade have magnified these problems.

 

6 Innovation Systems and Farmer Perceptions Regarding Conservation Agriculture in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

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Innovation Systems and

Farmer Perceptions Regarding

Conservation Agriculture in Cabo

Delgado, Mozambique

Baqir Lalani,1* Peter Dorward,1 Amir H. Kassam1,2 and Jose Dambiro3

University of Reading, UK; 2Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Rome, Italy; 3Aga Khan Foundation (Mozambique), Pemba, Mozambique

1

6.1  Introduction

There has been some debate regarding the ability of Conservation

Agriculture (CA) to provide benefits to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan

Africa. Key areas of contention have surrounded yield, labour, soil quality and weeding, with particular focus on the suitability of CA to benefit the poorest, especially where external inputs are out of reach. Moreover,

CA research and promotion in Southern Africa has also been criticized by some researchers for being top-down and inflexible (Andersson and

Giller, 2012; Grabowski and Kerr, 2014).

Recent research and development efforts within East and Southern

 

7 Conservation Agriculture in North Africa: Experiences, Achievements and Challenges

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Conservation Agriculture in North Africa: Experiences,

Achievements and Challenges

Oussama El Gharras,1* Mohamed El Mourid2 and Hakim Boulal3

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Settat, Morocco; 2International

Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Rabat, Morocco;

3

International Plant Nutrition Institute North Africa Program, Settat, Morocco

1

7.1  Introduction

Traditionally, North Africa represents six countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya,

Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. However, in this chapter, North Africa refers only to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and will only consider rainfed regions.

Agriculture plays an important role in this region, where the climate is mostly

Mediterranean. The northern areas are characterized by wet winters and hot dry summers. The southern parts are mostly desert with < 150 mm annual rainfall where agriculture is based on rangeland pasture, cereals cultivation on flood plains and oasis farming systems. The middle or intermediate areas are typically semi-arid with < 450 mm annual rainfall and hot dry summers.

 

8 How Can We Cover Millions of Hectares with Conservation Agriculture in Africa?

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How Can We Cover Millions of Hectares with Conservation

Agriculture in Africa?

Roland Bunch*

Independent consultant, Juneau, USA

8.1  Introduction

Let it be admitted from the start that Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Africa has spread faster in the past 5 years than in previous years but it is still not spreading as fast as it should. Also, the great majority of African smallholder farmers who have adopted CA use it on less than half a hectare. However, neither of these phenomena will turn CA into just a temporary fad that will die a sad and lonely death. In fact, there is evidence that CA, with a few simple improvements, could someday become the dominant way of producing food in much of the tropical world.

To achieve such a goal, we need to look at CA with a cold eye to shortcomings in some of the present practices and then find practical solutions that will: (i) significantly increase basic grain productivity; (ii) require less labour than do other farming systems; (iii) use only local resources that are plentiful; and (iv) increase net benefits for the farm family.

 

9 Climate-smart Push–Pull: A Conservation Agriculture Technology for Food Security and Environmental Sustainability in Africa

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Climate-smart Push–Pull:

A Conservation Agriculture

Technology for Food Security and

Environmental Sustainability in Africa

Zeyaur R. Khan,1* Charles A.O. Midega,1 Jimmy O.

Pittchar,1 Alice Murage2 and John Pickett3

International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi,

Kenya; 2Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Naivasha;

3

Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK

1

9.1  Introduction

Developing adaptable and productive agricultural systems that are resilient in the face of the risks and shocks associated with long-term climate variability is essential to maintaining food production into the future (Pretty et al., 2011; Khan et al.,

2014), but resilience is not enough. Climate-smart agricultural systems also need to protect and enhance natural resources and ecosystem services in ways that mitigate future climate change effects (Tittonel and Giller, 2012). The International

 

10 How to Make Conservation Agriculture EverGreen

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How to Make Conservation

Agriculture EverGreen

Dennis P. Garrity*

World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

10.1  Introduction

After decades of research, and the sustained efforts of many pioneering farmers, the concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA) has been steadily expanding (Kassam et al., 2015). Globally, more than 155 million hectares of annual cropland are now managed under zero-tillage CA systems. Meanwhile, worldwide concerns about the potentially devastating effects of climate change on food production continue to intensify. CA has been highlighted as an important component of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) (FAO, 2013;

Lipper et al., 2014).

Investments in CA in the developing world are increasing. However, the uptake of CA in Africa, and in the rainfed upland areas of Asia, has been quite modest so far. Evidence from research, and from widespread indigenous practice, indicates that successful CA systems for tropical smallholders benefit substantially from the integration of trees into these systems (Garrity et al.,

 

11 Mechanization of Smallholder Conservation Agriculture in Africa: Contributing Resilience to Precarious Systems

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Mechanization of Smallholder

Conservation Agriculture in

Africa: Contributing Resilience to Precarious Systems

Brian G. Sims,1* Josef Kienzle,2 Saidi Mkomwa,3 Theodor

Friedrich4 and Amir H. Kassam5

Agricultural Engineering Consultant, Bedford, UK; 2Food and Agriculture

Organization, Rome, Italy; 3African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi,

Kenya; 4Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Havana,

Cuba; 5University of Reading, UK

1

11.1  Introduction

11.1.1  Why mechanization?

The desire of all involved in smallholder farming (especially women, children and the elderly) to reduce by any means their drudgery and arduous, often painful, struggle to produce food for life and subsistence has been driving the development of tools and implements for many generations. It has encouraged farmers to use their livestock animals not only to produce meat and dairy products but also for draught power that can be applied to crop production, transport, water lifting and crop processing. The invention of the agricultural tractor was driven by the need to curtail dramatically the hard physical work that farming entails for farmers and this situation holds true today, especially in Africa.

 

12 Conservation Agriculture in South Africa: Lessons from Case Studies

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Conservation Agriculture in South

Africa: Lessons from Case Studies

Hendrik J. Smith,1* Erna Kruger,2 Jaap Knot3 and James N.

Blignaut4

Grain SA, Pretoria, South Africa; 2Mahlathini Organics, Pietermaritzburg,

South Africa; 3KEL Growing Nations Trust, Ladybrand, South Africa;

4

University of Pretoria, South Africa

1

12.1  Introduction

Mainstreaming sustainable agriculture systems in South Africa has become imperative. Severe environmental degradation, low farm profitability and poverty associated with current conventional production systems have brought the agricultural sector to a crossroads. If farmers in South Africa are offered a better chance to survive on the farm and if sustainable and economically viable agriculture is to be achieved, then the paradigms of agricultural production and management must be changed.

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agroecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. CA is characterized by three linked principles (FAO, 2001; Lal, 2010), namely: (i) continuous no or minimum mechanical soil disturbance; (ii) permanent organic soil cover; and (iii) diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations, including the use of cover crops.

 

13 Extending Conservation Agriculture Benefits Through Innovation Platforms

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Extending Conservation

Agriculture Benefits Through

Innovation Platforms

Michael Misiko*

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT),

Nairobi, Kenya

13.1  Introduction

African smallholder farmers engage in many attempts to overcome poverty through individual and collective processes that depend on natural resources management (NRM) for agricultural production and livelihood. NRM for land-use development is often seen as a collective process (IFAD, 2006; Di

Gregorio et al., 2012; also see World Bank, 2008; Oweis and Hachum, 2009;

Pathak et al., 2009; Rockström et al., 2010). Such collective action is common over forest or water resources management (Altieri and Toledo, 2005).

However, protected areas known for providing environmental services (forests and communal water resources) continue to deteriorate or disappear; populations are rapidly urbanizing, turning more virgin areas into irrigated lands and into individual farms or seeking alternatives away from NRMrelated livelihoods. NRM initiatives in smallholder contexts are therefore increasingly difficult to organize or sustain due to these complex target landscape changes. With decreasing scope for communal action and because of the increasing focus on household farm-level enterprises, there is a need for expanding the scope of NRM in land use and rural development (McCarthy et al., 2004). Smallholder household actions largely comprise agricultural practices, which often form part of the problem, including low investments in erosion control (Muchena et al., 2005). Smallholder agriculture, therefore, must play a multifunctional role beyond food production and fibre. Its functions need to include ‘renewable natural resources management, landscape and biodiversity conservation and contribution to the socio-economic viability of rural areas’ (Renting et al., 2009, p. 112). To support NRM among smallholders, a clear understanding of their agricultural contexts is needed

 

14 Summing Up

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Summing Up

Amir H. Kassam,1* Saidi Mkomwa2 and Theodor Friedrich3

University of Reading, UK; 2African Conservation Tillage Network,

Nairobi, Kenya; 3Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Havana, Cuba

1

Reducing soil disturbance by tillage in agricultural land began in the Great

Plains in the USA in the 1930s in response to the devastation caused by prolonged drought and tillage. This period became known as the ‘Dust Bowl’.

Several practices, including stubble mulching, were developed to reduce or eliminate tillage and retain plant residue on the soil surface to alleviate wind and water erosion. This collection of practices led to what became known as conservation tillage, culminating in no-till systems that avoid any soil disturbance by no-till seeding, and maintaining a mulch cover of organic matter on the soil surface. The book Ploughman’s Folly by Edward Faulkner (1943), an extension agronomist in Ohio, USA, was an important milestone in the development of conservation agriculture practices. Faulkner questioned the wisdom of inversion ploughing and explained the destructive nature of soil tillage. Research in the UK, USA and elsewhere during the late 1940s and

 

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