Conservation agriculture has been promoted as a means to increase water and nutrient efficiencies in semi-arid regions of African, through a suite of practices such as cover-cropping and no-till agriculture. However, adoption of conservation agriculture on the continent has been low. A recent article in the journal Field Crops Research explores the reasons behind this lack of interest. Disregard for local conditions and appropriate practices is offered in Titonell, et al. (2012) as a primary driver behind low adoption rates.
In response to this, the paper analyzes the Agroecology-Based Aggradation-Conservation Agriculture (ABACO) initiative. ABACO brings together scientists and practitioners from different parts of Africa, helping to design and implement locally-suited conservation agriculture practices. The Initiative employs integrated simulation modeling to assess the long-term technical and socioeconomic tradeoffs across multiple spatial and temporal scales, from field and farm to territorial and regional.
While the results of such modeling help feed into policy to better support small-scale farmers, one of the interesting features of the program is the use of local “co-innovation platforms” for testing and implementing site-appropriate agroecological practices for rehabilitating the soil and improving water use. According to the ABACO philosophy, local knowledge and practices are central in the design of locally suitable CA practices. This multi-faceted approach, with local adaptation but a larger territorial perspective, ultimately aims to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to climatic variability and to combat land degradation and food insecurity by building local capacity and targeting technical interventions.
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