Conservation Farming

Conservation Farming (CF) has continued to be implemented successfully during the current monitoring period with 2 cropping seasons being implemented during this monitoring period, the 1st running from November 2014 to April 2015 and the 2nd cropping season running from November 2015 to April 2016. One notable difference was the change of beneficiaries from 3 wards per district to including members of the community from every ward and marginally increasing the number of beneficiaries from 1,000 at project start to 1,065 current.

The decision to do this came from the communities themselves who felt that instead of only a select number of wards benefiting, but rather members in the project area from each ward should benefit. This was seen as a positive response and that it would indeed have a positive impact on the desired intention to reach more people with this farming concept so each beneficiary was supported by the project with enough inputs for a ¼ of a hectare with the breakdown per district as follows for both cropping periods mentioned above.

  • Binga 213 Beneficiaries – Maize 20%, Cowpeas 20%, Sorghum 60% split. Yield difference increase 131% (2014/2015) & 89% (2015/2016) respectively.
  • Nyaminyami 305 – Maize 60%, Sorghum 20%, Cowpeas 20% split. Yield difference increase 225% (2014/2015) & 93% (2015/2016) respectively.
  • Hurungwe 205 beneficiaries – Maize 50%, Soya Beans 50% split. Yield difference increase 250% (2014/2015) & 312% (2015/2016) respectively.
  • Mbire 342 beneficiaries – Maize 60%, Sorghum 20%, Cowpeas 20% split. Yield difference increase 119% (2014/2015) & 849% (2015/2016) respectively.

The 2014/2015 season was seen as a great success with a staggering average 181% increase in yield for maize as compared with traditional farming practices, across the board in spite of an erratic rainy season which saw the first part of the season receive heavy rainfall, but was then followed by a very long dry spell. The Kariba REDD+ Project viewed this as yet more evidence to support the positive impact CF has over traditional cropping methods and having the potential of making people more food secure even during times when the season’s weather is less favorable. The impact of including community members from each ward was further increased by a greater number of community members who were not beneficiaries, also adopting the farming method on their own accord upon seeing the visual difference in quality of crops grown by the CF farmers.

Training on compost

CGA also received some very welcome letters from some individuals, one being a widow, within the communities who expressed their gratitude to CGA for either the training they had received directly or indirectly through the ToT (Training of Trainers) where they expressed how they have achieved food security through the CF method of farming and are even able to sell their surplus to buy other domestic needs.

It is the intention of the project to continue expanding this activity to more and more members of the communities with more training workshops at ward level and increase the extension work through engaging the Agritex extension officers who are based at ward level and increase support to farmers implementing the CF method as it is recognized as having the potential to impact individual households, improve food security, increase wealth and reduce deforestation through reducing the need to clear more land in search of more fertile soils (shifting agriculture). It is also the consideration of the project to reduce the need to monitor traditional yields for comparative purposes based on 3 years of evidence which supports CF as undoubtedly being the intended farming method to promote as much as possible going forward and therefore all efforts should be focused in this area under “Improved Agriculture”.

2015/2016 was the 2nd season of implementing CF during the monitoring period. The rains during this cropping season was much worse than the 2014/2015 season with below average rains experienced nationwide and was seen as a drought year. This season was the ultimate test for farmers and especially for CF whereby this method would be stressed to its maximum potential under times of duress. It was very evident that all the farmers who implemented all the principles of CF as per the training which they had received managed to harvest a decent crop with the main game changer being the applying of mulch to conserve moisture making all the difference, getting 6 weeks worth of growth from a rainfall event (without mulching only getting through 3 weeks without rain). Most other crops planted using the traditional method failed and there was very little to no difference with those who did CF without mulch and traditional cropping. As a result, the general food production from field crops was much lower than average, however the CF method of farming still managed to show a staggering 383% difference in greater yield than traditional cropping, a truly amazing result achieved under the most difficult circumstances. With an average of 4.4 people per household this equates to an estimated 4,686 people positively benefiting from this project activity during this monitoring period under review and excludes the previous beneficiaries since project start.

Please, see Map 1 below with distribution of beneficiaries of conservation farming activities implemented per ward.

Map 1. Distribution of beneficiaries of conservation farming activities implemented per ward

Trainings were conducted by the organization named “Sustainable Agricultural Technologies” who provided the trainers and training material. Training was done at district level where a central location was used as a training center or base. In 2014 for CF, there were 4 separate 1 day trainings for each activity across the project area including ToT (Training of Trainers). In 2015, trainings on conservation farming consisted on a 3 day event per each activity and recorded as 1 single training event per activity, covering theory and field work as well as ToT and demonstration plot establishment.

A breakdown of the trainings per district as follows:

  • Binga – 5 trainings.
  • Hurungwe – 5 trainings.
  • Mbire – 5 trainings.
  • Nyaminyami - 5 trainings.
This gives us a total of 20 trainings. Evidence of training on conservation farming (CF) is provided in the supporting documents. Additional evidence on trainings can be provided upon request.