Science & Technology

13 pages

Options for Improving Smallholder Conservation Agriculture in Zambia

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 13
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Options for Improving Smallholder Conservation Agriculture in Zambia
Transcript Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 3, No. 3; September 2011  ISSN 1916-9752 E-ISSN 1916-9760 50 Options for Improving Smallholder Conservation Agriculture in Zambia Bridget. B. Umar (Corresponding author) Department of International Environment and Development Studies  Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Box 5003, 1432. Aas, Norway Tel: 47-47-707-681 E-mail: Jens. B. Aune Department of International Environment and Development Studies  Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Box 5003, 1432. Aas, Norway Tel: 47-64-965-323 E-mail: Fred. H. Johnsen Department of International Environment and Development Studies  Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Box 5003, 1432. Aas, Norway Tel: 47-64-965-317 E-mail: Obed. I. Lungu Soil Science Department, The University of Zambia, Box 32397. Lusaka, Zambia Tel: 260-977-856-155 E-mail: Received: November 23, 2010 Accepted: December 14, 2010 doi:10.5539/jas.v3n3p50 Abstract This study examined the agronomic practices of smallholder Conservation Agriculture (CA) farmers in Zambia. Questionnaire survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, field assessments, desk study and soil analyses were employed to collect data on tillage systems, crop rotations, weed control, soil fertility management, crop residue retention and crop yields. The results showed that weed management, crop residue retention, timely  planting and soil fertility management were the most challenging for CA farmers especially those without reliable access to oxen. Crop residue retention conflicted with the socio-cultural practices of the communities and was hardly practised while crop rotation seemed difficult in light of the dominance of maize cultivation and the lack of markets for crop legumes. Possible options for improving smallholder CA systems were greater integration of livestock, correct herbicide application, market provision for crop legumes, farmer training in agri-business and better access to agricultural credit and subsidized inputs. CA promoters must incorporate the farmers’ local cultural contexts in order to better address the challenges associated with adopting CA. Keywords:  Conservation agriculture, Agronomic practices, Smallholders, Conventional agriculture, Zambia 1. Introduction The dominant narrative of soil degradation in Africa identifies the misuse of land by resource-poor farmers as the most important human- induced, proximate causal agent for the widespread soil degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa today (Mortimore & Harris, 2005). The farmers are said to misuse land through the burning of crop residues, nutrient mining and overgrazing (Thierfelder and Wall, 2009) and failing to incorporate appropriate and sufficient soil conservation practices in their farming systems. Agriculture, as conventionally practised, is assumed to lead to soil organic matter decline, water runoff and soil erosion (Hobbs, 2007). Depletion of soil fertility, along with the concomitant problems of weeds, pests, and diseases, is a major biophysical cause of low per capita food production in Africa (Sanchez, 2002). One option Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 3, No. 3; September 2011  Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 51 increasingly advocated for re-dressing soil fertility decline and improving crop productivity and household food security is Conservation Agriculture (CA) (CFU, 2006) . 1.1 Conservation Agriculture Conservation Agriculture (CA) describes a system based on three principles: minimum mechanical soil disturbance; permanent organic soil cover with crop residues or cover crops; and diversified crop rotations (Thierfelder and Wall, 2009; FAO, 2010) . Benefits of CA claimed in literature include significantly improved  physical and chemical properties of soil; increased soil biotic diversity; higher soil organic matter content from constant addition of crop residues (Six et al, 2002) ; reduced production costs (Stoorvogel & Smaling, 1998) and increased yield and reduced pest and disease problems (Gowing and Palmer, 2008) . Soils under CA exhibit high water infiltration rates reducing surface runoff and consequently lower soil erosion (Thierfelder and Wall, 2009:2010a). CA also allows reduction of the time and labour expended, particularly at times of peak demand, on such activities as land preparation and planting (FAO, 2010). Disadvantages claimed are the high initial costs of specialized land preparation and planting equipment (Knowler and Bradshaw, 2007) and the completely new dynamics of a CA system, requiring high management skills and a learning process by the farmer. There have  been reports of increased weed burden in the early years following adoption (Haggblade and Tembo, 2003a) . 1.1.1 Conservation Agriculture in Zambia CA as promoted in Zambia involves a package of several key practices: dry-season land preparation using minimum tillage systems; crop residue retention; precise input application as seeds and fertilizers are placed directly into basins or ripped furrows; and nitrogen-fixing crop rotations. For hand hoe farmers, CA revolves around dry-season preparation of a precise grid of permanent basins. These permanent basins are to be 30cm deep and spaced 70cm along the row and the rows 90cm apart (CFU, 2009a). For oxen farmers, CA involves dry-season ripping, normally with the locally developed  Magoye  Ripper (CFU, 2009b) For commercial farmers, mechanized minimum tillage methods with leguminous crop rotations such as soya beans ( Glycine max ), green gram ( Vigna radiata ) and sunhemp ( Crotalaria juncea ) complete the typology of CA technologies (Haggblade and Tembo, 2003b) . Basin digging is said to explicitly cater for smallholder (Note 1) farmers without reliable access to draught power. By reallocating land preparation to the dry season, in advance of the rains, CA redistributes heavy labour as well as animal and mechanized draught requirements out of the peak planting  period. This enables farmers to plant at the very beginning of the rainy season. This is advantageous because crops planted early can benefit from the relatively large quantities of nitrogen found in the soil during this period (Haggblade & Tembo, 2003c). Although data on the overall adoption of CA is fragmentary, available evidence suggests that between 20,000 and 60,000 Zambian farmers practiced some form of hand hoe CA during the 2001/2002 farming season while an additional 4,000 used rippers (Haggblade and Tembo, 2003a). This figure rose to between 125,000 and 175,000 in 2006 (CFU, 2006). Baudron et al. (2005) reported a 10% adoption rate as of 2003 among Zambian smallholders. Adoption is problematic to delineate as some farmers only adopt some of the recommended  practices, while those who adopt CA technology do not apply it on all their plots. Adoption rates are time sensitive as they tend to be tied to active promotion of technologies by NGOs and research institutions. Giller et al. (2009) claimed that most farmers revert to their former crop and soil management practices when project support ends and incentives are discontinued. CA promotion in Zambia has been done by a coalition of stakeholders from the private sector, government and the donor community. Chief among them are CFU under the Zambia National Farmers Union, Institute of Agricultural and Environment Engineering, Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust (GART), Dunavant, Cooperative League of the USA (CLUSA), Land Management and Conservation Farming (LM&CF), and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) (Baudron et al, 2007) . The funding has mainly been  provided by donors. Promotion of CA by the various stakeholders seems to differ in agronomy, in the incentives offered to adopters and pedagogically. The objective of this study was to evaluate CA under Zambian farming conditions by examining its application among smallholder farmers. The rationale was to determine reasons for any deviations from recommended  practices and where possible suggest options through which smallholder CA in Zambia could be improved. 2. Materials and Methods The study was carried out between June 2008 and December 2009. Data were collected through soil sampling, semi-structured household interviews, focus group discussions; field observations and desk study of the literature on CA. Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 3, No. 3; September 2011  ISSN 1916-9752 E-ISSN 1916-9760 52 2.1 Study Areas Fig.1. Locations of the study areas in Zambia. Three provinces (and six districts) were selected as study areas based on variations in agro-ecology. Two districts, Monze and Sinazongwe, were selected from the Southern Province, three from Eastern Province (Katete, Chipata, Petauke), and one district, Mumbwa, from Central Province (Table 1 and Fig.1). The study areas were located in two of Zambia’s three major Agro-Ecological Regions (AER). Zambia’s major AERs have  been categorized on the basis of average annual rainfall, length of growing season and relief. These are AERs I, II, and III. AER II is further subdivided into IIa and IIb based on differences in soil type. The selection of the study areas for this study was restricted to AERs I and IIb as these are the two AERs where CA is practised. The six districts were then selected as they were known to have had projects on CA promotion for at least five years. Table 1: Agro-ecological Characteristics of the study areas The climate of the study areas, typical of the entire country is characterized by three distinct seasons; a hot-wet season (November-March), a cold-dry season (March-August) and a hot-dry season (August-October). 2.2 Soil Sampling A total of 73 paired soil samples were collected. A pair was made up of one sample from a field under CA and another from a field under conventional agriculture (Note 2). Each sample was a composite of ten sub-samples, each of which was taken from a depth of between 0-20 cm. Soil sampling was restricted to farmers’ fields where CA and conventionally farmed plots were adjacent to each other. This minimized the effects of natural soil variability that is inevitable in fields that are at large distances from each other and made it possible to attribute any differences in the soil chemical and physical properties to soil management practices. The sampling frame consisted of the fields of farmers that had practised both types of farming for a minimum of five years. Using these criteria only eleven paired samples were obtained from Eastern Province. Forty two and twenty paired samples were obtained from Southern and Central Provinces respectively. The soil samples were analyzed for soil reaction pH, bulk density, plant available water, exchangeable potassium, total nitrogen, plant available  phosphorus and organic carbon. The techniques used for the analysis were Bray P1 for phosphorus (Bray and Kurtz, 1945) , Modified Kjeldahl Method for total nitrogen (Bremner, 1965), Walkley and Black Method for organic carbon (Walkley and Black, 1934) and ammonium acetate buffered at pH 7 for soil reaction pH. Bulk density and plant available water were determined following the methods outlined in Anderson and Ingram (1993). 2.3 Questionnaire Survey and Focus Group Discussions Questionnaires were administered to 129 farming households that were practicing both CA and conventional agriculture. These comprised of 36 households from Eastern Province, 32 from Central Province and 61 from Southern Province. The households were randomly selected from CA adopter lists provided by field staff of the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) in each of the three provinces. According to CFU’s records from 2007, each of the six districts surveyed in this study had between 3 000 and 12 000 households practicing CA. The households were interviewed on the following agronomic practices: tillage systems, crop rotations, weed control, cover crops, crop residue retention, and manure and inorganic fertilizer usage. Two Focus Group Discussions, consisting of 8 members each, were conducted. Discussions centered on the benefits of CA; problems encountered in the adoption and practice of CA and how these could be overcome. The focus group discussions were conducted with farmers that were practicing both CA and CV that had not been selected for the questionnaire survey. This was mainly a triangulation tool used to determine the representativeness of the answers from the questionnaire surveys and to get in-depth discussions in a group setting on issues that had been discussed at household level during the questionnaire survey. 2.4 Field Assessments Field assessments were conducted on tillage practices; weed burden, crop residue retention, crops planted, sizes of plots under different tillage systems, and on the timeliness of land preparation. This information was also captured from study visits to research stations, and farmer field days. Observations were also continuously recorded by field assistants employed from within the local communities. They observed and recorded land  preparation dates for the four tillage systems by selected households after agreement and on prior arrangement with them. 2.5 Desk Study The desk study involved review of research results on CA published by GART (Note 3) during the period 2000-2009 (GART, 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2007; 2008; 2009). Research results published in the GART Year Books were reviewed. Focus was on tillage systems comparisons, cover crops, crop productivity Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 3, No. 3; September 2011  Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 53 and weed management on-station experiments. This review was conducted in order to compare the on-station results with the field assessments of actual on-farm work and farmers’ responses from the questionnaire survey. Other studies reviewed included Haggblade and Tembo (2003a:2003b:2003c); Langmead (2004) ; Thierfelder and Wall (2009:2010b). Handbooks published by CFU were also studied for the recommended CA practices. Crop yields reported by GART (2004), Thierfelder and Wall (2009), Langmead (2004) and IFPRI/FSR (2003) are presented in section 3.8. The experimental design by GART (2004) was split-plot with six treatments replicated four times. The main treatments were the tillage systems ploughing, ripping, ridging and basin digging while the sub-treatments were full and half recommended fertilizer rates. The experiments were conducted from Monze and Chisamba research stations. Thierfelder and Wall (2009) conducted the experiments from Monze Farmers Training College (MFTC). The experimental design was a randomized block design with four replications. All crop residues were removed from the CV plots but retained on the CA treatments. Fertilizer was applied at 165kg/ha for basal (N: P 2 O:K  2 O, 10:20:10) and 200kg/ha for top dressing (46% N). Langmead (2004) presented results of on-farm trials conducted in Southern, Western, Central, Northern and Copperbelt provinces. Comparisons were made between CA and CV systems involving three year rotations of maize, a legume and cotton. The farmers were provided with similar inputs except that CA farmers received extension advice while CV farmers did not. 2.6 Statistical Analysis Statistical analyses were carried out using MINITAB 15 (Minitab, 2009). The results of the soil sampling were analyzed using paired T-test as they were paired samples. The questionnaire survey data were analyzed using ANOVA, two - sample T-test and Pearson’s correlations at a probability level of  p   ≤  0.05. Descriptive statistics such as means, standard deviations and percentages were also used to analyze results from the questionnaire survey and field assessments. 3. Results and Discussion The two farming systems, Conservation Agriculture (CA) and Conventional Agriculture (CV) were categorized  based on tillage system. CV was either hand hoe (manual) or ploughing (use of ox-drawn mouldboard plough). CA involved digging of basins (manual) and ripping (use of ox-drawn ripper). 3.1 Tillage Systems It was common to find a combination of CA and CV being practised by one household. Out of the 129 households interviewed, only one household practised CA on all of its cultivated fields. This household had adopted CA 12 years earlier. The head of this household explained that his household had adopted CA after having been approached by a non-governmental organization that was promoting CA in the area. They were trained in CA practices and provided with agricultural inputs. They converted all their fields to CA over time as they become convinced of its benefits. 3.1.1 Area cultivated based on tillage system The result from the survey show that the farmers have only partly adopted CA. Comparisons between the total area under CA and under CV revealed no significant differences (t = 0.19, p=0.851). In the Central and Eastern Provinces, farmers have converted 54 and 51 % of their land to CA respectively. In the Southern Province 34 % of the land has been converted to CA. The Southern Province is mainly inhabited by the Tonga , a pastoralist tribe with propensity to keep cattle and engage in ox-farming. This may explain the lower uptake of CA technologies in the Province. Ripping is the most widespread CA technology as the land under ripping is more than double the land under basin. The areas allocated to ploughing and ripping were not statistically different (t=0.372, p=0.71). Farmers already using oxen to plough were more likely to use the same draught animals for ripping when adopting CA. The survey results showed that 88 % of the farmers were digging basins while only 25 % of the farmers  practiced conventional hand hoe farming. Basin digging was practiced by many on a small piece of land  probably as a food security strategy. Average area under basins in Central Province was significantly higher than that for Eastern and Southern Provinces. Basin digging is a labour-intensive activity. The drudgery associated with basin digging is exacerbated by its practice during the dry season. Basin farmers are expected to start digging the basins immediately after harvest, while the soils are still moist and friable. In this case however, the  basins were dug much later by which time the soils were quite dry and hard. Table 2: Area Cultivated based on tillage System, Field data, 2009 The majority of the households (81%) reported that the area of land they allocated to CA had increased since they started practicing CA while the rest (20 %) said it had not. The reasons given for the lack of expansion in Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 3, No. 3; September 2011  ISSN 1916-9752 E-ISSN 1916-9760 54 the land area under CA included; lack of labour (39%), lack of land (30%), no timely access to seed (9%), sufficient land already allocated to CA (9%), new CA farmer (9%) and farmer had been away (4%). The total area under CA was correlated with the period of time CA had been practised for each household. The correlation turned out to be very tenuous with R=0.123 (p=0.165). This showed that total area under CA did not necessarily increase with time and other factors determined the size of land that households allocated to CA. 3.1.2 Timeliness of Land Preparation The CA Handbook for Hoe Farmers in AERs I and IIa encourages maize (  Zea mays)  farmers to “plant immediately after the first heavy rain that falls after 15 th  November” (CFU, 2009a:23). The same handbook advises CA farmers to plant groundnuts (  Arachis hypogaea)  at the same time as maize, while cotton  (Gossypium hirsutum)  can be dry planted any time after 8 th  November or immediately after heavy rains. Other crops, sorghum  (sorghum bicolor) , millet (  Eleusine coracana  ) , sunflower (  Helianthus annuus ), soya beans ( Glycine max ), cowpeas ( Vigna unguiculata , green gram ( Vigna radiata ) and pigeon peas  (Cajanus cajan ), could be  planted after heavy rains during the period 1 st -15 th  December. This entailed that land preparation must have been done during these dates for it to have been considered timely. The results showed that only 33%, 19% and 16% of the basins, ripped areas and ploughed areas respectively were prepared on time (Table 3). Table 3: Timeliness of land preparation by Tillage System Late input (seed and fertilizer) acquisition continued to be a challenge for all the tillage systems. Timely access to inputs by smallholder farmers is a complex socio-political issue. Maize is a very political crop in Zambia, and has been since before the country’s independence from Britain in 1964 (Deininger and Olinto, 2003) . Late input distribution makes it difficult for the farmers to take full advantage of CA. CA allows for early planting because the land is prepared prior to the rainy season, but when the inputs are distributed late, the yield benefits of CA will disappear. This problem is also connected to the dependence on hybrid maize. If composite maize varieties were used, the farmers would be able to use their own seeds instead of relying on purchasing seeds every year. This would allow for timelier planting. Such composite varieties are available in the region with high yield  potential. Smallholder farmers have become accustomed to waiting for the state subsidized inputs which are delivered to local depots every season. Even in cases where subsidized inputs were transported to the depots on time (this trend has increased for political-economic reasons), farmers still faced problems in raising the money for the inputs. This happened even when the previous farming season had been characterized by bumper harvests. Most farmers used the proceeds of their maize sales to buy household necessities, capital and luxury items without leaving enough for inputs for the next farming season. At the beginning of the season, they waited for remittances from their urban based relations, who were in many cases, struggling to make ends meet themselves and therefore did not send the money on time. The farmers would benefit from training in how to run farming as a business. With increased appreciation of the importance of re-investing in their farming enterprises great improvements could be made in their crop productivity through timely land preparation and planting. 3.1.3 Integration of Livestock Hagblade and Tembo (2003c) and CFU (2009a) reported that farmers in Zambia lost about 1.5% of their potential maize yield for each day that maize was planted later than November 15 th . Drudgery averse, labour constrained farming households restricted the area of land allocated to basins. The current study found that the use of oxen reduced weeding time by 22.6 man-days/ha when compared to hand weeding. This option may also be more culturally appropriate than asking farmers to start land preparation for next season immediately after harvest. Asking farmers to go back to the fields soon after harvest seemed somehow counter-intuitive and contrary to poor households’ livelihood diversification preferences. Smallholder farmers, like other agents whose livelihoods are characterized by uncertainty, prefer to diversify their livelihood strategies by engaging in off-farm and non-farm activities. Smallholder farmers in Zambia engage themselves in economic and social activities during the post harvest period e.g. trading, fishing, re-thatching of huts, preparations for traditional harvest ceremonies, weddings, and travel to urban areas etc. Livelihood diversification is the process by which rural households construct an increasingly diverse portfolio of activities and assets in order to survive and to improve their standard of living. This practice is pervasive and enduring in many of the poor countries that make up Sub-Saharan Africa (Ellis, 2000) . Smallholder farming in Zambia is a precarious enterprise. Its dependence on uni-modal seasonal rainfall and the market failures associated with both the input and produce side have necessitated diversification into non–farm activities as a risk reduction strategy. Having own oxen would enable farmers to prepare their land, plant and weed on time but still continue with their post-harvest non-farm activities. Although dry season basin digging relocates labour out of the peak land
Related Documents
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks

We need your sign to support Project to invent "SMART AND CONTROLLABLE REFLECTIVE BALLOONS" to cover the Sun and Save Our Earth.

More details...

Sign Now!

We are very appreciated for your Prompt Action!