By Frédéric Baudron, Christian Thierfelder and Isaiah Nyagumbo, CIMMYT agronomists
The controversial debate among researchers about the suitability of conservation agriculture for smallholder farmers in Africa continues while rural inhabitants in Africa face food insecurity and degrading resources. What is the role of CIMMYT’s research on CA in Africa?
CIMMYT, Washington State University and Total Land Care (TLC) recently published a series of extension bulletins to spread awareness of the benefits that different conservation agriculture (CA) techniques could have for farmers in Malawi.
The study, “Sustainable Intensification and Diversification on Maize-based Agroecosystems in Malawi,” took place over three years in the districts of Nkhotakota and Dowa, and was sponsored by MAIZE CRP through a Competitive Grants Initiative.
Farmers in most of southern Africa can expect to see lower yet more erratic rainfall challenge their ability to grow crops, according to a majority of predictions on the effects of climate change. This could spell great hardship for populations already vulnerable to food security, whose demand for key crops such as maize will only increase in the future. New drought-resistant varieties can go some way to help them adapt, but only by combining them with new cropping systems will their challenges be overcome.
In a study published in the November 2014 issue of Soil and Tillage Research, a team of researchers set out to test whether crop simulation models can identify the best farming practices to counter the effects of climate change. Traditional experiments are expensive and time consuming; given the limited resources available to researchers, modeling is seen as a viable way of ensuring that farmers in differing agricultural conditions have access to technologies that they can use.