Agriculture is key to developing economies. In Africa, agriculture supports the livelihoods of 90% of the population and employs up to 70% of its workforce.
In order for Africa to make an agricultural transformation, the country will need conservation agriculture and no-till, says Saidi Mkomwa, executive director of the African Conservation Tillage Network (ACT). Agricultural transformation involves productivity growth, which depends on increased adoption of modern technologies and inputs.
Only about 1.1% of Africa’s cropland is no-tilled, meaning there is great opportunity for African farmers to increase productivity while also adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Mkomwa says the challenge to widespread no-till adoption is access to relevant information. He and ACT are working to overcome that barrier by providing specialized training for farmers, internships for students and partnerships with worldwide organizations. They’ve held field days for African farmers to demonstrate equipment and management practices, as well as hosted the World Congress supporting conservation agriculture knowledge and information sharing.
ACT is also establishing “Centers of Excellence,” buildings that facilitate research, training, outreach and relationships among farmers and others with no-till knowledge. The organization aims to create 25 centers in Africa by 2025.
More than 25 African countries have adopted conservation agriculture as a core component of community-supported agriculture, and no-tilled acres have increased by 210% since 2008-09. Ninety-nine percent of those new no-tillers are small growers who farm about 2½ acres.
To continue the momentum, Mkomwa calls on organizations worldwide to coordinate, network and share information about conservation agriculture. The private sector should also invest in no-till knowledge management and sharing for environmental sustainability. Finally, he sees a need for coordinated deployment of information and digitization technologies.
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