How conservation agriculture boosts production

CONSERVATION Agriculture in Tanzania is promoted to increase crop production and environmental sustainability. It is proposed to be a solution for the problem of poor agricultural yields and soil degradation in most Sub- Saharan African countries.

Conservation agriculture is among the climate-smart practices recommended in Tanzania to curb the impacts caused by climate change.

It involve the use of organic soil management practices such as reduced tillage, mulching and leguminous crops.

Agro ecosystems such as agro forestry, soil organic fertilisation and better crop rotation are also included In areas with irrigation potentials, conservation agriculture has increased crop yields in drought ecosystems over time.

In the northern part of Tanzania the adoption of conservation agriculture has increased the production of food. Subsequently, maize yields have increased from 12,000 kilogram to 20,000 kilogram per 4.8 hectares and 3.75 kilogram per hectare when inter cropped with lablab.

The interest in adopting conservation agriculture has been driven by its ability to enable some yields even in poor rainfall scenario.

The rate of adopting conservation agriculture in Africa (including Tanzania), is insufficient compared to other parts of the world.

Basing on the benefited attached to conservation agriculture; we need to emphasize and speed up its adoption and utilisation in Africa.

Therefore, we need to incorporate conservation agricultural practices such as mulching, crop rotation and no tillage to curb food insecurity and poverty. In Tanzania, conservation agriculture has been in practice for many years ago though in some areas it is still in adoption stage.

Agronomic practices such as mulching, crop rotation, terraces, notillage and agro forestry to mention few are the most applicable soil organic management practices in Tanzania representing conservation agriculture.

Researcher from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Uyole Center, Remmy Mwakimbala explains that conservation agriculture is governed by three main principles including planting without covering the land, covering the land using crop residues and planting by crop rotation.

Mr Mwakimbala explained the methods of planting without digging the land as the method that uses researched tools in planting.

He explains the mulch which is a plant planted for the purpose of covering the farm for the year.

This method helps to replenish the fertility in the soil naturally. “Fertile soil allow the existence of the rganism that replenishes the residue and nutrients in the farm. The residue also helps them to keep the farm with moisture he says.

Mwangaza farmers group at Makuyuni ward, Moshi District in Kilimanjaro Region have benefited from the conservation agricultural technology.

The aim of the establishment of the 40-member group was to support each other on social issues including agriculture.

The Chairman of Mwangaza farmers group Ms Agustina Temu says they assist agricultural officers to advise on good farming methods in order to benefit from agricultural activities as most of their areas are drought-hit.

Ms Temu added that since they have learned on conservation agriculture technology, they have seen significant changes in agricultural activities. “In an acre a farmer can harvest three to four bags, in comparison to the conservation agriculture where he/she gets 18 up to 20 bags,” she says.

Despite this achievement, he admits that last year they had been severely affected by pests known as fall armyworms, leading to low yield and hunger. A farmer Twaha Massawe from Matala village Moshi District in Kilimanjaro Region said the technology has been good to them, because it does not require a lot of energy, adding that if the rainfall is enough, farmers need to adhere to instructions given to them by agricultural experts.

Massawe said that if the rain is average they are likely to harvest 30 to 35 bags in a 2.5 hectors. He says the farmer is ploughs the only land that he uses so the technology offers a lot of yields and its cost is low.

He says last year there were the invasion of fall army-worm and in this year the rainfall is not enough and so far there are seeds on the ground that are not pollinated, the only solution is to use the same farm.

Tanzania Conservation Agricultural Organization Country Manager working under Tanzania Conservation Farming Unit (CFU-Tanzania), Hamisi Dulla says the organisation’s has started working with Tanzania since 2013.

Its headquarter is in Zambia. Dulla says their main activities are to educate farmers on sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation.

The organization is currently working with seven districts and five regions in Tanzania includes Same and Moshi Rural areas in Kilimanjaro, Monduli District in Arusha, Babati and Kiteto in Manyara, Wang’ing’ombe District in Njombe and Mbeya Rural district in Mbeya Region.

Since conservation agriculture technology started about 17,000 farmers have received the technology. Approximately 7000 farmers have been trained on the preparation of farm, and proper use of seed, pesticides, and fertilizer.

“About 7000 trained farmers have implemented conservation agricultural a technique helps them to increase their productions,” he remarked.

He said that conservation agriculture has many benefits including reducing the costs of production and less time is spent in farm preparation.

“The little power, little time and little cost,” he described. He says the technology also enhance soil fertility, prevents soil erosion and increases crop yields because fertility has increased.

He says that special equipment has been used during the cultivation such as trap that can be a tractor or a haul. “The challenge is that most of the farmers consider conservation agriculture as a new thing.

Tanzania farmers do not understand its importance that it would guarantee them good production and income,” he said.

There is also no policy in Tanzania that promotes conservation agriculture hence it is difficult for non-governmental organizations to share something that does not have a policy.

Uyole agricultural research institute (TARI Uyole) has begun research on conservation agriculture in 1999 and 2000 agricultural season.

TARI’s and other partnership is focused on distributing the technology to farmers by providing practical information to through project staff, agricultural conservation service providers and farmers within project areas.

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