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What is conservation agriculture and what for


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Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group (CARWG) Annual Meeting 2015,
Pretoria, South Africa, 1-2 December, 2015

Published in: Environment
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What is conservation agriculture and what for

  1. 1. What is Conservation Agriculture (CA) and for What in Africa? by Saidi Mkomwa, CARWG Chair, and CEO African ConservationTillage Network (ACT) Email: Presented to Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group (CARWG) Annual Meeting 2015, Pretoria, South Africa, 1-2 December, 2015
  2. 2. 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 poverty  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? AtransformationisImperative
  3. 3. 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 towers conservation. Recharge aquifers, green power.  Agroforestry. Biodiversity, rainforests, carbon sinks.  Intensified crop– livestock-tree systems. Curb overgrazing degradation. 40 million hectares destroyed, 2.5 million people migrated Africa is deforesting at twice the world rate
  4. 4. 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’ doorstep Adapt and adopt Conservation Agriculture Africa missed the dramatic gains of the Green Revolution
  5. 5. 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 environment. 1. Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance. 2. Permanent organic soil cover. 3. Diversification of crop species grown in sequences or associations. CA is one of the best options for transformation
  6. 6. CA is againstTillage, Not against Mechanisation! African Innovation o Dibble stick (Early Egyptians) o Zai pits (West Africa) o Skip stone direct seeding technology Brazilian Perfection & Systematization
  7. 7.  Soil cover and zero till reduce evaporation & runoff; increase infiltration  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 cropping  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?
  8. 8. What are the Benefits of CA? Adaptation: • 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 Mitigation: • 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 emissions • 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
  9. 9. 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 farmers).  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 diversify  In restoring landscapes and improving livelihoods. See Thomas Loronyo, ArushaTanzania. rM79a6oo  In increasing productivity - for the large scale farmers in Africa. See Laurie Session. Laikipia Kenya. Link: 4xFIxOGs4  The scientific evidence in plenty: CIMMYT; FAO -website:; EU &ACT ABACO project in 6 countries QbfXvE8Ec
  10. 10. Worldwide adoption of Conservation Agriculture 6thSSource World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, Winnipeg, 22-25 June 2014 slide 2/x USA 36 Canada 18 Australia 17.9 Europe 2 Kazakhstan 2 Africa 1.2 Brazil 32 Conservation Agriculture globally 155 Million ha (~11% of arable cropland) Argentina 27 Paraguay 3 China 6.7 tropical savannah continental, dry temperate, moist temperate, moist continental, dry irrigated smallholder smallholder smallholder arid arid large scale large scale large scale large scale large scale large scale subtropical, dry tropical savannah other LA 2.4 >50% W (40%) 20% 99% 100% West (36%) Russia, Ukraine 5.2 India 1.5 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 Kassam, 2015
  11. 11. Worldwide adoption of Conservation Agriculture 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, Winnipeg, 22-25 June 2014 slide 2/x 100 Dustbowl 1930 20001950 USSoilConservationService conservationtillage dustbowl Siberia/USSR Faulkner(US)–Fukuoka(Japan) commercialno-till/US firstno-tilldemonstrationinBrazil Oldrieve/Zimbabwe adoptionBrazil plantiodiretonapalha experimentsinChina,IndogangeticPlains Newboost:Canada, Australia,Kazakhstan, Russia,China,Finland...; Africa Argentina,Paraguay; 1980 1990 Firstno-tillintheUS IITAno-tillresearch 50 Mill.ha History and Adoption of CA 1970 2010 155 mill ha firstno-tillfarmersinUSA FirstWCCAinMadrid Source: Kassam, 2015
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 5. Inadequate skills and competencies among farmers, & practitioners; 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 and inputs; 8. Absence of a strong continental body & strategic policy framework to guide the promotion and mainstreaming of CA across Africa.
  14. 14. 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 2,13,17  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 CARWG) increasing.
  15. 15.  CA Centres of Excellence to work for smallholder farmers.  Entrepreneurial CA services provision models  Support to Continental CA coordination: quality assurance, knowledge and information sharing, events/sharing platforms  Support from the 20 experts strong CA Think-Tank: the International CA Advisory Panel (ICAAP-Africa) Chaired by Prof Amir Kassam.  Linkages with programmes that reduce climatic shocks e.g. DRR