Conservation Agriculture is putting more food in people’s plates at Primeiras e Segundas
Farmers across the Angoche, Moma and Meconta Districts are starting to see the benefits of using Conservation Agriculture techniques in their fields.
Using the basic principles of minimum labor, intercropping and soil coverage, Farmers Field Schools in the area have been improving crop yields for cassava, maize, lab-lab and different types of beans.
Thanks to the efforts of the CARE-WWF Alliance, AENA and IIAM (Ministry of Agriculture’s National Institute of Agronomic Research), the 32 field schools in these three districts are using said principles to have higher yields, putting more food on their tables.
A recent study based on a methodology developed and implemented in our Farmer Field Schools by IIAM (National Institute for Agronomic Research) provided very encouraging results.
In this study, 13 FFSs were chosen from the 32 FFS in the P&S area. In each FFS, each particular plot has used either conservation agriculture or standard farmer practices (such as burning off organic matter from the previous year and then hoeing) for 1, 2 or for 3 years.
All plots in all 13 FFS used improved cassava varieties, such as such as Eyope and Nziva. The continuity of practices in each plot and the comparison over the years is important because benefits of conservation agriculture build over time. It takes time to improve degraded soils, rebuild soil fertility and improve the capacity of soil to absorb water. Our assumption was that plots using Conservation Agriculture would improve every year. The study provides evidence of these two main findings:
- Improved varieties help improve crop yields: Farmer in this area normally get around 3MT/ha using local varieties under local farmer practice. Just by using improved varieties of cassava, which were made available by the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers can more than double their yields in the first season. At the field school plots we use improved varietiesthat were grown using local farmer practices, resulting in yields of over 7MT/ha. This improvement was pretty consistent over three seasons.
- The combination of improved cassava varieties with conservation agriculture practices improves the yields even further: In fields where improved cassava varieties were grown in plots that had used Conservation Agriculture for 3 consecutive years, the average yield was 13.4MT/ha. This is over 4 times the 3 MT/ha that farmers are getting when they use local varieties and local farming practices and 85% higher than the 7.4MT/ha yield in plots that used improved varieties grown under standard farmer practices.
The program is currently working with CIMMYT, the International Center for Maize and Wheat, to develop an even more rigorous methodology. We will use this to assess the yields in October, at the end of the 2014—2015 season, when we’ll be able to see the results of 4 straight years of conservation agriculture in the same fields.
The results of this survey show that cassava yields are growing exponentially in the region.
Nampula Province is known throughout the country for its xima de caracata, dried cassava, which is also a staple food present in most meals. So the success of using Conservation Agriculture principles to improve yields is proving to be beneficial for farmers in the region.
Now they have more efficient farming techniques, facilitating positive outcomes and improving the livelihoods of people in the region. Farmers are learning about conservation agriculture through over 60 Farmer Field Schools established throughout Angoche and Moma districts. With the support of the technicians from AENA, more than 1,800 farmers are learning valuable skills.
“I am taking what I learn here [Farmer Field School] to my field,” said Deolinda Amade, president of the Mahile Farmer Field School near Angoche.
Deolinda Amade is a mother of 9. She is one of the 14 women who are members of the FFS of Mahile. She has her own field nearby and is simultaneously working on the FFS’s field and her own.
The Mahile FFS has 18 members, 14 women and 4 men. Members agree that conservation agriculture is helping them. People in the community want places like this one to learn, said Mauricio Momade, secretary of the Mahile Farmer Field School.
With the additional money members make from selling the crops they are now able to afford school materials and uniforms for their children to go to school.
Members of other FFS agree. In Mussuceia the 16 members like the use of intercropping and what they have been learning about soil preparation. They plant different plots to compare conservation agriculture with their own practices, so they can see the difference between the plots after the campaign ends. The producers also learn how to keep track of the number of plants and how to monitor their development. Most of them agree that the techniques they are learning are very helpful. They say that knowing how to prepare their fields has been one of the most important skills they learned. Before they used to burn the organic matter, but now they are using it to cover the soil and retain humidity. Members also agree that intercropping cassava with different types of beans is really helpful to improving the soil and getting more food. When asked why some of the members come back after having participated in previous campaigns, the president of the Mussuceia FFS replied:
“At school, when you go on tot he next level you don’t stop studying. You must continue studying so that you learn more things,” Ancha Arranqua said.
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