Case Study 1: Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe

Conservation Ag in Zimbabwe. Credit_FAO

Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe. Credit FAO

From 2005-2006, Concern Worldwide found that 133 farmers practicing ‎conservation agriculture (CA) achieved an average maize yield of 2.8 tonnes per hectare (ranging from 1.03-4.71 tonnes per hectare) whilst conventional farmers in the same area averaged yields of just 0.8 tonnes per hectare. Other reported benefits included reduced labour time and fewer requirements for farm power that lowered input costs, leading to higher profits. Farmers who were previously receiving food aid improved their productivity so much so that they were able to sell grain to neighbouring villages. Farmers also benefited from increased incomes that allowed them to send their children to school, cover medical expenses, and rebuild their assets, such as cattle. In addition to Zimbabwe, Concern Worldwide has introduced CA—targeting mostly women farmers—in Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi.[1]

In the Matopo area of Zimbabwe, Christian Aid also found that conservation agriculture (CA) techniques are helping farmers to increase their yields and conserve natural resources. Many farmers are single mothers or from families affected by HIV/AIDS, with small farms of 0.5ha-1ha. Trained in CA, farmers use a variety of practices and technologies such as digging planting pits, improving soil fertility with manure, mulch or legumes, and precise planting operations.  By multiple cropping and rotating maize with indigenous nutrient-rich crops, the soil quality builds up over time. Crop residues are used as mulch to trap moisture in the soil, control weeds, and maintain cooler soil temperatures. Despite challenging climatic conditions over a period of 3 years, farmers reported increases in yields of sorghum, millet and maize, from an average of about 0.5 tonnes to between 3-4 tonnes per hectare.[2] Another survey in Zimbabwe compared CA with conventional farming practices under low, normal and high rainfall situations. Regardless of the level of rainfall, farmers achieved yields between 2 and 6 times of those under conventional agricultural practices whilst also benefitting from reduced labour and costs because of the lower levels of inputs required. [3]

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