With multi-sector support for climate sensitive production practices, African farmers can boost food security and resilience

Support for smallholder farmers to trial and select sustainable practices suited to their varying conditions is essential to build resilient farms needed to feed Africa’s soaring population, said economist Paswel Marenya at the Second African Congress on Conservation Agriculture in Johannesburg this October.

Farmers face different agroecological, socioeconomic and institutional environments across Africa. The mounting challenges brought by climate change also vary from place to place. Family farmers are born innovators, with government and industry support they can develop a resilient farming system that works for them, said the researcher from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

One of the emerging paradigms of sustainable agriculture resilient to climatic changes is conservation agriculture — defined by minimal soil disturbance, crop residue retention and diversification through crop rotation. Although not a one-size-fits-all approach, it is a promising framework to be applied and adapted to meet farmers’ unique contexts, he said.

“Conservation agriculture’s potential to conserve soils, improve yields and limit environmental impacts makes it one of the elements that should be given prominence in efforts to secure sustainable and resilient farming in Africa,” he told audiences at the conference dedicated to discuss conservation agriculture systems as the sustainable basis for regional food security.