Understanding the impact and adoption of conservation agriculture in Africa: A multi-scale analysis
MetadataShow full item record
Conservation agriculture (CA) has been lauded as a means for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to increase yields through improving soil fertility and water retention. CA’s principles of minimum tillage, cover cropping, and crop rotations have been promoted in sub-Saharan Africa by many organizations, and significant resources have been invested in research and development initiatives devoted to CA. Despite this, adoption of CA in sub-Saharan Africa remains low. This article seeks to understand why this is true, and to come to a better comprehension of why, where, and for whom CA works best. To do so, the authors analyze several case studies of CA adoption projects in sub-Saharan Africa across four scales: field, farm, village, and region. Yield simulations are used to analyze the field scale, however, the authors point out that yield benefits are multifaceted and may not be well represented by simulations. Analysis of the farm and village scales find that both trade-offs and synergies exist between CA and livestock production systems, varying greatly by the farming context. A constraint identified at the regional level is the absence of input and output markets that are conducive to the adoption of CA. Although projects may provide inputs, farmers are left without access to inputs after the project ends, decreasing the likelihood that they will maintain CA practices. The authors indicate that, in order for CA adoption to move forward, initiatives must reach beyond agronomic research and seek to adapt CA to local conditions.