Conservation Agriculture Key to Food Security
- Published: Saturday, 03 December 2016 23:52
Subnet Thawuzeni, a 55 year old smallholder maize farmer from Lilongwe district Mpingu Extension Planning Area
is one of the beneficiaries of the NRC demonstration plot which is commonly known to him as “Agri-Business”. He strongly believes that conservation agriculture is the key to food security.
AICC runs a 10-hectare demonstration farm at NRC in Lilongwe as a public-private partnership model and this initiative is known as the Sustainable Agri-business Initiative (SABI). Different private companies, international organizations and government institutions demonstrate novel approaches/technologies that can be scaled at national level. These demonstration plots also showcase conservation agriculture technologies and farmers from around the area come to learn the technologies that are showcased and go back home to practice these technologies on their own land.
Thawuzeni was one of the out-grower farmers of the NRC demonstration program in the 2014-2015 growing season. He used about a quarter acre of his land to mount a demonstration plot where he planted Njobvu variety of maize seed from seed-co. Following some Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) that he learnt from the demonstration program, Thawuzeni made sure he made minimal disturbance to the soil by digging pits/basins instead of making ridges as is conventionally done, retained crop residues on the soil surface, planted early on in the season, and applied both organic and inorganic fertilizers in the form of kraal manure and NPK and Urea before planting.
As he decided to use only part of his land to try out the conservation agriculture methods, the other part of his land was used conventionally by ploughing the soil and making ridges. However, he harvested much more than he used to on the quarter acre that he planted using conservation agriculture.
“At first, on a quarter acre of land I would harvest only one or two 50kg bags of maize. But when I used the conservation farming method, I managed to harvest thirteen bags on the same size of land. This is amazing to me,” he said.
He added that when people experienced a dry spell in the season, the maize on the conservation farming plot was still very healthy and green. But the maize on the rest of the plot was wilting. Therefore, he this year he is going to use his whole plot to dig pits and practice conservation farming because he is impressed with the results. He plans to plant maize not only for subsistence purposes as usual but mainly for commercial purposes.