Conservation potential in the third world (Interesante el punto de vista)

CONSERVATION agriculture barely exists in the third-world nations of Africa where it could have the potential to address the continent’s chronic erosion issues and lift farm sustainability levels.
Widespread economic and cultural constraints have meant that only 0.1 per cent of arable land in Africa is farmed under no-till’s stubble-retention principles.
Retired director of CIMMYT’s global conservation agriculture program Pat Wall, Mexico, said conservation agriculture had the potential to play a vital role in the undeveloped world where there was widespread erosion and soil degradation.
But he said it was a huge challenge to effect change in poor countries where cultivation was an ingrained practice and there were few resources.
“As with anywhere, the first thing is to get people to understand you can grow crops without ploughing the soil,” he said.
“Larger farmers are able to experiment more and take a few risks whereas it is a lot more difficult for a small farmer in a developing country to do that, so they tend to be a lot more conservative.
“But when they see it working they are just like farmers anywhere, they try it and move on from there.”
Dr Wall said traditional and cultural issues throughout Africa made it difficult to implement conservation farming regimes.
“One of the big ones is that most small farms normally have both crops and livestock where the straw is used for fodder. It is very hard to break that nexus,” he said.
“There are normally common grazing agreements that after harvest anybody’s cattle can come on and graze the area.
“So one farmer can’t take the decision to keep his residues, it has to be a community action which makes it a lot more complicated.”
CIRAD researcher Marc Corbeels, Montpellier, France, said farmers in Africa were forced to make big trade-offs when implementing conservation agriculture, particularly when it came to the conflict between retaining crop residues as stubble cover or using them as fodder.
“Animal feed is often in critically short supply and takes precedence in many farming situations in Africa,” he said.

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