Conservation agriculture – achieving impact in Africa

Conservation agriculture – achieving impact in Africa, a workshop sponsored by Australia Awards – Africa, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and UniQuest Pty Limited, saw leading African and international experts meet in Addis Ababa on 8 and 9 July to critically analyse conservation agriculture practices and the potential implementation in varied African contexts. In light of food security concerns, and building on Australian expertise and experiences, strategies to improve the adoption of conservation agriculture in African agro-ecological zones were developed through participatory workshop sessions.

Australian Ambassador to Ethiopia, HE Lisa Filipetto, officially welcomed the workshop experts from key regional and national institutions in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria. Delegates discussed the benefits and challenges of conservation agriculture and potential strategies for its implementation in Africa. The workshop marked the conclusion of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)-funded Australia Awards – Africa Fellowship Dryland Farming course, which focused on improving the sustainability of rain-fed farming systems, primarily through conservation agriculture. Dr Tolessa Debele, Director of Soil and Water Research Processes at EIAR in Addis Ababa, and Dr Gunnar Kirchhof, Course Leader for the Dryland Farming Fellowship and a senior academic at the University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, brought key stakeholders together for this event.

While conservation agriculture has revolutionised crop production in Australia over the past 20 years, improving and dramatically securing food production, the adoption of conservation agriculture has been minimal across Africa. The event sought to understand the reasons for the poor uptake in Africa (reasons related to access to technology, expertise, climate, political support, etc.) and identify regional actions to improve the adoption in appropriate farming systems. Conservation agriculture has been hailed as the future of sustainable agriculture.

The workshop agreed that sufficient primary research had been undertaken to be able to move forward with the promotion of conservation agriculture in Africa. However, the diversity of climates, soil types, agricultural systems and infrastructure across the continent requires the adaptation of conservation agriculture to specific locations. Recommendations for achieving impacts from conservation agriculture in Africa therefore focused on the following:

  • Applied research and extension to match conservation agriculture methodologies to the specific socio-economic and agro-climatic environments across Africa.
  • Well-considered policy initiatives to promote conservation agriculture and address broader issues, such as value chain constraints, gender equity in agriculture, the integration of livestock into farming systems and environmental protection.

Detailed recommendations are being prepared for presentation to the relevant ministries, research centres, universities and funding bodies across Africa.

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