Factors affecting adoption of conservation agriculture in malawi

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Thesis Report by James L. Mlamba

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Factors affecting adoption of conservation agriculture in malawi

  1. 1. Factors Affecting Adoption of Conservation Agriculture in Malawi (A Case Study of Salima District) James Lewanika Mlamba (BSc., University of Malawi)The thesis submitted to University College Dublin in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (Agr) in Environmental Resource Management School of Agriculture, Food Science & Veterinary Medicine Supervisor: Dr. John FryMSc. (Agr) Env. Res. Mgmt. November 2010
  2. 2. AcknowledgementsI would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. John Fry whoseadvice and support during the course and to all the members of staff for theirinstruction and guidance throughout the whole period of study.I would also like to thank the Director of Land Resources ConservationDepartment for nominating and having trust in me to pursue this course. To Dr.E.P. Ching’amba of Lilongwe Agricultural Development Division in Malawi for theprovision of transport during data collection and Mr Mkuntha of Salima DistrictAgricultural Office for giving me a helping hand when the farmer interviews werebeing conducted.I am also grateful to my mum, brothers, and sisters for their love, encouragementand the endurance for the entire period of my study. To all my friends for alwaysbeing there when I need them most and the good times we shared throughout theyear. Thanks ii
  3. 3. DedicationI would like to dedicate this thesis to my wonderful and loving wife, Setrida. Inpursuing of this course I had to leave the responsibility of taking care of ourdaughter on her own and without her emotional support, encouragement, andunderstanding I would not have possible to complete this study. iii
  4. 4. DeclarationI declare that this is entirely my own work and has not been previously submittedfor any other qualification. Where material from other sources has been used ithas been referenced in full in the text, and all quotations from other work arepresented as such.Signed: ____________________ Date: ____________________ iv
  5. 5. AbstractThe agriculture sector in Malawi is facing a number of environmental challenges,which include soil erosion, low soil organic matter (SOM), nutrient deficiency andwater shortage caused by drought (Munthali et al 2008). To counteract theseproblems different technologies are being promoted among which isConservation Agriculture (CA). Despite the efforts being employed and benefitsthat CA has over conventional land management practices the adoption stillremains. This study therefore was carried out to determine factorsaffecting/restricting adoption of conservation agriculture and also to identifychallenges farmers are facing in the application of conservation agriculture anddraw recommendations that may help in the upscaling of the technology.The study was carried out in Salima District in Malawi and it was chosen becauseit is one of the areas where the CA technology is being promoted owing to its lowrainfall and high temperature conditions. Primary data were collected from asample of selected farmers through administration of a semi-structuredquestionnaire. The questionnaire comprised closed- and open-ended questions.An open-ended questionnaire was also used to support interviews with as manyof the Agricultural Extension Development Officers working in the selected EPAsas was possible. Secondary data were obtained from published and unpublisheddocumentsGender of the household head, membership to a farmer group and farmertrainings were found to have significant impact on adoption and continued use ofCA technology. Level of income and first CA inputs acquisition method werefound to have significant impact on the retention the CA practice as those whohad higher income and made personal investment in the initial inputs were morelikely to continue with the CA technology than their counterparts who solelydepended on grants. Weed management, access to farm inputs and crop residuemanagement were the main challenges farmers were facing in theimplementation of CA. v
  6. 6. Based on these results it is therefore recommended that farmers should beencouraged to make personal contributions to acquisition of initial CA inputs. Thiscan achieved through encouraging farmers to make group savings for thepurchase of inputs or giving them inputs on loan as opposed to grants. Farmersshould be encouraged to belong to farmer groups as this makes it possible toreach them with agriculture extension messages and it acts as a platform forfarmers to exchange ideas and experiences. Farmer trainings should also beemphasized.The current study mainly focused on Individual and household factors, but thereis an obvious need for further research to be done to determine other biophysical,policy and institutional factors that might be affecting the adoption of CA. It mayalso be of paramount importance to carry out research on soil physical andchemical properties dynamics under CA systems as the current informationavailable for Malawi is not adequate. vi
  7. 7. Table of Contents Acknowledgements .........................................................................................ii Dedication ...................................................................................................... iii Declaration .....................................................................................................iv Abstract .......................................................................................................... v Table of Contents .......................................................................................... vii List of Tables .................................................................................................. x List of Figures .................................................................................................xi Abbreviations................................................................................................. xii Chapter One: Introduction ........................................................................... 1 1.1 Rationale of the Study .............................................................................. 3 1.2 Background to Malawi .............................................................................. 4 1.2.1 Malawi Soils .......................................................................................... 6 1.2.2 Malawi Population ................................................................................. 8 1.2.3 Distribution of land holding sizes ........................................................... 8 1.2.4 Soil erosion............................................................................................ 9 1.2.5 Significance of Agriculture Sector to Malawi ........................................ 10 1.3 Objectives of the study ........................................................................... 11 Chapter Two: Literature Review ................................................................ 12 2.1. History of tillage and soil conservation in Malawi .................................. 12 2.1.1 Conventional Tillage in Malawi ............................................................ 14 2.2 Conservation Agriculture ........................................................................ 17 2.2.1 Principle of minimum soil disturbance ................................................. 18 vii
  8. 8. 2.2.2 Principle of continuous soil cover ........................................................ 192.2.3 Principle of crop rotation ...................................................................... 21Chapter Three: Research Site and Methodology ..................................... 223.1. Study area ............................................................................................. 223.2. Climate .................................................................................................. 233.3. Soil ........................................................................................................ 233.4. Data collection ....................................................................................... 243.5. Sampling Procedure for Survey ............................................................. 243.6. Data analysis and presentation ............................................................. 24Chapter Four: Results and Discussion .................................................... 264.1. Demographic and Socio Economic Data ............................................... 264.1.1. Sex of the household head ................................................................. 264.1.2 Age ...................................................................................................... 274.1.3. Size of the Households....................................................................... 274.1.4 Education ............................................................................................ 284.1.5. Land Ownership and Size of the Gardens .......................................... 294.1.6. Level of Income .................................................................................. 304.2. Crops and Animal Production ................................................................ 324.2.1. Crops grown ....................................................................................... 324.2.2. Livestock ............................................................................................ 334.3. CA Message Dissemination .................................................................. 334.3.1. Farmer Groups ................................................................................... 334.3.2. Farmer contact with Extension Workers ............................................. 36 viii
  9. 9. 4.3.3. Conservation Agriculture Awareness.................................................. 364.3.4. Farmer Training .................................................................................. 374.4. Input Acquisition Method ....................................................................... 394.5. Reasons for practicing CA ..................................................................... 404.7. Reasons for stopping practicing CA ...................................................... 424.8. Reasons for never adopting CA ............................................................ 434.9. Challenges being faced in implementation of CA .................................. 444.10. Reasons why CA is more rewarding ................................................... 464.11. CA promotion strategies ...................................................................... 47Chapter Five: Conclusion and Recommendations .................................. 505.1 Conclusion.............................................................................................. 505.2 Recommendations ................................................................................. 52References ................................................................................................... 55Appendices................................................................................................... 63 ix
  10. 10. List of TablesTable 1: Distribution of suitable land by type of land-use by ADD and region ..... 10Table 2: x2 analysis of sex of the household head and level of CA adoption ...... 27Table 3: Age categories of the household head .................................................. 27Table 4: Household size ..................................................................................... 28Table 5: Level of education ................................................................................. 28Table 6: Size of the Garden ................................................................................ 30Table 7: Estimated level of Income of respondent farmers ................................. 31Table 8: Crops grown by respondents in Salima District ..................................... 32Table 9: Livestock Kept by Respondents ............................................................ 33Table 10: Farmer Group Membership among Respondents ............................... 34Table 11: X2 analysis of Farmer Group membership versus level of CA adoption............................................................................................................................ 34Table 12: Farmer Group Membership by Type ................................................... 35Table 13: Reasons for not belonging to any Farmer Group ................................ 35Table 14: Frequency of Extension Worker visits ................................................. 36Table 15: Sources of awareness about CA ......................................................... 37Table 16: Level of Farmer Training in CA ........................................................... 37Table 17: Training topics in CA received ............................................................ 39Table 18: Financial inputs for first inputs acquisition method (NB: number add upto more than 100%) ............................................................................................ 40Table 19: Reasons given for practicing CA ......................................................... 42Table 20: Reasons given for stopping practicing CA .......................................... 43Table 21: Reasons given for not adopting CA .................................................... 44Table 22: Challenges being faced when implementing CA ................................. 45Table 23: Reasons given as to why CA is more rewarding ................................. 47Table 24: CA promotion strategies...................................................................... 48 x
  11. 11. List of FiguresFigure 1: Map of Malawi Showing District and International boundaries ............... 5Figure 2: Physiographic regions Map of Malawi.................................................... 6Figure 3: Soil Unit Map of Malawi ......................................................................... 7Figure 4: Young Conservation Agriculture maize crop plot mulched with cropresidues .............................................................................................................. 20Figure 5: Map of Salima ADD showing Extension Planning Areas ..................... 22Figure 6: Farmers engaged in CA crop residue management ............................ 38 xi
  12. 12. AbbreviationsADD Agriculture Development Division (of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi)CA Conservation AgricultureCO2 Carbon dioxideCTIC US Conservation Technology Information CenterEPA Extension Planning Area (of Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi)FAO Food and Agricultural Organization (of the United Nations)GDP Gross Domestic ProductGoM Government of MalawiIMF International Monetary FundMK Malawi Kwacha (currency)MoA Ministry of Agriculture (Malawi)MoAFS Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (Malawi)NSO National Statistical Office (Malawi)SOM Soil Organic MatterSPSS Statistical Package for Social ScientistsTLC Total LandCare (Malawi NGO)UN-REDD United Nations Collaborative Initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest DegradationWFP World Food Programme (of the UN) xii
  13. 13. Chapter One: IntroductionAgriculture is the single most important sector of Malawi’s economy as it employsabout 80% of the workforce, and contributes over 80% of foreign exchangeearnings. Most of all, it also contributes significantly to national and householdfood security. However, agriculture in Malawi is characterised by low andstagnant yields (IMF, 2007) and production of crops relies heavily on rainfall.Crop production in Malawi is mainly dominated by maize and that is estimated tocover 70% of the arable land. Maize is the main food crop, contributing to about90% of the total area put to cereals (Sauer and Tchale 2006). Apart from maize,Malawi also grows food crops such cassava, rice, millet, and sorghum, but on asmall scale. The country also grows some cash crops such as tobacco, tea,coffee and sugarcane.The agriculture sector in Malawi is facing some environmental challenges, whichinclude soil erosion, low soil organic matter (SOM), nutrient deficiency and watershortage caused by drought (Munthali et al 2008). These challenges arecompounded by Malawi’s standard way of growing crops, which is associatedwith making fresh ridges every season where the crops are planted. Thegovernment has been advising farmers to make fresh ridges for a long time;ridging is the method of land preparation whereby topsoil is scraped andconcentrated in a defined region to deliberately raise the seedbed above thenatural terrain. The process creates a loose and friable seedbed, and helps toconserve soil and water (Materechera and Mloza-Banda 1997). Soil and waterconservation is achieved in two ways. Firstly the ridges act as barriers to surfacewater movement and as such water is encouraged to accumulate along thefurrows thereby promoting infiltration. Secondly, loosening of the soil createsmore pore spaces that make it easy for water to move freely within the soil.Despite having the mentioned advantages this method of land preparation has itsown challenges. The implement which is widely used in the construction of theridges is a hand hoe. With this implement land preparation can hardly go beyond30 cm depth and, because the ridge making process is repeated each and every 1
  14. 14. season, a hard pan is created which impedes infiltration. Due to this, erosion isencouraged as more water accumulates on the surface than the furrows cancontain. The other angle to the problem of erosion comes in because waterinfiltration is high in the initial moments of precipitation, but with time the loosenedsoil particles block the pore spaces, making it difficult for water to penetrate withthe result that surface runoff is encouraged. As runoff is moving it also carrieswith it nutrients and this may result in reduced yields. The water that accumulatesin the furrows drains off nutrients from the ridges and as this water infiltrates the;nutrients go down as well.Continuous cultivation with little or no organic matter amendment is anotherpractice common in Malawi and other Sub-Saharan African countries. Thiscauses a reduction of organic matter in the soil and that is further compoundedby burning of biomass and crop residues (Makumba et al 2006). That has twodirect impacts on the soil. There is a loss of the organic matter which helps in theformation of soil aggregates, improves soil structure and improves soil waterholding capacity. Secondly, the nutrients that were used in the production of thebiomass and crop residues are lost as well. The burning of crop residues is quitesurprising as most farmers in Malawi identify soil fertility constraints as theirprimary challenge, because animal manure use is also limited as few farmersown livestock (Snapp et al 2002). The long-term effect of reduced organic carbonis on the cation exchange capacity of the soil and its ability to retain nutrients andremain fertile (Makumba et al 2006).It is against this background that alternative methods of crop production are beingpromoted which enhance productivity while conserving soil and water. One suchtechnology is conservation agriculture (CA). CA which is defined as a system ofcrop production based on the three principles of minimum soil disturbance,continuous soil cover and crop rotation. The objectives of conservation farmingare to increase crop production, while at the same time protecting and enhancingland resources on which production depends. It integrates ecological principleswith modern agricultural technologies (FAO, 2008). 2
  15. 15. Conservation agriculture also has economic benefits. Not incorporating the cropresidues and not tilling the soil for several years considerably increases theorganic matter content on the top layer. This provides a much greatermobilisation of nutrients, permitting a significant reduction in fertilizer doses overmedium/ long term. It should be noted that fertilisation is one of the mostimportant crop inputs/expenses in the production situations and agrariansystems. Studies have shown that more energy, time and money are saved inconservation agriculture in comparison to the conventional techniques due to theabsence of tillage (García-Torres et al, 2002; Fowler and Rockstrom, 2001).Despite having both economic and environmental benefits and the efforts beingput forward to promote it, adoption of conservation agriculture in Malawi stillremains low. This makes it imperative to investigate factors that are affectingadoption of the technology.1.1 Rationale of the StudyMalawi regularly experiences great difficulties feeding its population (Williams,2008). The problem is compounded by high population growth rate which standsat 2.8% per annum (NSO, 2008). That means more land is being put toagriculture to feed the growing population with the result that cultivated land areexceeds that of land suitable for rain-fed agriculture at traditional level ofmanagement (GoM, 1996).Malawi also faces a number of environmental challenges, among which soilerosion ranks number one. It has been estimated that the rate of erosion exceeds20t/ha/year (Bishop, 1992). Despite the benefits that are associated with CAthere is still a level of low adoption of the technology hence this study wasintended to find out the underlying reasons for this low adoption. This studytherefore looks determine the major factors influencing farmers’ adoption ofconservation agriculture. It also identifies challenges being faced in theapplication of the technology, in order to put forward a set of recommendationsthat would enhance adoption. 3
  16. 16. 1.2 Background to MalawiMalawi is a small landlocked country located in southeast Africa. It is bordered byZambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique on the east,south and west. It is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi(Figure 1). It has a total area of 118, 000km 2, of which 20% is water. It liesbetween 090 25’ and 170 08’ latitudes south of the Equator and 330 40’ and 35055’ longitude East (Chilimba, 2001). The climate is semi-arid in the Shire valleyand some parts of the lakeshore plain, semi-arid to sub-humid on the mediumaltitude plateau, and humid on the plateau itself.Malawi has four main physiographic regions: the Highlands, Plateaux, the RiftValley Escarpment, and the Rift Valley Plain (figure 2). Highlands consist ofisolated mountains between 1,600-3,000 meters above sea level (masl); thePlateaux lie at 1000 to 1600 masl with extensive gently undulating tracts in thenorthern and central regions of the country; the Rift Valley Escarpment at 600-1000 masl is a highly dissected zone with precipitous slopes; and the Rift ValleyPlain at 33 to 600 masl formed in large part by the deposition of material andcharacterized by subdued relief and gentle slopes (Mloza-Banda andNanthambwe, 2010) 4
  17. 17. Figure 1: Map of Malawi Showing District and International boundaries (Source: Chinsinga and O’Brien, 2008.) 5
  18. 18. Figure 2: Physiographic regions Map of Malawi (Source: Mloza-Banda and Nanthambwe, 2010)1.2.1 Malawi SoilsIn general, Malawi’s soils are predominated by three major soil types: the eutricleptisols, the chromic levisols and the haplic lixisols of variable morphology withlocalised areas of acrisols, cambisols, gleysols, phaezems, planosols andvertisols. The eutric leptisols (Lpe) are commonly referred to as lithosols. Theyare the most widespread of the lithosol group, and are the shallow stony soilsassociated with steep slopes. These occur in all areas of broken relief coveringan estimated area of 2,243,390 ha. The chromic luvisols (LVx) are referred to aslatosols. They are red-yellow soils that include the ferruginous soils of Lilongweplain and some parts of the southern region, and are among the best agriculturalsoils in the country. These soils are generally of good structure and are normallydeep and well drained, but they also include the weathered ferrallitic (plateau orsandveld) soils (some with a high lateritic content), which are of low naturalfertility and easily exhausted. These cover large parts of the plains with a totalarea of 2,233,153 ha. The ferralic cambisols have similar characteristics to some 6
  19. 19. chromic luvisols, but they mostly occur on the western border of the country. Thehaplic lixisols (LXh) include the alluvial soils of the lacustrine and river-line plains;the vertisols of the Lower Shire Valley and the Phalombe Plain, and themopanosols in the Liwonde and Balaka areas. They cover a total area of1,671,495 ha (GoM, 2002b). Figure 3: Soil Unit Map of Malawi (Source: MoA/UNDP/FAO, 1992) 7
  20. 20. 1.2.2 Malawi PopulationMalawi’s current population and population growth rate are estimated to be 13,06million and 2.8% respectively, based on the 2008 census. It is the most denselypopulated country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a density of 139 people per squarekilometre (NSO, 2008). Over 86% of the population live in rural areas and relypredominantly on rain-fed agriculture, and about 10% of the population aredeemed at risk of food insecurity annually (WFP, 2008). The high and everincreasing population density exerts enormous pressure on the land basedresources in meeting the demands for the ever increasing population for food,fibre, income and other livelihood activities. Unfortunately these pressures haveactually reduced the ability of the land to produce or provide goods and services(Mloza-Banda and Nanthambwe, 2010)1.2.3 Distribution of land holding sizesMalawi has three main categories of land tenure namely customary, public andprivate land. Customary land forms the bulk of Malawi’s land and is estimated tooccupy 66% of the total area. Customary land law is quite variable in the countrywith the most important difference being expressed between matrilineal andpatrilineal systems of inheritance. This land is subject to control by village chiefsand family heads. The village head grants cultivation right to the family head,rather than ownership right. However, land which is in use can be heldindefinitely, the right being granted to a woman in the matrilineal system while theopposite is true for the patrilineal system. Public land (which is occupied oracquired by government) is land that is not customary or held under freehold orleasehold title. Public land consists mainly of forest and wildlife reserves, andother public places. Private land is all land that is exclusively owned, held oroccupied under freehold tenure, allocated exclusively to a clearly definedcommunity, corporation, institution, clan, family or individual (GOM, 2002a).There has been a continual decline in mean land holding size over the yearsbecause of the ever-increasing population, since the land size is static. The 8
  21. 21. national mean land holding size decreased from 1.53 ha in 1968/69 to 0.8 ha in2000. Corresponding to this decrease, there was an increase in smallholderhouseholds from 885,000 to 2,090,690 during the same period. With thisdecrease in land holding size, it is no longer possible for the majority of farmersto practice some form of rotation or fallow. There has also been an increase inland fragmentation from generation to generation; as such it is no longer unusualfor a smallholder farmer to cultivate three or more plots in different locations. Theoverall effect of reducing smallholding sizes is that land is cultivated continuouslywith a single crop and this has contributed to falling soil fertility levels (GOM,2002b).1.2.4 Soil erosionSoil erosion is ranked as the most serious environmental problem in Malawi(GoM, 1996); it poses the biggest threat to sustainable agricultural productionand also leads to contamination of water resources. Bishop (1992) estimated theerosion levels for the country to be 20 tonnes/ha/year on average and this ishigher than the rate of soil formation that is 12tonnes/ha/year. Soil erosion hason-site and off-site costs. The first include declining soil fertility and loss in cropyield; the second refers to sedimentation and siltation of rivers and reservoirs.Fertile low-lying areas may become unproductive due to the deposition of infertilesand (GOM, 1996)The high population growth rate is leading to increased demands for land. Whileland available for agricultural production for rain-fed cultivation at traditionalmanagement levels is limited to only 32% of the land area, as much as 48% wasfound to be under cultivation by 1989/90. This means that 16% of cultivation wastaking place in marginal and unsuitable areas without appropriate conservationmeasures (GOM, 2002b). Ajayi et al (2007) also noted that as land with highpotential for agriculture becomes less available and the rural human populationincreases, farming is extending into more fragile lands, undermining the naturalresource capital base as well as undermining the Southern African regionscontinued ability to produce food for its people. Table 1 shows the distribution of 9
  22. 22. suitable land by type of land-use by administrative Region and AgriculturalDevelopment Division (ADD) in Malawi. Table 1: Distribution of suitable land by type of land-use by ADD and region (Source: GOM, 2002b)Region/ % % % % suitable % suitable but % % unsuitableADD suitable unsuitable cultivated and uncultivated unsuitable and cultivated but uncultivated cultivatedNorthern 50.1 49.9 16.3 26.1 73.9 6.5 67.0RegionKaronga 47.9 52.1 17.7 28.9 71.1 7.4 67.2Mzuzu 51.1 48.9 15.7 25.0 75.0 6.1 67.0Centre 61.2 38.8 38.0 52.8 47.2 14.6 36.0RegionKasungu 66.2 33.8 31.9 42.6 57.4 11.0 50.3Salima 50.1 49.9 37.0 53.2 46.8 20.8 32.9Lilongwe 61.8 38.2 45.5 65.0 35.0 13.8 20.1Southern 56.3 43.7 39.6 58.5 41.5 15.2 27.2RegionMachinga 58.0 42.0 50.0 66.9 33.1 26.6 15.4Blantyre 58.0 42.0 50.0 66.9 33.1 26.6 15.4Shire 51.0 49.0 36.8 58.9 41.1 13.9 27.6ValleyMalawi 56.5 43.5 32.5 48.1 51.9 12.2 40.81.2.5 Significance of Agriculture Sector to MalawiThe significance of agriculture in Malawi needs no emphasis; it is the backboneof the economy; it employs about 80% of the workforce, accounts 80% of foreignexchange, 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and contributes significantly tothe national and household food sovereignty and security (GOM, 2006).Agriculture in Malawi is made up of two sub-sectors, namely the smallholderfarmers sector which contributes almost 70% to agricultural GDP, and the estatesector, which contributes the remaining 30%. The smallholder farmers are mainlyinvolved in the cultivation of food crops such as maize, rice, cassava, and sweet 10
  23. 23. potato for subsistence food requirements. The estate sub-sector on the otherhand focuses on high value cash crops such as tobacco, tea, sugar and coffeefor export (Banda and Nanthambwe, 2010).Maize is a major food and cash crop for smallholder farmers in Malawi and isgrown on about 85% of the cropped area every year. The Governmentrecommends planting maize on ridges, which are laid out across the slope on acontour and spaced at 0.75 or 0.91m (Materechera and Mloza-Banda, 1997). Thehigh dependence on maize makes Malawi vulnerable, as any decrease in maizeproduction is synonymous with food insecurity (Chinsinga and O’Brien, 2008).1.3 Objectives of the studyThe study had the following objectives 1. To determine factors affecting/restricting adoption of conservation agriculture 2. To investigate challenges farmers were facing in the application of conservation agriculture and draw recommendations that may hep in the implementation of the technology in the future. 11
  24. 24. Chapter Two: Literature Review2.1. History of tillage and soil conservation in MalawiThe history of tillage dates back many millennia when humans changed fromhunting and gathering to more sedentary and settled agriculture. Tillage wasused to soften the soil and prepare a seedbed that allowed seed to be placedeasily at a suitable depth into soil moisture using seed drills or manualequipment. This resulted in good, uniform seed germination. Wherever cropsgrow, weeds also grow and compete for light, water and nutrients. By tilling theirfields farmers were able to shift the advantage from the weed to the crop andallow the crop to grow with minimal competition early in its growth cycle. Tillagealso helped release soil nutrients needed for crop growth through mineralisationand oxidation after exposure of soil organic matter to air (Hobbs et al, 2007).Tillage practices designed with soil conservation in mind can be traced back inMalawi to the colonial period (Williams, 2008). Before colonialism, slash-and-burnshifting cultivation was the commonest system of agriculture (Chilimba, 2001). Inthis system an area would be cleared of vegetation and the cleared organicmaterial burned. Following this, a crop would be planted and no fertiliser wasapplied. When the cleared area started showing signs of fertility exhaustionanother area would be cleared leaving the previous one to regenerate (UN-REDD, 2010). This system is still practiced in some districts of the NorthernRegion of Malawi, mainly for production of millet on a small scale. Several othertraditional methods of seedbed preparation do exist, including flat cultivation,mounds, and other forms of raised beds.Tillage in the form of annual construction of contour planting ridges has evolvedas an integral part of subsistence farming and is a most dominant feature ofMalawi’s agriculture (Mloza-Banda and Nanthamwe, 2010). When the Englisharrived in Malawi (which was then referred to Nyasaland) they brought the ploughand introduced ridging with the purpose of soil and water conservation (Williams,2008). The ridge along a contour has long been used as a first line of defence 12
  25. 25. against soil erosion. If properly designed, contour ridging reduces runoff bytemporarily storing excess rainfall behind ridges and thus reducing soil erosionand increasing moisture storage (Mloza-Banda and Nanthamwe, 2010).However, the arrival of the Europeans may not be the sole reason that curtailedslash-and-burn practice. Chilimba (2001) and FAO (2001) explain that highpopulation pressure already meant less land being available, fallow periodsbecoming shorter and the cleared plots being cultivated for more years thanbefore.In the early 18th century, English landlords amassed large pieces of land andrequired those living within to pay rent with three months of labour. Cotton wasthe crop the colonials had turned to for economic rents when no mineral depositsof worth were found in Malawi. These landlords confidently used the trustedEuropean ridging method when planting the cotton crop (Williams, 2008).Although concern for soil erosion in the country started as early as the 1890s, itwas not until the 1930s and 1940s that the colonial government started to enforcesoil and water conservation structures on private fields (Nanthambwe, S.J. andN.J. Mulenga,. 1999). During this period government officials publicly declaredthat soil erosion had become a serious problem and required urgent attention(FAO, 2001). Previously the colonial government had attempted to controlagricultural practices by influencing the chiefs and village headmen. However,officials then gave up on this and resorted to direct coercion of farmers, with theresult that any who did not follow the new ridging method of cultivation would getheavy punishment in the form of fines and imprisonment.Although labour intensive, ridging became so widespread that it is acknowledgedas conventional practice and most often synonymous with land preparation forcrop production. It was rooted enough that, when Malawi received itsindependence, the new government continued to enforce these agriculturalrequirements and a number of programmes and campaigns have been launchedto promote its adoption. The laws were subsequently repealed, but Malawianshave been hesitant to change because it is the only technology that they knowand some do not even know that ridging is no longer compulsory. Ridging using a 13
  26. 26. plough requires the availability of a tractor or animal power, which cannot bereadily accessed by the majority of the smallholder farmers, most of whom relyon a hand hoe (Williams, 2007).2.1.1 Conventional Tillage in MalawiConventional crop production in Malawi is therefore characterised contourridging. This is the method of land preparation whereby topsoil is scraped andconcentrated in a defined region to deliberately raise the seedbed above thenatural terrain - making fresh ridges every season where the crops are planted.The process creates a loose and friable seedbed and, if carried out correctly,helps to conserve soil and water (Materechera and Mloza-Banda, 1997.)Ridging is a tedious assignment and smallholders who practice conventionaltillage often plant late because land preparation takes considerable length oftime. This has a direct impact on yield as it is estimated that farmers lose 1.3% oftheir yield for each day of delay in planting after the first planting rains, andfarmers who plant their crops 18 days late, for example, lose 25% of theirproduction. This means that no matter how good the farmer is in the subsequenthusbandry practices, the loss cannot be compensated (Siacinji-Musiwa, 1999).Lack of resources of cash, chemical inputs, farm power and motorisedequipment, and dependence on the hand hoe and family labour aggravate thisproblem.Ridging on steep slopes leads to excessive soil loss and it is estimated that up to50 tonnes of topsoil can be lost from each hectare annually. On conventionallytilled and exposed land, up to 50% of applied fertilisers are lost in storm flow. Thisis the case because the surface layers of soils exposed to the energy of raindrops are pulverised and soon become crusted and sealed. This affects cropgermination and further accelerates runoff and erosion. Hoeing and ridging everyyear results in hard pans, which limit crop root volume and make plants moresusceptible to dry periods (Siacinji-Musiwa, 1999). Wiyo et al (2000) also noted 14
  27. 27. surface runoff loss and increased drainage loss out of the root zone underconventional ridging as opposed to tied ridging.1However, as previously noted, there are other cultivation techniques being usedin the country. Continuous cultivation with little no organic matter amendment isanother practice common in Malawi and other Sub-Saharan African countries(Makumba et al 2006). Although this may bring short-term yield increases,continuous cultivation results in increased mineralisation of soil organic matterand soil life and soil structure are damaged in the long term. Deep tillage, whichis employed with crops such as tobacco, is detrimental to earthworms and othersoil life as it may destroy them outright, disrupt their burrows, reduce moistureand affect the availability of their food (FAO, 2001).Reduction of organic matter in the soil is further compounded by burning ofbiomass and crop residues (Makumba et al 2006). Just like most of the tropicalregions, burning of most residual matter is widespread in Malawi as it is believedto be a good way of killing weed seeds and keeping the fields clean. Burning ofbiomass and crop residues has two direct negative impacts on the soil. Theorganic matter, which helps in the formation of soil aggregates improves soilstructure and improves soil water holding capacity, is lost. Nutrients that wereused in the production of the biomass and crop residues are lost as well. Manureuse is also limited as few farmers own livestock (Snapp et al 2002). The long-term effect of reduced organic carbon is on the cation exchange capacity of thesoil and its ability to retain nutrients and remain fertile (Makumba et al 2006).Burning of residues also exposes the soil, and this can lead to surface sealingbecause the soil is no longer protected from the direct impact of raindrops whichbreak up soil aggregates and redistribute them according to physical, chemicaland suction forces. This is the case because water infiltration is high in the initialmoments of precipitation, but with time the loosened soil particles block the porespaces making it difficult for water to penetrate and surface runoff is encouraged1 In tied-ridging, ridge furrows are blocked with earth ties spaced a fixed distance apart to form aseries of micro-catchment basins in the field 15
  28. 28. as a result. The size and intensity of the raindrops have a significant effect on thedegree and rate of sealing that takes place.Formation of a structural crust is another way the soil structure itself can limitcrop production. This is caused by physical compression of the soil - usually fromlivestock, machinery or people putting weight on the soil. In the case ofconventional (ridged) tillage, a hardpan is often formed as a result of repetitioushand tilling to the same soil depth every year, leading to an increase in soil bulkdensity due to compaction. The formation of such a crust may hurt a plant in thesense that it has to exert more energy for the roots to penetrate, and failure to dothis may force the plant to become stunted (Williams, 2008).The majority of the smallholder farmers in Malawi lack of alternative livelihoodsand this, combined with the small size of plots, compels farmers to cultivatemaize on the same land year after year (Chinsinga and O’Brien, 2008). It is notsurprising therefore that mono-cropping is also dominant cropping system, withmaize being the most dominant crop (Snapp et al 2002). In case of drasticchanges in weather pattern, monocropping can lead to total crop failure and thiswill have negative effects on food security at household and national level. Acontinuous monocropping system of farming will be less resilient to pest anddisease attack, unlike a diversified and rotational system where some crops maybe unaffected or may host natural enemies of certain pests. Monocropping mayalso lead to a decrease in the crop productivity over time because the crop takesnutrients from the same soil depth, and it may also encourage the developmentof resistance to pesticides and herbicides as compounds with the same chemistryare relied upon year after year. This is not the case with a crop rotation system asdifferent crops are attacked by different pests and weeds, with the result that arange of different chemicals are required in their management.Due to the challenges and limitations associated with conventional tillage othertechnologies that can reduce such impacts are being promoted and one of suchtechnologies is conservation agriculture. 16
  29. 29. 2.2 Conservation AgricultureWorldwide there are rising concerns about loss of soil productivity and thebroader environmental implications of conventional agricultural practices. Theconcerns are coming mainly because of the aftermath of repeatedly tilling thesoil, either by the use of plough, disc harrow or hoe. This has impelled somegovernments and farmers to search for alternative production methods that canmaintain soil structure and productivity. Conservation Agriculture (CA) isbecoming one of the obvious and increasingly popular alternatives due to theprinciples that is based upon (Knowler and Bradshaw, 2007).Conservation Agriculture is a system of crop production based on threeprinciples, namely minimum soil disturbance, continuous soil cover and croprotation. The objectives of conservation farming are to increase crop productionwhile at the same time protecting and enhancing the water and soil landresources on which production depends. It is also referred to as conservationtillage, minimum tillage, reduced tillage and zero tillage among other names indifferent locations of the world. It is a resource-saving farming system that strivesto achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels,while conserving the environment based on an integrated management of soil,water and biological resources combined with external inputs (FAO, 2008). CTIC(1999) defined conservation tillage as any tillage or planting system that covers atleast 30% of the surface with crop residues. The 30% threshold was based onresearch which showed 80% reduction in soil erosion when the surface wascovered that much.CA is achieved through direct seeding and this involves growing crops withoutmechanical seedbed preparation and with minimal soil disturbance after theharvest of the previous crop. CA land preparation for seeding or planting involvesslashing or rolling the weeds, previous crop residues or cover crops; or sprayingherbicides for weed control, and seeding directly through the mulch (FAO, 2008) 17
  30. 30. 2.2.1 Principle of minimum soil disturbanceAgriculture impacts on the condition of the environment in many ways, includingimpacts on global warming through the production of ‘greenhouse gases’ such asCO2. In the USA it was estimated that agriculture contributed approximately 8%of the US greenhouse gas emissions (Paustian et al, 2006). However, agriculturealso has a potential of acting as a CO2 sink by sequestering it from theatmosphere in the form of soil carbon if proper practices are employed inproduction. A study conducted in the USA conclude that intensive tillage using amouldboard plough results in major carbon loses immediately after tillage, andalso found that the rate of carbon oxidation was reduced when the extent,frequency and magnitude of mechanical disturbance of the soil caused by tillagewas minimised (Baker et al, 2007).Minimum soil disturbance also reduces soil erosion, since the soil is not loosenedas is the case with conventional tillage. The reduction in erosion has benefits tothe growing crop as well as the environment. In conventional tillage the soil iscontinuously disturbed, making it easy to be carried by runoff. As the soil is beingeroded it also carries with it soil nutrients which are essential for crop growth. Theremoval of nutrients impacts negatively on the crop as its growth is retarded anda crop that is weak is more susceptible to pests and diseases. The combinationof pests, diseases and soil loss due to erosion leads to food insecurity as a resultof reduced yields. The reduced erosion brought by CA also benefits theenvironment in the sense that it enhances water quality. A number ofexperiments in semi-arid and dry sub-humid locations in East and SouthernAfrica have demonstrated that minimum soil disturbance/minimum tillagepractices reduce the risk of crop failure as they increase water productivity andcrop yields. These positive results are attributed to the water harvesting effects ofminimum tillage practices (Hobbs et al 2007).Increased infiltration means that streams are fed more by subsurface flow than bysurface runoff. This entails having cleaner water, which more closely resemblesgroundwater in areas where CA is dominant than in areas where intensive tillage 18
  31. 31. and accompanying erosion and runoff predominate. Greater infiltration also hasan advantage of reducing flooding, by enhancing more soil water storage andslow release to streams. It also recharges groundwater, thus increasing wellsupplies and revitalising dried-up springs (FAO, 2008)Tillage takes valuable time that could be used for other useful farming activities oremployment. Conservation agriculture reduces time for establishing a crop asintensive tillage is eliminated. The time spent in tilling the land can also delaytimely planting of crops, and this can result in reductions in yield potential. Byreducing turnaround time to a minimum, zero-tillage can get crops planted ontime, and thus increase yields without greater input (Hobbs et al, 2007)2.2.2 Principle of continuous soil coverSurface soil cover intercepts raindrop energy and protects the surface soil fromsoil aggregate destruction; it promotes infiltration of water, and reduces the lossof soil by erosion. The surface crop residues shield the loose soil particles fromwater and wind erosion. It minimises soil water losses by evaporation and alsohelps moderate soil temperature. This enhances soil biological activity andpromotes nitrogen mineralisation. This is an important factor, especially in areaswhere water is limited as most of it will be used by the growing crop (Hobbs et al,2007). It also helps to suppress weed infestation as weed seeds are shieldedfrom sunlight, which is frequently required for germination and necessary forsubsequent growth. The soil cover improves soil fertility after decay and thisreduces the requirement for inorganic fertilisers in the future. The decayed soilcover improves availability of soil organic matter (SOM) in the soil. SOM has acharacteristic of improving soil water holding capacity and this water is used bythe growing crops (Giller et al, 2009)The soil organisms crush the mulch covering the surface, and incorporate andmix it with the soil. When the mulch becomes humus after decomposition itcontributes to the physical stabilisation of the soil structure. Furthermore, the soilorganic matter provides a buffer function for water and nutrients (FAO, 2008). 19
  32. 32. Larger soil organisms, such as earthworms ingest soil and also digest dead plantmaterial, and their nutrient-rich wastes are deposited on the surface (as casts) orwithin the soil profile. This process helps to improve the soil structure, as theirwastes are better soil aggregates. The improved soil structure is beneficial toplants as it also means improved water-holding capacity. As earthworms aremoving within the soil they also form an intricate and extensive network ofburrows, which function as biopores and increase aeration and drainage andthese elements are also necessary for plant growth. Of all the soil micro-fauna,earthworms are probably the most important group for improving soil quality, asthey ingest nearly ten times their own weight each day while burrowing throughthe soil. Their burrows are mainly in the region where plant roots frequentlyoccur, and this helps to facilitate the exchange of nutrients (Dubbin, 2001).Figure 4: Young Conservation Agriculture maize crop plot mulched with crop residues (Source: TLC 2010)Since many of the benefits of CA are directly related to mulching, limitedavailability of crop residues is in many cases a constraint to their adoption. Thisdemand for crop residues as mulch greatly changes the flow of resources at thefarm level, especially where the residues have more than one use. Farmers face 20
  33. 33. the dilemma of whether to use residues as mulch or fodder, in which caseprecedence is mostly given to livestock considering its cultural and economicvalue. The challenge to retain crop residues as mulch is not only limited to thoseareas with more livestock. In regions where farmers own few livestock, but relyon hand hoe for tillage, crop residues are traditionally burned as a fast way toclear agricultural fields in order to facilitate further land preparation and planting(Giller et al, 2009), and this tradition will have to change if the full benefits of themulch are to be realised.2.2.3 Principle of crop rotationCrop rotation provides an opportunity for nutrient cycling as roots at differentdepths are able to get nutrients from different soil layers. Nutrients that havebeen lost from the upper layers through leaching and are no longer available toshort-rooted crops, can be brought back to the surface by using deep-rootedones in rotation. The diversity of crops in rotation enhances a diverse flora andfauna such as fungi and bacteria, which are also necessary for transformation oforganic materials into available nutrients during decomposition. Other means ofimproving soil fertility and nutrient cycling are being encouraged. Intercroppingcereals with legumes is encouraged because the legumes fix nitrogen (one of themacro-nutrients) from the atmosphere to further improve soil fertility. Two legumespecies often intercropped with maize in Malawi are pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan)and Tephrosia vogelli (TLC, 2007).2 Crop rotation also plays a phytosanitary roleas it prevents the carryover of crop specific pests and diseases from one seasonto another through residues. The diversity of crops achieved through crop rotationis also important as a climate change adaptation strategy because it reduces thesusceptibility to unforeseen climatic events such as drought, floods and otherbiophysical occurrences such as pest outbreaks that might lead to crop failure(FAO, 2008). However, given their economic pressures, in the face of rapidpopulation increase and continued decrease in land holding sizes it is not alwayspossible to practice crop rotation. Malawian farmers cannot afford to include afallow phase as incorporated in older European crop rotation systems.2 Also known as fish bean, the crushed leaves of T. vogelli are added to water to poison fish. 21
  34. 34. Chapter Three: Research Site and Methodology3.1. Study areaThe study was carried out in Salima District within the Salima ADD (Figure 4).Administratively the district is located in Central Region of Malawi and it lies alongthe lakeshore plain 100km to the east of Lilongwe City. Figure 5: Map of Salima ADD showing Extension Planning Areas (Prepared for the current study by J K Chirwa, Salima ADD) Study Area 22
  35. 35. This district covers a total area of 2196 km 2 and is located in the Rift Valley Plainphysiographic region. It lies on latitude 13°45 north and longitude 34°35 east. Itis situated within the altitude range 33-600 metres above sea level. The land isflat to gently undulating, with deep calcimorphic soils in the hollows formed inlarge part by the deposition of material and is characterised by subdued relief andgentle slopes. The district was chosen because it is one of the areas whereconservation agriculture is being intensified owing to its semi-arid conditions andaccessibility. For agriculture purposes the district is divided into 7 ExtensionPlanning Areas (EPAs) namely Chipoka, Katerera, Makande, Tembwe,Chinguluwe, Matenje and Chiluwa. The study was conducted in Katerera,Makande and Chinguluwe EPAs.3.2. ClimateSalima district experiences a warm tropical climate characterised by unimodalrainfall lasting approximately five months from the end of November to the end ofApril, and dry weather during the remainder of the year. Annual rainfall variesfrom around 800mm to about 1200mm, however most areas receive less than1000 mm of rain. Despite receiving this amount of rainfall the area experiencesfrequent dry spells which impact negatively on crop production within the cropgrowing period. The mean temperature range along the lakeshore plain is 18-28°Celsius, with mean maximum temperatures of 32-34° Celsius in October toDecember.3.3. SoilSalima district soils are grouped into two main soil units namely Eutric gleysols,and Ferric fluvisols (MoA/UNDP/FAO, 1992). Gleysols are soils showinghydromorphic properties within 50 cm of the surface; having no diagnostichorizons (unless buried by 50 cm or more new material) other than an A horizon,an H horizon, a cambic B horizon, and a calcic or a gypsic horizon. Fluvisols onthe other hand refers to soils developed from recent alluvial deposits, having nodiagnostic horizons (unless buried by 50 cm or more new material) other than an 23
  36. 36. ochric or an umbric A horizon, an H horizon, or a sulphuric horizon (FAO, 1975).Eutric gleysols and Ferric fluvisols cover a total 599.8 and 94253.2 (km 2) inMalawi, respectively (Chilimba, 2001).3.4. Data collectionPrimary data were collected from a sample of selected farmers throughadministration of a semi-structured questionnaire. The questionnaire (Appendix1) comprised closed- and open-ended questions. An open-ended questionnaire(Appendix 2) was also used to support interviews with as many of the AgriculturalExtension Development Officers working in the selected EPAs as was possible.Secondary data were obtained from published and unpublished documents.3.5. Sampling Procedure for SurveyThe study involved total of 60 farmers and involved comparisons between threeequal-sized sub-groups based on differences in their practices. The first groupcomprised farmers who had been practicing conservation agriculture for aminimum of three years, the second involved farmers who once practiced thetechnology but were no longer doing it, while the last one comprised farmers whohad never tried the technology. The respondents were selected from threerandomly selected EPAs within Salima District, and the study villages were alsorandomly selected within each EPA. After this farmers were selected from eachvillage on a semi-random basis, using lists supplied by the local AgriculturalExtension Development Officers. The lists indicated farmers who werepracticing, once practiced but stopped, and those who never practiced thetechnology. The final selection of the farmers from each of these lists was alsorandom.3.6. Data analysis and presentationThe data were coded and fed into the Statistical Package for Social Scientists(SPSS) for statistical analysis and presentation. Descriptive statistics in the formof frequencies and percentages were used when analysing, presenting and 24
  37. 37. interpreting the data because the data collected was mainly qualitative. In someinstances Chi-square was used to determine the significance of some variableson CA adoption. 25
  38. 38. Chapter Four: Results and DiscussionIntroductionThis chapter covers the results of the study carried out in Salima District. It looksat factors affecting/restricting adoption of CA and the challenges the farmers arefacing in the implementation of the technology in Malawi. To do this demographic,social and economic data were collected and analysed. CA messagedissemination mechanisms, farmer technology awareness, first input acquisitionmethod reasons for adopting, stopping practicing and never adopting thetechnology information was also analysed.4.1. Demographic and Socio Economic Data4.1.1. Sex of the household headThe study involved a total of 60 households divided into 3 categories of 20households each. The first group was composed of farmers who had beenpracticing conservation agriculture for a minimum of three years, the secondgroup comprised farmers who once practiced CA but had stopped, and the lastcategory consisted of farmers who have never practiced CA. Seventy per cent ofthe households interviewed were male headed while the remaining 30% werewomen headed.Table 2 provides Chi-square (x2)3 analysis of sex of the household head andadoption of CA. The results support the idea that male-headed households weremore likely to adopt CA than those headed by females at 95% confidence intervaland 2 degrees of freedom (df). Mazvimavi and Twomlow (2009) found similarresults in a study carried out in Zimabmbwe.3 3 Where O is observed frequency and E is expected frequency. 26
  39. 39. 2 Table 2: x analysis of sex of the household head and level of CA adoptionSex of the df Calculated Tabulated 2 2household X Xhead Level of adoption Total Practicing Stopped Never CA practicing Practiced CA CAMale 18 10 14 42 2 7.619 3.84Female 2 10 6 18Total 20 20 20 604.1.2 AgeThirty five per cent of the farmers who are practicing CAS and those who were nolonger doing it were in the age category of 26-35, as compared to 30% of thosewho had never practiced CA (Table 3). No relationship was found between age ofthe respondents and adoption of CA. Studies in the literature has come up withconflicting results. Knowler and Bradshaw (2007) also found it difficult to linkadoption of CA and age of a farmer in their review and analysis of recentresearch on farmer’s adoption of conservation agriculture. However, Mazvimaviand Twomlow (2009) found positive correlation. Table 3: Age categories of the household headAge Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Never Practiced CACategory Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 18-25 2 10.0 0 0 3 15.0 26-35 7 35.0 7 35.0 6 30.0 36-45 4 20.0 4 20.0 4 20.0 46-55 3 15.0 3 15.0 2 10.0 >56 4 20.0 6 30.0 5 25.04.1.3. Size of the HouseholdsMore than 65% of the respondents involved had households of greater than 4.4,which is the national average (Table 4). No statistical correlation was found 27
  40. 40. between household size and CA adoption, but those who had never practicedCA, or had given it up were more likely to have larger families than those who didpractice it. Table 4: Household size Household Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Never Practiced CA Size Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 1-2 2 10.0 2 10.0 1 5.0 3-4 5 25.0 3 15.0 5 25.0 5-6 6 30.0 7 35.0 2 10.0 >6 7 35.0 8 40.0 12 60.0 Total 20 100 20 100 20 1004.1.4 EducationIt is assumed that the ability of the household head to understand technicalaspects of conservation agriculture would be dependent on their educationallevel. A positive relationship was expected between educational level andadoption as farmers with higher education are expected to have more access toinformation on the dangers of not following recommended soil and waterconservation technologies. In the event, no overall correlation was found betweenthe adoption of CA and the household heads level of education - probablybecause less than 20% of all respondents had actually attended school tosecondary level (Table 5). Table 5: Level of education Level of education Practicing CA No longer practicing Never Practiced CA CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % No formal education 3 15.0 4 20.0 2 10.0 Std 1 - Std 5 9 45.0 5 25.0 5 25.0 Std 6 - Std 8 4 20.0 8 40.0 11 55.0 Secondary education 4 20.0 3 15.0 2 10.0 Total 20 100 20 100 20 100 28
  41. 41. However, those who had attained that level were more likely to have tried CAthan those who had not (7/2).4.1.5. Land Ownership and Size of the GardensLand is one of the important factors of production. It assists the farmer inbudgeting what and how much to produce. It also helps the farmer in decidingthe production system to follow. In this study it was assumed that farmers withlarger gardens would be able to adopt CA more easily because they can followall the principles of CA, including crop rotation.All the households who participated in the study owned a piece of land (garden),save for one respondent who was renting. Overall, 71.7% of the farmers werefarming on customary land while the remaining 28.3% were cultivating on publicland. All the farmers who were using customary land had obtained it throughinheritance, while those under public land obtained it from government undersettlement scheme programme. The settlement scheme programme was set upwith four main aims namely, reclamation and utilisation of underused land;settlement of underemployed rural people to provide them with a decent incomeand livelihood; promotion of cash-crop production for export purposes; andsettlement of Malawi Young Pioneers to provide opportunities for their gainfulemployment (Nothale, 1982). The minimum land holding size in the study areawas 0.4 ha, while the maximum was 4.4 ha, and 35%, 30% and 20% of thefarmers who were practicing CA, who once practiced CA and those who hadnever practiced CA, respectively, had pieces of land of greater than threehectares. All the farmers from Chinguluwe Extension Planning Area had gardensof greater than three hectares owing to the land settlement programme as eachsettler was allocated eleven acres4. The study found no statistical correlationbetween farm size and adoption of CA, but most who did not practice CA (60%)owned less than 2ha, while most who did practice it (65%) owned more than 2 ha(Table 6).4 1 acre = 0.404686 ha 29
  42. 42. Table 6: Size of the Garden Size of the Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Never Practiced CA Garden (Ha) Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 0.1-0.5 0 0 2 10 1 5.0 06-1.0 1 5.0 4 20.0 6 30.0 1.1-2.0 6 30.0 5 25.0 5 25.0 2.1-3.0 6 30.0 3 15 4 20 >3.0 7 35.0 6 30.0 4 20.0 Total 20 100.0 20 100.0 20 100.04.1.6. Level of IncomeHousehold income is the aggregation of income both in cash and/or kind thataccrues from economic activities performed by household members on a regularbasis (NSO, 2005). The assumption in this study was that higher income wouldhave a positive influence on adoption of CA because the higher the level ofincome the higher the chances that the farmer can invest in conservationtechnologies. Data for income distribution among the three categories of farmers(Table 7) indicate that the majority of respondents were poor. Going by the 2004-2005 Malawi Integrated Household Survey (which puts MK16,165.00 5 per personper year as a poverty line6 and 4.4 persons per household as national average) itmeans that more than 70% of households in the study area live below the povertyline. The results are not far from the NSO (2005) findings, which put 69.1% ofpeople in Salima District as living below the poverty line.Additional information recovered during the survey revealed crop productioncontributing over 80% of the total income from agriculture while the remaindercame from livestock.5 $1=MK1506 The poverty line is a subsistence minimum expressed in Malawi currency based on the cost-of-basic-needsmethodology. It is comprised of two parts: minimum food expenditure based on the food requirements ofindividual and critical non-food consumption 30
  43. 43. A further 20% of the respondents pointed to piecework contributing 21-40% percent of their total income. Piecework (locally known in Malawi as ganyu) is a termthat describes a variety of temporary rural relations. It corresponds to any off-own-farm work done by rural people on casual basis, with remuneration beingmade in cash or in kind (Le Danvic, 2009). Table 7: Estimated level of Income of respondent farmers Level of Practicing CA No longer Practicing Never Practiced CA income (MK) CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % 0-10,000 0 0 1 5.0 1 5.0 11,000-25,000 3 15.0 8 40.0 5 25.0 26,000-40,000 4 20.0 7 35.0 7 35.0 41,000-60,000 2 10.0 3 15.0 1 5.0 61,000 and 11 55.0 1 5.0 6 30.0 above Total 20 100 20 100 20 100Comparing income levels among the three categories of farmers it was found that55% of those practicing CA, 5% of those no longer practicing CA and 30% ofthose who had never practiced CA were earning greater than 61,000 MalawiKwacha (MK7) per annum (Table 7). No significant difference in levels of incomewas found between farmers practicing the technology and those who had neverpracticed it. Nevertheless, a significant difference was observed betweenfarmers still practicing CA and those who had stopped. The calculated X 2(12.624) was larger than the tabulated one (9.49) at 95% confidence interval. Theresults support the hypothesis that farmers with higher income are likely tocontinue with CA than the low income ones.7 Malawian Currency 31
  44. 44. 4.2. Crops and Animal Production4.2.1. Crops grownThe main crops grown in the study area are maize, ground nuts, cotton andtobacco (Table 8). All the households involved indicated that they had grownmaize in the previous season - this is not surprising since it is the main food cropin Malawi and is grown on over 70% of the cultivated are every year. Groundnutsare the other popular food crop in the area, and 95% of both those practicing andthose no longer practicing CA, and 85% of the farmers who had never practicedCA indicated to have grown it in the 2009/2010 season. Cassava, soya, millet,cowpeas and sweet potato are also grown as food crops. Table 8: Crops grown by respondents in Salima District Crops grown Practicing CA No longer practicing Never Practiced CA CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Maize 20 100 20 100 20 100 Groundnuts 19 95 19 95 17 85 Cowpeas 6 30 2 10 2 10 Sweet potato 0 0 0 0 2 10 Tobacco 2 10 4 20 2 15 Millet 0 0 0 0 1 5 Soya 0 0 1 5 0 0 Cassava 3 15 0 0 0 0 Cotton 14 70 12 60 9 45Groundnuts are also grown for cash, but cotton is the main cash crop in the studyarea with 70%, 60% and 45% of those practicing, stopped practicing and havingnever practiced CA, respectively, mentioning that they had grown cotton in2009/2010. Furthermore, 15% of the farmers also indicated that they had growntobacco for cash. Clearly, the method of cultivation had no significant impactupon the choice of the major cop species. The fact that cassava was only grownby those who practiced CA does not seem to relate directly to this practice, sincethat crop is not known to benefit particularly from CA and the technique would nothave been applied to all parts of the CA respondents gardens, 32
  45. 45. 4.2.2. LivestockThe majority (>70%) of the farmers in the area own chickens and goat rearing isalso dominant in the area, with farmers who are no longer practicing CA reportingthe highest percentage (Table 9). These results agree with the findings of 2004-2005 Integrated Household Survey report, which also showed chicken and goatsas dominant livestock in Malawi (NSO, 2005). There was a moderate level of pigownership in all three groups and some farmers also indicated to have beenkeeping ducks and guinea fowl on a small scale. Only one respondent ownedcattle and only one owned donkeys, both being indications of a higher income,but this did not correlate with practising CA. About 8% of the respondentsindicated not to have any type of livestock. Table 9: Livestock Kept by Respondents Livestock kept Practicing CA No longer Practicing Never Practiced CA CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Cattle 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 Goats 10 50.0 14 70.0 10 50.0 Donkeys 1 5.0 0 0 0 0 Chickens 15 75.0 16 80.0 14 70.0 Guinea fowl 1 5.0 0 0 0 0 None 2 10.0 0 0 3 15.0 Pigs 3 15.0 3 15.0 4 20.0 Ducks 1 5.0 2 10.0 1 5.0 None 2 10 0 0 3 15.04.3. CA Message Dissemination4.3.1. Farmer GroupsFarmer Groups are encouraged because they enable Agricultural ExtensionDevelopment Officers to reach more farmers with agricultural messages withease, and also give a chance to farmers to learn from one another. It is assumed,therefore, that farmers belonging to groups have higher chances of adopting anew technology. 33
  46. 46. Table 10: Farmer Group Membership among Respondents Response Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Never Practiced CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Yes 17 85.0 6 30.0 6 30.0 No 3 15.0 14 70.0 14 70.0 Total 20 100.0 20 100.0 20 100.0Just under half the sample of farmers were members of a Farmer Group (Table10). However, the greater majority (85%) of respondent farmers practicing CAbelonged to a Farmer Group, as opposed to 30% of those who either stoppedpracticing or never participated in CA. There was strong correlation between CAadoption and farmer membership to a group as calculated: X2 (16.15) was largerthan the tabulated one (5.99) at 95% confidence interval (Table 11). Farmersbelonging to a Farmer Group were indeed seen to be more likely to be practicingCA than those not belonging to any group. 2 Table 11: X analysis of Farmer Group membership versus level of CA adoption Response Level of adoption of CA Total df Calculated Tabulated 2 2 Practicing Stopped Never X X CA practicing Practiced Yes 17 6 6 29 No 3 14 14 31 2 16.151 3.84 Total 20 20 20 60Most of the farmers practicing CA (85%) were in the soil and water conservation(SWC) Farmer Group, as opposed to 5% and 10% for those no longer practicingand never practiced, respectively. Some farmers were found to belong to multiplegroups covering irrigation, livestock, agroforestry, bee-keeping, grain andlegumes, credit and cotton (Table 12). 34
  47. 47. Table 12: Farmer Group Membership by Type Type of Farmer Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Never Practiced CA Group Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Irrigation 4 20.0 1 5.0 2 10.0 Soil & Water 17 85.0 1 5.0 2 10.0 Conservation Livestock 2 10.0 0 0 0 0 Agroforestry 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 Bee-keeping 0 0 4 20.0 0 0 Grain & legumes 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 association Credit group 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 Cotton 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 associationThe remaining farmers (mainly those who had never practiced CA or hadstopped) were asked why they did not belong to a Farmer Group. Overall, 41.9%of them indicated that they were not interested, while 35.5% gave lack of farmergroups in their villages as the reason. However, the remaining 22.6% had oncebeen, but were no longer members - either due to disbandment of the group ordue to lost interest (Table 13). Table 13: Reasons for not belonging to any Farmer Group Reason Frequency Percentage Not interested 13 41.9 There is no farmer group 11 35.5 The group disbanded 7 22.6The main cause of lost interest seems to have resulted from unfair distribution offree farm inputs on those occasions when the groups received inputs fromgovernment and agriculture development stakeholders and others. Allegationswere also made against agricultural extension workers as not being transparentin the distribution of such inputs, or in the identification of farmers to host 35
  48. 48. demonstration plots - with favour being shown to farmers with the moreaccessible gardens along the road.4.3.2. Farmer contact with Extension WorkersAll the respondents indicated that an agricultural extension worker was availablein the area, and that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) wasthe main institution offering extension services in conservation agriculture. Askedas to how often the extension worker visits per month, 95% of those practicingCA responded that they were visited more than two times per month and allreceived at least one per month. This is an encouraging result considering thatextension workers are advised to make a minimum of two visits to a farmergroup. The first visit is for training while the second one is for follow up. Incontrast, twice-monthly contacts with those no longer practicing or those who hadnever practiced CA were only 55%, and 65%, respectively. No statisticalcorrelation was found within the sample between CA adoption and farmerextension worker contacts, but a significant minority of those not involved in CAhad either never been visited or received only one visit a month. Table 14: Frequency of Extension Worker visits Practicing CA No longer practicing Never practiced CA No of visits Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Doesnt visit 0 0 6 30.0 3 15.0 Once a month 0 0 3 15.0 2 10.0 Twice a month 1 5.0 0 0 2 10.0 > Twice a month 19 95.0 11 55.0 13 65.0 Total 20 100 20 100 20 1004.3.3. Conservation Agriculture AwarenessAll the respondents save one said that they had heard of CA, and 100%, of thosepracticing, 95% of those no longer practicing, and 75% of those who had neverpracticed CA gave the extension workers from MoAFS as the source of thatawareness. The other sources of CA information mentioned by the interviewees 36
  49. 49. were fellow farmers, Non Governmental Organizations (NGO), the localextension worker, radio and a private cotton company (Table 15). Table 15: Sources of awareness about CA Source Practicing CA No longer Never practiced CA practicing Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Fellow farmer 0 0 0 0 3 15.0 MoAFS extension 20 100.0 19 95.0 15 75.0 worker NGO extension 1 5.0 0 0 0 0 worker Radio 1 5.0 7 35.0 Private company 0 0 1 5.0 0 04.3.4. Farmer TrainingAll the farmers practicing CA, 85% of those no longer practicing and 40% ofthose who had never practiced indicated to have been trained in CA (Table 16). Table 16: Level of Farmer Training in CA Response Practicing CA No longer practicing Never practiced CA Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Attended CA training 20 100 17 85 8 40 Never Attended CA training 0 0 3 15 12 60 Total 20 100 20 100 20 100A comparison was made between respondents practicing CA and those who hadnever practiced CA using chi-square (X2) to test whether farmer trainings had anybearing on CA adoption. The results showed significant different between the twocategories of respondents as the calculated X2 (20.80) was larger than thetabulated one (3.84) at 95% confidence interval. No significant difference wasobserved when X2 was used to test if training had any bearing on retention, whenfarmers who were practicing CA and those who stopped were compared. Thissuggests that, though farmer training is crucial in adoption of CA, other factors 37
  50. 50. come into play when a farmer is deciding whether to continue with the technologyin the subsequent years.The training conducted mainly covered three areas, namely crop residuemanagement, weed management and nutrient management. In crop residuemanagement farmers were trained on how to lay the crop residues (Figure 6), thebenefits of retaining them in the field and the dangers of burning or removing cropresidues from the agricultural field. Weed management involved how lightweeding can be done so as to avoid excessive soil disturbance and it alsoincluded weed control by using herbicides. Nutrient management encompassedfertilizer application, organic manure making and application and planting ofnitrogen fixing agroforestry trees. Figure 6: Farmers engaged in CA crop residue managementNinety five percent of farmers practicing, and 75% and 35%, respectively, ofthose no longer practicing and never practiced CA, mentioned that they hadreceived training in crop residue management. However, 55% of those practicing,65% of those no longer practicing, and 15% of farmers who had never practicedCA said they had been trained in weed management. The unexpectedly lowresponse from CA farmers may be due to the fact that they had to volunteer the 38
  51. 51. form of training rather than tick boxes. Nutrient management as a training topic inCA was mentioned by 30% of the farmers practicing CA, while only 5% of nolonger practicing and never practicing CA mentioned it (Table 17). Only onerespondent indicated to have been trained in soil and water conservation, andthis involved the relatively new technique of digging trenches on contours(commonly known as swales) for rainwater harvesting. Table 17: Training topics in CA received Topic Practicing CA No longer Practiced Never Practiced Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Crop residue 19 95.0 15 75.0 7 35.0 management Weed management 11 55.0 13 65.0 3 15.0 Soil and water 0 0 0 0 1 5.0 conservation Nutrient management 6 30.0 1 5.0 1 5.04.4. Input Acquisition MethodIntroducing a new technology in an area can sometimes be a challenging task asit involves a change of mindset in the sense that farmers are encouraged toabandon old ways of conducting their business. It also involves risk-takingbecause farmers are asked to venture into an area they have no experience of.Due the risks involved in switching from the old technology to a new one,sometimes introduction of agriculture technologies comes with incentives in theform of loans or grants. It was found out during the study that 50% of therespondents in the category participating in CA got a grant, but among them werethose who managed to buy additional inputs out of their pockets, so that 75% ofrespondents could claim to have acquired CA inputs using their own cash;. Inaddition, 40% and 60% of those no longer practicing CA got their inputs throughtheir own cash and grants, respectively. 39
  52. 52. Table 18: Financial inputs for first inputs acquisition method (NB: number add up to more than 100%) Method Practicing CA No longer Practicing CA Frequency % Frequency % I bought with my own cash 15 75.0 8 40.0 Loan 1 5.0 0 0 Grant 10 50.0 12 60.0To test whether there was any relation between method of input acquisition andthe farmer’s likelihood to retain CA practices or not X2 was used. The resultsshowed strong correlation, since calculated X2 (10.41) was greater than thetabulated one (3.84) at 95% confidence interval. This supports the suggestionthat farmers who buy their own inputs when starting a new technology are likelyto continue than those who solely depend on grants. The reason for this could bethat farmers with the greatest investment put more effort into the management ofthe crop and reap more benefits knowing that any reduction in yield would meanpersonal loss.4.5. Reasons for practicing CAThe reasons why farmers continued with CA were investigated, with respondentsgiving more than one answer (Table 19). Overall, 45% indicating that theircontinued involvement in this technology was because it helped in theconservation of soil and water. The mulch that is spread on the soil surface helpsto reduce rainfall impact, thereby minimising splash erosion. It also enhancesinfiltration and reduces runoff. Water conservation is also achieved throughreduced surface water evaporation as the mulch acts as a shield to sunlight. Thewater conservation is very crucial to agriculture as Salima district is one of theareas that receive low rainfall and experience high temperatures. Similarly, 60%of the farmers gave soil fertility improvement as a reason for practicing CA. Thefarmers explained that the crop residues that are left on the surface in the fieldturn into manure after decomposition, and the inclusion of nitrogen-fixingagroforestry species as intercrops also helps to improve soil fertility. The 40
  53. 53. commonest agroforestry shrub species were pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan) andthe fish(-poison) bean (Tephrosia vogelli - Figure 7).Figure 7: Harvested CA plot with Tephrosia vogelli intercrop (Source: TLC, 2010)Forty five percent of the farmers also explained that they were involved in the CAtechnology because it was resulting in higher yields if compared to theconventional methods. Low labour demand was another reason that 75% of therespondents gave for their involvement. This is because tilling is minimisedduring land preparation and the reduced labour helps farmers save time and tocarry out other farm operations, such as planting on time.CA’s ability in reducing labour demands has been debated in some quarters.Giller et al (2009) argue that the reduced work load can only be achieved incases where herbicides are used. The basis for this thinking is that not tilling thesoil and planting directly into the mulch may indeed reduce labour requirement forland preparation, but increases weed pressure if herbicides are not used. Thusthe increased amount of labour required for weeding with CA may outweigh thelabour gained by not ploughing. Based on this thinking it may therefore be saidthat the reduced labour demand observed by the respondents may not necessarybe attributed to CA alone, but to the use of herbicides as well. 41

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