A visit to Nansongwa village in south-west Zambia (one of the villages included in the reconnaissance survey [https://www.sentinel-gcrf.org/reconnaissance-surveys-study-sites-get-under-way-ethiopia]) provided an otherwise rare opportunity for UK researchers to engage with farming communities.
As part of a SENTINEL partner workshop in Livingstone, the visit allowed SENTINEL researcher Alexandre Chausson (Department of Zoology, Oxford University) to learn about some of challenges and opportunities of Conservation Agriculture (CA) directly from the farmers.
>Local coordinator for the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) of Zambia, Oliver Sianyama, explained how CA can increase productivity whilst reducing soil degradation. However, CA adoption rates in the village have been very low, with few farmers being able to afford the required equipment (rippers – an implement to make rows for sowing with minimum soil disturbance) and recommended inputs (herbicides, fertiliser and lime).
Women farmers who joined the meeting emphasized the difficulty in controlling weeds without access to herbicides under a minimum tillage system.
When asked about the potential of CA to reduce agricultural expansion, Mr Sianyama said that even if all farmers in the village were to adopt CA, the expansion of agricultural land would continue, in order for food production to keep up with population growth in the community.
The visit provided a valuable opportunity for those UK researchers who have otherwise had few opportunities to learn from and share ideas with African farming communities.