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All about conservation agriculture

There is no single solution to ending world hunger. However, growing evidence from researchers and farmers everywhere suggests that a method of farming called conservation agriculture can play a part in helping eradicate world hunger.

Conservation agriculture is based on the concept that soil is best left undisturbed. This might seem to contradict everything we know about farming, but new evidence suggests that protecting the land rather than ploughing it reaps the greatest rewards. If we protect land from the sun and the plough, for example, we don’t harm the soil’s natural structure. This means the soil is less prone to erosion.

Three principles

There are three main principles of conservation agriculture. These are:

  • Practising minimal soil disturbance
  • Protecting the soil by covering it
  • Crop rotation

The first principle encourages farmers to plant seeds with the minimum of soil disturbance by using simple tools. This has the added benefit of reducing the energy required to prepare a field. The second principle encourages farmers to keep the soil covered throughout the year. This is done by leaving crop residues on the field or by planting a green cover crop. This keeps the soil cool and moist and retains the soil’s optimum natural structure. The third principle, crop rotation, is the basis of good farming practice everywhere, but one which has often been neglected.

Agricultural revolution

When it comes to world hunger, it can be easy to overlook the role of agriculture. But its possibilities are endless. It is creating a revolution in agriculture, which means new and exciting opportunities are possible.

Diminishing world hunger

Concern started promoting conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe in 2004 as part of a food distribution and relief programme. The results have been impressive. In six years, the farmers we work with have gone from being beneficiaries of food aid to becoming the providers of food aid. Watch our video about conservation farming in Zimbabwe.

The success of conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe has inspired other countries to promote it. With the help of a new grant from Accenture, we hope to have similar success in Malawi and Zambia.