Adoption of Conservation Agriculture in Malawi
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There is need in Malawi to increase agricultural yields to feed the growing population. Concurrently, conventional agriculture techniques practiced by subsistence farmers steady depletes soil fertility thereby reducing the potential yield on the arable land. The practice of conservation agriculture may be a solution for rural farmers to improve the long-term soil health as well as increase yields and buffer potential losses due to drought, problems with the fertilizer import market and farmer health. The non-governmental organization Total Land Care, LLC, with support from the United States Agency for International Development, manages the Chia Lagoon Project in the Nkhotakota and Ntchisi districts of Malawi. One part of this project teaches conservation agriculture and has had extraordinarily successful results—project managers have documented high yields, farmer involvement and requests from other farmers to be part of this project component. This Masters Project involved a survey of conservation agriculture farmers in the Chia Lagoon Project to address the question of what indicators project managers should address in future conservation agriculture projects. The survey included questions on demographic information, agricultural practices and results, interaction with the Chia Lagoon Project, family and social relationships, and future agricultural plans. The results found farmers required less labor in terms of time and greater profitability by practicing conservation agriculture. In fact, 82% of farmers indicated they would continue to practice conservation agriculture after the project has ended. A statistical classification model (CART) estimated leading indicators of adopting conservation agriculture after the project had ended, which was found to be the frequency of visits from agricultural extension agents. The implications of these results are project managers should ensure adequate extension agent interaction for farmers in the conservation agriculture program. This practice will produce greater yields for farmers and require less time and work intensity than conventional agriculture. The time savings from these practices is particularly welcome to farmers with HIV or malaria. Conservation agriculture should be officially adopted by the Malawian government as the form of agriculture taught by extension agents. Private industry and non-governmental organizations should work in cooperation with the government to spread this technology efficiently throughout the country.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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