Conservation Tillage with Animal Traction

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Harare, Zimbabwe: Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (ATNESA)


Smallholder agriculture in East and Southern Africa has special gains to gather from the agricultural mechanization endeavour, which is at different levels in different countries and which remains a major challenge for governments and farmers alike. While tractorization programmes in the region have hardly served the power supply needs of smallholders, animal traction has proved itself as a dependable and versatile source of agricultural power for tillage and transport. While soil and water conservation efforts in the region are not new, tillage for soil and water conservation has seen many shortcomings, ranging from profession redress to technological limitations, institutional support and socio-economic bottlenecks. Conservation tillage has been practised in largescale farms of the region for a while and is now receiving new focus for smallholder agriculture, within a new re-awakening in the interest of soil, water and general environmental preservation. Various research, extension and development work has proved the gains of conservation tillage. The gains are however yet to become common knowledge and translated to utilizable techniques adopted en masse. The traditional ways revolving around tedious and high drudgery manual operations persist. New, specialized and relatively simple conservation tillage equipment is yet to challenge the common and destructive mouldboard plough which is used as a multipurpose tool by smallholders. For real and fast progress, future efforts must centre around end user led, aggressive promotional, networked activities that avoid the low impact and duplicated top-down efforts of the past. A culture of environmental consciousness needs to be developed as a way of getting conservation tillage to the fore. The issue to be addressed is how to balance the inputs required so as to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness of inputs, reduce risks of soil and environmental degradation, maximize the per capita productivity, and maintain or sustain an increasing trend in productivity. Technology transfer efforts need to capture environmental protection through gender-sensitive soil management techniques and planning. Other complementary approaches like agro-forestry and water harvesting practices need to be brought on board if the socio-economic well-being of all parties is to be fully supported. Back-up support will include appropriate level capacity building at institutional and small industry level.


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Soil degradation, Soil erosion, Soil conservation, Soil management, Conservation tillage, Over grazing, Animal traction, Field Scale