From interest to implementation: exploring farmer progression of conservation agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa uri icon

abstract

  • Sub-Saharan Africa needs to produce more food, feed and fibre to support its growing population, and the sustainable intensification of smallholder agriculture is a crucial component of any strategy towards achieving this goal. Conservation agriculture (CA) has been widely promoted as a means to this, yet African smallholder farmers who have expressed interest in CA have generally not progressed to implementation on their farms. Examinations of this trend remain underanalysed, particularly from non-econometric explorations of farmers' lived experiences and perspectives. This presents an opportunity to understand what drives farmers' expression of interest in CA and if such expression of interest could be targeted for other farmers (particularly if CA is to continue to be promoted to African smallholder farmers). We implement in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 58 farmers who have expressed interest in and are currently evaluating CA for their situation to explore their perspectives on what drives their interest in, and limits their progression to higher intensities of, CA. Respondents indicated mixed perceptions of the benefits, feasibility and relevance of CA to their livelihoods, adding to the ongoing discourse regarding the applicability of CA to African smallholder agriculture. If CA is to continue to be promoted, the respondents indicated a need to address issues related to financial viability, stover competition, small-scale mechanisation and informational exchange mechanisms. If farmer interest in CA is to be based on the technology itself and not perverse incentives, and that interest is to be progressed to implementation, respondents indicate that CA will need to be further adapted to fit within their contextual realities. To achieve this, more flexible and transitional promotion of CA by its components facilitated through greater community participation in research and extension systems will be required.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020