Conservation Agriculture challenges in developing countries and possible suggestions - the case of Gokwe South District, Zimbabwe
Globally, food insecurity is a huge challenge, especially among developing nations. The severity of the problem varies from one continent to the other. Development practitioners, researchers, government leaders and scientists are struggling to come up with a sustainable solution in addressing food insecurity. Conservation agriculture (CA), which is a concept for resource-saving agriculture crop farming system that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production level while concurrently conserving the environment is one of the potential remedy to food shortage. CA is characterized by three major principles minimum soil tillage, soil cover (mulch) and crop rotation. CA is widely perceived as one way of sustainably addressing food insecurity not only in Africa but also in other developing countries globally. Research has shown that CA when properly practised can lead to increased yield, improved soil structure and increased utilization of agricultural resources. Despite CA's numerous benefits, some farmers in developing nations are reluctant to adopt the farming system. The reasons behind this are immense and diverse and this study aimed to achieve the following objectives: (i) to assess why there is low uptake of CA, (ii). to assess contribution of CA to food security (iii). to recommend strategies and appropriate approaches in resolving food insecurity. A total of four wards of Gokwe South District were purposively sampled and 403 households were interviewed. Evidence from survey results indicated that although CA contributes significantly to household food security for smallholders 'as a best practice' itis not a 'best fit' practice since results fluctuate from one agro-ecological zone to the other. It was found out that low uptake of CA is emanating from high labour requirements, multi-usage of crop residue in mixed farming systems, lack of knowledge and poor markets. CA should not be promoted as a full package but as farming options for the farmers to choose what is appropriate to them. Introduction of conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe was input driven supported mostly by non-governmental organisations hence sustainability of the concept is highly questionable. CA should be promoted using developmental approaches which are more sustainable than humanitarian.
Keywords: Sustainability, Conservation Agriculture, Food Security, Smallholder farmers, Household