What is Conservation Agriculture
(CA) and for What in Africa?
Saidi Mkomwa, CARWG Chair, and CEO
African ConservationTillage Network (ACT)
Conservation Agriculture Regional Working
Group (CARWG) Annual Meeting 2015,
Pretoria, South Africa, 1-2 December, 2015
Food security is urgent in Africa,
but more so in coming years
Global population to increase by 33% to 9 billion by
2050; Africa’s to increase by 115%; by 21% in Asia
60% more food worldwide; 100% in Africa
Worldwide hunger decreased by 132 million in last 20
years; it increased by 64 million in Africa.
Threatening climate change challenges
Farming related land resource degradation
THE GOOD NEWS:
Easier to double yields in Africa (say from 1.2 to 2.4 tonnes/ha)
A 1% increase in cereal yield can lift 2 million people out of
Africa has 60% of the global total uncultivated crop land
4 of the world’s top 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa
The Question is How?
It must be Sustainable Intensification
for adaptation and mitigation to Climate Change
Farming Not based on
Tillage. USA dust storms of
1930s.To reduce the 14% of GHG
emissions from agriculture
Watershed & water
Recharge aquifers, green power.
rainforests, carbon sinks.
Curb overgrazing degradation.
40 million hectares destroyed,
2.5 million people migrated
Africa is deforesting at twice the
The future is bright; but a transformation
anchored on soil health is imperative!
Healthy soils/brown revolution: higher efficiency of use
of all inputs; resilience to climate change; sustainability.
Need to increase productivity (reduce escalating
inputs costs, labour shortages, reduce climatic shocks).
Special focus on smallholder rainfed agriculture in
semiarid lands - home of the poor
Competitive value chain and market access
Innovative pro-poor business models to bring
affordable farm inputs and services to the farmers’
Adapt and adopt Conservation Agriculture
Africa missed the dramatic gains of the Green Revolution
CA is an approach to managing agro-
ecosystems for improved and sustained
productivity, increased resilience to
rainfall variability, increased profits and
food security while preserving and
enhancing the resource base and the
1. Continuous minimum mechanical soil
2. Permanent organic soil cover.
3. Diversification of crop species grown in
sequences or associations.
CA is one of the best options for transformation
CA is againstTillage, Not against Mechanisation!
o Dibble stick
o Zai pits
o Skip stone direct seeding technology
Brazilian Perfection & Systematization
Soil cover and zero till reduce evaporation & runoff;
Larger un-compacted root zone retain soil moisture
for dry spells; and drain excess to check flooding
Leguminous cover crops fix much needed nitrogen
Crop rotations break pest cycles. & nutrient
recycling (e.g. Musangu). Deliberate allelopathy
rotations (e.g. with push-pull) can be induced.
Increased soil moisture enables increased land
productivity: e.g. 2.5 crops /year; mixed/relay
CA sequesters carbon; reduction in fuel use and
GHG emissions. NB Cost saving is the biggest drive
to commercial CA adoption
How does CA work?
What are the Benefits of CA?
• Increases crop yields
• Higher cropping intensity (1.5 – 2)
• Increases resource use efficiency
• Enhances system resilience (coping with erratic rainfall)
• Reduces soil erosion, improves soil health
• Intensification reduces clearing of forests for agriculture
• Improved soil – sequester of carbon
• Minimum till reduces the use of diesel by up to 65% - less CO2
• Crop rotations/associations – nitrogen fixing, reduced fertilizer use
Achievement of national goals
• Increases farm incomes and profits
• Improves food security
• Reduces poverty
• Enhances ecosystem services
Does CA Work?
150 million ha globally,
expanding at the rate of 10
million ha per year (Kassam
2014). 1.22 million ha in Africa.
Increased productivity (for
small, medium and large scale
Savings in labour (up to
60%). Zero tillage. Labour peaks
spread.Attracts youths, creates
opportunities for enterprise
diversification, expansion of
cultivated area (from saved time).
CA helps fight climate
change (the 14% GHG emissions
from agriculture problem changes
to a solution):
The entry point to food
security for smallholders &
commercialise by selling surplus and
In restoring landscapes and
improving livelihoods. See
Thomas Loronyo, ArushaTanzania.
In increasing productivity - for
the large scale farmers in Africa. See
Laurie Session. Laikipia Kenya. Link:
The scientific evidence in
plenty: CIMMYT; FAO -website:
EU &ACT ABACO project in 6 countries
Worldwide adoption of
6thSSource World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, Winnipeg, 22-25 June 2014 slide 2/x
Conservation Agriculture globally 155 Million ha (~11% of arable cropland)
other LA 2.4
other Asia 0.1
• CA adoption expanding at the rate of 9 million ha annually
• 1.22 million ha in Africa. 65% are smallholders.
Source: Adapted from
Worldwide adoption of
6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, Winnipeg, 22-25 June 2014 slide 2/x
History and Adoption of CA
155 mill ha
Source: Kassam, 2015
Challenges to Upscale CA
1. Continued promotion and development support of
tillage-based agricultural systems by national,
international &private institutions;
2. Weak policies and regulatory frameworks and
institutional arrangements to support the promotion and
mainstreaming of CA;
3. Inadequate awareness, knowledge and expertise of CA
systems and the process of their adoption and spread
among key stakeholders;
4. Inadequate CA-based technology packaging, enterprise
diversification and integration in farming systems (not
adequately addressing livestock intergration is costly);
Paradigm shift; Project based interventions; Incubate Entrepreneurship
5. Inadequate skills and competencies among farmers, &
6. Farmers’ inability to maintain year-round soil cover
through the use of specially introduced cover crops,
intercrops and crop residue;
7. Poor availability &access to CA equipment, machinery
8. Absence of a strong continental body & strategic policy
framework to guide the promotion and mainstreaming of
CA across Africa.
Opportunities to Upscale CA in Africa
CA offers the unique win-win-win option to the pressure
to transform farming in Africa for Food Security-Economic
Growth-Climate Change resilience. Gateway for
smallholders to commercialise.
CA can greatly contribute to the SDG’s specifically SDGs
Good will of Development partners (EU, NORAD, DFID,
USAID, FAO, etc. ) to streamline CA at CAADP-
NEPAD/AU level under a CA framework
Support from research (e.g. CIMMYT, ICRISAT,
CCARDESA), education (e.g. Bunda, Sokoine, Fort Hare,
Gwebi) sectors as well as Govts (e.g. those represented at
CA Centres of Excellence to work for smallholder
Entrepreneurial CA services provision models
Support to Continental CA coordination: quality
assurance, knowledge and information sharing,
Support from the 20 experts strong CA Think-Tank: the
International CA Advisory Panel (ICAAP-Africa) Chaired
by Prof Amir Kassam. http://icaap.act-africa.org/
Linkages with programmes that reduce climatic shocks
CCARDESA, USAID and FAO
for supporting the CARWG meeting
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING