drought; seed; herbicide

Conservation farming still to catch on in Zambia

A study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) shows adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Zambia is still very low, even though the practice is highly promoted under small-scale farmers.

Using data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, the IAPRI found only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/’14 season. The rates were slightly higher in areas more suitable for CA. Areas include Agro-Ecological Zone I and II, in the southern parts of the country, where 11.7% of farmers adopted Conservation Agriculture.

CA methods are promoted among smallholder farmers to help improve crop productivity, soil fertility and as mitigation against low and variable rainfall.

The study investigated the effects of factors like social, cultural and traditional beliefs on decision-making towards adopting CA.

SOCIAL, CULTURAL ISSUES

Social factors, like believing in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, in contrast to for example hard work, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

In its report, the institute advises that the influence these factors have should be investigated before promoting CA in future.

CA IMPLEMENTS

The report found the availability of supporting services, such as spraying services, enhanced adoption rates.

Contrary to belief, the availability of tractor hiring services had a lagging effect on adoption rates. Tractor services were mostly applied for ploughing, and households with farming equipment more likely owned ploughs, instead of CA implements like rippers.

To address the issue, IAPRI suggests that machinery services providers be encouraged to provide minimum tillage services or to create incentives for farmers who invest in CA implements.

MARKET ACCESS

The institute found that it is important to improve farmers’ access to both output and input markets. This includes promotion of out-grower schemes and contract farming, and enhanced access to mechanised CA and extension services.

FARM SIZE

Households with larger pieces of lands seemed to be more likely to adopt the full CA (minimum tillage, maize-legume rotation and residue retention).

WEATHER CONDITIONS

Adoption rates were increased with adverse weather. The implication of this finding is that Conservation Agriculture can be promoted as a coping mechanism, in light of recurrent weather variability.

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