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Tailoring conservation agriculture to local contexts and conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa

Corbeels M., Triomphe B., Tittonell P., Affholder F., Lahmar R., Scopel E., Alary V., Jourdain D.. 2010. In : Wery Jacques (ed.), Shili-Touzi I. (ed.), Perrin A. (ed.). Proceedings of Agro 2010 : the XIth ESA Congress, August 29th - September 3rd, 2010, Montpellier, France. Montpellier : Agropolis international, p. 37-38. ESA Congress. 11, 2010-08-29/2010-09-03, Montpellier (France).

Conservation agriculture (CA) is increasingly promoted as a means to overcome continuing poor-profitability and soil degradation on smallholder farms in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The key practices on which CA is based, namely no-tillage, soil cover and crop rotation are attractive from an agronomic point of view. Nevertheless, adoption rates of CA by smallholder farmers in SSA remain low. Some of the reasons identified from past and on-going experiences include: (1) competing uses for crop residues, preventing their availability for mulching; (2) limited access to herbicides necessary to control weed infestation when soils are not tilled; (3) limited access to no-till equipment; (4) the reallocation of labour, especially to weeding, often implying more work for women; (5) the knowledge-intensive nature of implementing CA; (6) the promotion of CA as a sealed package with little consideration for the diversity of farmers and local practices. We will examine and discuss a number of examples from SSA to elucidate the process by which farmers may shift over time from their current practices to using CA, and how research and development efforts may contribute to this process.

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