Conservation farming in Zimbabwe

Report
from Concern Worldwide
Published on 23 Feb 2010 View Original
Concern ran a conservation farming project in Zimbabwe from 2008 until 2009.

The aim was to improve the access to food, for all members of the community, by training better farming techniques.

1,120 farmers participated and received seed, fertiliser and herbicide. This is a synopsis of an evaluation of this project.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Project objective: Improved food security through improved farming practices benefiting all members of the community.

Project type: A "self?selecting" targeting mechanism for participation in conservation farming activities. 1,120 farmers participated. Participants received seed, fertiliser, herbicide.

Finding: Average yields of maize produced by participating farmers was 3.0 MT/ha.

Finding: Participating poor farmers went from being production?deficit households (14% food energy deficit) to production?surplus households (108% food energy surplus).

Finding: Participating villages produced surpluses large enough that it is likely they will influence the sale/trade dynamic leading to lower prices during peak demand later in the year.

Finding: It was problematic for farmers to forecast trading decisions, however it is reasonable to expect that all households will sell or trade maize surpluses during peak demand periods.

Finding: As with sales and trade it is too early to forecast how the grain surpluses will influence labour availability, labour demand and terms of payment for labour.

Finding: Farmers demonstrated quick adoption of principles of conservation farming. Room for improvement remains in three critical areas; digging of basins, plant thinning, mulching.

Finding: A system of communal, reciprocal labour promoted by Concern was rapidly adopted by farmers meaning that they overcame the labour?demand barrier usually associated with conservation farming.

Finding: 37% of participating households categorised as "poor". 37% is significantly lower than proportion of poor in wider community (considered to be up to 70%).

Finding: Variations in "objectives and implementation delivery" between Harare and field offices led to targeting errors, resulting in lower?than?expected participation of poor households.

Finding: Competing demands for time during peak hunger season (i.e. looking for food) also likely to be a contributing factor to lower than expected participation of the poor.

Finding: Cost benefit analysis shows that providing low versus high level input packages does not make a difference to total production at the community level (if monies spent are the same).

Recommendation: Further detailed analysis is required to understand the influence of recently?harvested maize surpluses on sale and trade patterns in the project area later in the year, as well as opportunities and terms of payment for labour.

Recommendation: Barriers to greater participation by the poor need to be investigated thoroughly.

Recommendation: A community?led "strategic planning" process would define the period in which it is expected that participating villages would "graduate", allowing Concern to exit. Recommendation: Introduction of rotation with legume crop should start in the first year of

conservation farming. Carefully designed messages and message delivery should be developed for better adoption of key principles such as plant thinning, mulching, basin construction.

Recommendation: Concern should find alternatives to use of herbicides for weed control.