One size does not fit all: Conservation farming success in africa more dependent on management than on location

Gatere, L., Lehmann, J., DeGloria, S., Hobbs, P., Delve, R., & Travis, A. (2013). One size does not fit all: Conservation farming success in africa more dependent on management than on location. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 179, 200-207.

Due to the increasing global population some areas are finding it necessary to implement different strategies of conservation in order to produce more crops. This piece specifically discusses the problem in Africa and the possibility of using a combination of techniques in order to conserve the soil in the area so locals and continue to use it and create more crops with it. This combination of techniques is referred to as “conservation agriculture.” These authors discusses a case where conservation practices, specifically techniques for soil conservation, were successfully implemented in South American to improve crop yield but failed to work in areas of Africa. They spend some time describing the soil and landscape of the local area while introducing the experiment. Experts conducted a study to test these various techniques for soil conservation that worked in South America in Africa. The form of conservation farming that they used utilized planting basins and hand hoes, which they gave to 280 farms throughout Zambia to see if they could increase maize production. The local farmers got the option of which type of maize to use and were instructed on how to manage the farms. Certain things like rainfall and pH of the soil were measured regularly. After the experiment, researchers found that, for the most part, the conservation farming did not cause the amount of maize crops to increase compared to the amount produced the traditional way. Factors like the rainfall and condition of the soils played a role in which farms were successful vs which were not. At the end, authors point out that these interventions were not successful due to factors like means and infrastructure necessary for success for the specific programs. This study demonstrates how complex environmental management can be, especially in other (unfamiliar) regions of the world. One has to consider many other factors of the current environment and the means of the people before assuming certain practices will be successful. Just because certain techniques work in one region of the world, with one group, does not mean that they will work to improve the environment everywhere. One must consider local knowledge and resources.