One of the great challenges to changes in agriculture is fear. Change is scary because failure can mean you lose your crop, a dire prospect for a subsistence farmer. But taking a chance and using new techniques, like those used by Concern Worldwide’s Accenture-funded conservation agriculture programme in Zambia, can make all the difference.
Taking a chance
In 2010, a farmer named Miliko Kayoyo joined our conservation agriculture programme in Senanga District in Zambia’s western province. During the training, he learnt that organic inputs such as manure could improve yields. However, he took it a step further and lined his planting basins with a double handful of tree leaves.
Leading by example
This small step helped Miliko yield more from his plot than any of his previous seasons on much larger fields. Staff in Senanga facilitated site visits to his field for other farmers on our conservation agriculture programme. Consequently, more than 200 farmers followed his example in 2011. Despite much less rainfall that year, the farmers who used tree leaves had better-than-average harvests.
Innovative tree leaves
For poor farmers like Eliza Kabangu in Kaeya Village, Senanga District, the use of tree leaves meant the difference between enough food and no food at all. She said:
The leaves are easy to gather, don’t cost anything, keep the moisture in the soil and keep the crops from drying out. Concern has done well to help us share this knowledge between farmers like us.
Thanks to exchange visits between farmers, we expect this innovation to reach more than 1,000 farmers in 2012. Better still, this new technique has spurred farmers to try other local technologies to decrease pest attacks and boost soil fertility.
On a national level, our collaborating partners, Conservation Farming Unit and the Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust, are interested in promoting this innovation throughout Zambia to increase crop performance and resilience to climate change. This could make a huge difference for farmers all over the country.
Endless farming possibilities
The possibilities for farmers within the conservation agriculture project are continually growing. To think that all of this started with a single farmer who took a chance!
This piece was written by Carl Wahl.
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