Conservation agriculture in developing countries

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Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED)


Conservation agriculture (CA) aims to achieve sustainable and profitable agriculture and improve the livelihoods of farmers through the application of the three CA principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotations. Conservation agriculture holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems, but its adoption is most urgently needed by smallholder farmers, especially those with poor quality soils and those facing acute farm labor shortages. Conservation agriculture combines profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability and it has been proven to work in a variety of agroecological zones and farming systems. Its use has expanded rapidly on large mechanized land holdings and it is now starting to be adopted in increasing numbers by resource poor smallholders. This presentation provides an overview of what conservation agriculture farming systems are, opportunities and challenges associated with CA, and reviews their application and potential in developing countries, with particular emphasis placed on Africa where I have most experience.



Conservation agriculture, Gender, Farm power, Labour, Animal traction equipment, Basin system, Crop residues, Farm/Enterprise Scale


Presented at the International Meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Dearborn, MI, 13 July 2009