The key facets of successful conservation agriculture

Alastair Blair and David Regan of Accenture
Alastair Blair and David Regan of Accenture visit a plot in Malawi. Photo: Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide.

The first phase of Concern Worldwide’s conservation agriculture programme in Malawi and Zambia came to an end in August 2013.

The joint country initiative was funded by Accenture and the Accenture Foundations.

Reaping rewards

The three-year project commenced in July 2010. In that time, we have trained more than 6,400 farmers in both Malawi and Zambia.

They learned how to apply conservation agriculture techniques to boost crop yields and increase resilience to erratic climate conditions such as drought.

These techniques include crop rotation, soil cover and minimum tillage.

Successful results

A typical sub-Saharan African farmer can grow roughly 1,500kg of maize on one hectare. This is just enough to get a family of six through one year, with little left over.

However, the success of this project has meant that extremely poor farmers have been able to achieve the same yield in just one-third of that area. 

Yields in each year of the project significantly exceeded government estimates for conventional agriculture.

Last year, crop yields were on average 100% greater than conventional yields for either country’s staple food, maize. 

Concern has been carrying out Conservation Agriculture programming in Malawi since 2012, with the help of Accenture. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Concern has been carrying out Conservation Agriculture programming in Malawi since 2012, with the help of Accenture. Photo: Concern Worldwide.

Next phase

In October, Accenture awarded us with an additional grant for this project, which means that the second phase is now underway. 

Building on the successes and lessons learnt from the first phase of this project, Accenture has again partnered with Concern for a second three-year project. The aim is to promote conservation farming techniques to over 7,000 farming families in Malawi and 6,000 farmers in Zambia. 

We also plan to support extremely poor farmers by helping them to distributing their produce in markets.

In Malawi, we will use a mobile phone information service to send market information texts directly to farmers. In Zambia, we will develop community-based businesses so that they supply high quality, affordable seeds to farmers, allowing them to more easily expand their production. 

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