Farmers admiring their maize-cowpea intercrop. Photo: Christian Thierfelder/CIMMYT
Christian Thierfelder, CIMMYT senior agronomist stationed at Harare, Zimbabwe, was recently profiled by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for his work promoting conservation agriculture techniques for smallholder farmers in Africa. Conservation agriculture systems are not only better for soils but help make agriculture more ‘climate-smart’, argues Thierfelder. “The conventional system can only make use of the water that is in the ridge and not further down in the soil,” he said. “In conservation agriculture systems, there is access to deeper layers and a lot of water has infiltrated. The maize can actually access the water much better because of an improved root system.”
In addition, the techniques can provide far-reaching food security benefits to smallholder farmers. As conservation agriculture diminishes the risk of crop failure, it also allows farmers to reduce the land devoted to maize and to diversify the crops they produce. “Then there is room for new crops, cash crops, rotational crops, nutritional crops that help them to improve their diets and reduce malnutrition,” Thierfelder said. “That’s a very good way to overcome all of these problems at once.”To read the full article, click here.