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Howard G. Buffett: in support of conservation agriculture for smallholder farmers

July 16, 2012

Howard G. Buffett recently published a great article about his view of conservation agriculture and its importance for the future (see the whole article at http://bit.ly/NzFZvV) in which he is addressing ten common myths of conservation agriculture when applied to smallholder farmers:

  1. Minimum or no-till cultivation practices require more labor, do not sequester enough carbon, and in some cases can be harmful to soil structure.
  2. Retention of high levels of crop residue for ground cover mulch is not realistic for smallholder farmers because they are not able to produce suf-fi cient biomass or must use biomass to feed higher value livestock.
  3. Smallholder farmers in the developing world cannot access or aff ord the herbicides they need to combat weeds without signifi cant additional labor.
  4. In much of the developing world, there is limited availability of seeds and too high a need for subsistence food crops to justify investment in productive cover crop plant varieties.
  5. Small farm plot areas, limited dietary demand and long time horizons to realize benefi ts limit adoption of crop rotation and intercropping practices.
  6. Benefits are highly sensitive to a wide variety of local environmental, climatic and socioeconomic conditions, making adoption of conservation agriculture a more complex and riskier approach.
  7. The time and training required for adoption of conservation agriculture is impractical for solving the immediate and future need.
  8. Synthetic fertilizers will solve productivity problems for smallholder farmers, therefore there is no need for conservation agriculture.
  9. In cases where smallholders begin to adopt conservation agriculture, as soon as external funding and technical support is discontinued, many farmers revert to previous conventional farming methods.
  10. The challenge of changing the ‘mindset’ of millions of poor farmers requires an enormous eff ort to redefi ne the culture of agriculture.

About the Howard G. Buff ett Foundation

Established in 1999, the Howard G. Buff ett Foundation’s primary mission is to improve the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations. The Foundation’s focus is on international programs that operate in challenging environments, including conflict and post-conflict countries. The Foundation has supported more than 100 agricultural projects in over 40 countries and more than 35 nutrition projects in over 20 countries. The Foundation believes achieving global food security requires all countries—including the United States—to adapt its agricultural practices and policies to meet long-term agricultural needs and successfully address hunger and malnutrition.  For more information visit: www.thehowardgbuffettfoundation.org