Negative evaluation of conservation agriculture: Perspectives from African smallholder farmers
This article in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability explores the reasons why farmers chose not to implement conservation agriculture (CA). Despite more than three decades of promotion, CA has not been widely adopted by smallholder farmer in sub-Saharan Africa. This low rate of adoption reflects substantial negative evaluation of CA by many smallholder farmers, the causes of which have not been adequately explored in an in-depth, qualitative manner. The study implemented the Livelihoods Platforms Approach using semi-structured interviews with 35 farmers in 6 African countries who evaluated CA negatively. The primary driver of negative evaluation of CA was found to be the feasibility of implementation. The required resources to implement CA (financial, physical, human and informational) are limited by community and institutional constraints which appear unlikely to be overcome through interventions targeted at addressing household resources. More positive evaluation of CA by smallholder farmers requires: 1) development of financially viable CA adoption pathways; 2) incorporation of wider livelihood objectives into a CA ‘package’; 3) re-evaluation of current extension policy; and 4) development of CA-complementary agricultural policies. CA provides strong opportunity for the sustainable agricultural intensification of African farming systems, but without addressing these issues, the potential benefits of CA adoption are unlikely to be achieved in African smallholder systems.