Helping farmers in sub-Saharan Africa handle climate change
Can conservation agriculture help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa handle the man-made problem of climate change? Professor Andy Dougill believes its possible, but much more co-ordinated planning and further evidence is needed.
For over a decade now, most development organisations have been advocating conservation agriculture (CA) as a
Part of the problem is the patchy
Weve been working with farmers in Malawi for the last ten years, and know many of those who have taken up CA currently around 2-3 percent. Those connections are helping us run a fast-turnaround research project, comparing how the crops of CA farmers in Malawi survived the drought compared to those using conventional methods. This work, funded by the UK government through the National Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department for International Development (DFID), should help us understand just how climate smart CA can be.
This research also looks at the impact of El Niño in Kenya, working with the University of Bern to assess whether CA helped farmers retain yields in the face of the floods there. Interim results from Malawi indicates that where the drought was most severe, all farmers lost their crops, but in more marginal areas, CA did provide some benefit.
Research like this will start to provide a much-needed evidence base to show farmers when it is in their interest to move to CA. Farmers need a clear message to help them understand which practices will work best for them, so they can make an informed decision and we need both the
Andy Dougill is Professor of Environmental Sustainability and Dean of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Leeds. His research integrates a range of disciplines including soil science, ecology, development studies and environmental social sciences.