Reducing the risk of crop failure for smallholder farmers in Africa through the adoption of Conservation Agriculture - Netherlands (Australia) Springer : 2011 - p 1269-1277
Current degradation of the natural resource base calls for innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture in Africa. Conservation agriculture (CA) is a sustainable cropping system based on minimal soil disturbance, soil cover with crop residues and crop rotations. CA leads to soil organic matter accumulation and improves water harvesting, and therefore more stable yields and a reduction of the risk of crop failure. After several years, soil quality improvement results in greater crop productivity. However, smallholder, resource-poor farmers in Africa generally manage mixed crop/livestock systems and depend on crop residues for animal feed in the dry season. Strategies therefore need to be developed to convert the farm from conventional to conservation agriculture. Step-wise incorporation of CA into the farming system and concentration of plant nutrient resources will allow increased productivity of both food and crop residues. Once productivity is increased part of the crop residues can be used as animal feed while still leaving sufficient residues for soil cover and soil quality regeneration. Greater production stability and reduced labour requirements of CA make it possible for farmers to use part of the farm for higher value crops, thus generating additional income. Reduced labour requirements of CA allow farmers to involve in alternative activities. CA systems, however, are knowledge intensive and although the principles have very wide application, the actual techniques and technologies to apply these principles are site and farmer-circumstance specific, necessitating the development of multi-stakeholder ?innovation networks? focused on adapting CA systems to local conditions.