Crossing the Thin Line: Dynamics of Promotion of Conservation Agriculture in the Smallholder Farming Sector in the Southwest of Zimbabwe

  • C Mabiza
  • E Manzungu
Keywords: Agriculture, sustainability, smallholder, conservation, Zimbabwe, food insecurity


In the southwest part of Zimbabwe, conservation agriculture has been widely promoted as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ intervention strategy. While the shortcomings of this approach have been well documented, it is noteworthy that use of this approach continues to spread in this region and beyond. The paper uses the actor network theory to analyse this interesting occurrence. Data for the paper were collected between November 2007 and May 2009 through a mixture of methods which included focus group discussions, participant observation and key informant interviews, with the goal of documenting the practices of the farmers, non-state and state actors in this regard. The paper observes that the debate around conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe has tended to miss an important point - the significance of the notion of power relations among the various actors that are involved. Clearly, it is power relations that have materially shaped the manner in which conservation agriculture has been promoted, and hence these relations ought to be seen as part of the texture of smallholder agriculture, rather than be seen as mere anecdotes to the technical aspects. The paper concludes by noting that conservation agriculture as it is currently promoted in Zimbabwe, has thrived on one form of coercion or another, rendering extremely poor, its prospects for sustainability.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1012-1080