Farming By Disturbing Soil As Little As Possible Holds Promise For Africa, UN Says
Farming by sowing seeds into covered, little disturbed soil can reverse land degradation and reduce labour and fuel
needs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said as the Third World Congress on
Conservation Agriculture opened today in Kenya.
"With conservation agriculture, farmers can produce more food on a sustainable basis, they spend less time and labour on
land preparation, fuel consumption for machinery is lower and there is a reduced need for chemicals," an FAO Director,
Shivaji Pandey, said. "The concept contributes directly to the fight against hunger and poverty."
The soil is kept covered by crop residues or a special crop, protecting the soil from erosion, conserving moisture,
adding organic matter, fixing nitrogen and suppressing weeds. Instead of labour-intensive ploughing, farmers plant their
seeds directly into the soil, using simple hoes, inexpensive jab-planters, or animal-drawn direct seeders, FAO said.
In Zambia over 200,000 farmers are practicing conservation agriculture. During the country’s 2000-2001 drought, farmers
who used conservation agriculture managed to harvest a crop, while those who used mechanical tillage faced total crop
failure, according to FAO. In Ghana, too, more than 350,000 farmers use the practice.
The method is spreading in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, South
Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda, where some farmers have doubled or even tripled their grain yields, the
Rome-based agency said.
For families living with HIV/AIDS, conservation agriculture offers a way to produce a diversified diet using less
labour, it said.