More than 300,000 farmers in Zimbabwe are no-tilling and nearly tripling their crop production, leading to higher household incomes for farmers.

Farmers Review Africa reports that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced the improvement in its latest update on Zimbabwe.

Farmers no-tilled small parcels of land known as “NGO plots” when conservation agriculture first started in Zimbabwe. FAO and other groups provided farmers with enough seed and fertilizer to plant a half hectare (about 1.2 acres). Conventionally tilled fields surrounded the plots, indicating farmers weren’t willing to convert all of their land to no-till immediately, according to FAO.

The organization changed its strategy after realizing what was happening. Focus shifted to a small core group of farmers who embraced no-till, establishment of demonstration fields to show yield benefits of conservation agriculture and introduction of new technology to reduce the amount of labor needed to no-till. Zimbabwe’s government also supported the effort because of the environmental and conservation benefits of no-till.

Since then, FAO estimates about 300,000 Zimbabwe farmers have adopted conservation agriculture. These adapters average 2 metric tons of maize per hectare, triple the average for conventional tillage. Legume production has also doubled, and the higher yields allow farmers to sell the surplus.

While about 70% of Zimbabwe’s population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods, only about 5% of the country’s maize-growing area is under conservation agriculture. The report says agriculture is key to economic recovery for Zimbabwe, which was once considered the breadbasket of southern Africa. 

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