Sustaining Conservation Agriculture initiatives: lessons from Malawi

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Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has experienced the worst impacts of climate change on agriculture over the past decades and projections show such effects are going to intensify in the coming years. Diminished agricultural production has been the primary impact channel given the high reliance on rainfed agriculture in the region. Combined with a growing population, food security for millions of people is threatened.

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a sustainable cropping system that can help reverse soil degradation, augment soil health, increase crop yields, and reduce labor requirements while helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change. It is built on three core principles of minimum soil disturbance, crop residue retention, and crop diversification.

CA was introduced in southern Africa in the 1990s, but its adoption has been patchy and often associated with commercial farming. A group of researchers, led by Christian Thierfelder, principal cropping systems agronomist at CIMMYT, set out to understand the reasons why smallholder farmers adopt CA, or why they might not or indeed dis-adopt. Their results were published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems on March 12, 2024.

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