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Conservation agriculture: profitable yet sustainable

Yuji Niino1

1. Background

Driven by the new knowledge and technologies of the green revolution, world average cereal yields
increased by more than 2 percent annually during the 1960s and 1970s, (FAO, 2002). However, in
countries of Asia and the Pacific region the rate of increase in crop yields has slowed since then
because of limited use of inputs such as fertilizer and other agrochemicals and the degradation of land
and water resources on which agriculture is dependent.

Agriculture in general in the region has been changing from traditional subsistence farming to modern
commercial farming practices at various rates. This has led, generally, towards intensified and
specialized/commercialized farming with mechanization, intensive tillage and increased agrochemical
use. But the intensification of farming with high inputs and labour-saving technologies has led, in
some cases, to some important ecosystem-based practices such as crop rotation and diversified
cropping being abandoned, although they have been allowed for cultivation of large areas.
Consequently the region is facing the unavoidable degradation of natural resources, especially water,
land and biodiversity.

Land degradation as a result of intensive tillage is another reason for reduced yields, and it affects the
efficiency of fertilizers as well as productivity, especially with respect to wheat. Land degradation
manifests itself as changes in the quality of soil, water, and other attributes that reduce the ability of
land to produce goods and services that are valued by humans. The comprehensive assessment of land
degradation (GLASOD) published in 1991 estimated that 38 percent of the world’s cropland had been
degraded to some extent as a result of human activity. However, most of the soils under management
in that study show degradation processes. Soil erosion was identified as the major indicator of
degradation, followed by loss of soil nutrients and other processes, including physical deterioration.
Another study (Dent, 1990) estimated that the proportion of the region’s land that is free from soil-
related constraints to agricultural production was only 14 percent. Yields could be much higher in the
absence of soil degradation (and/or costs could have been reduced). And, the region as a whole seems
to have reached or passed the safe limits for the horizontal expansion of agricultural production.

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Land Management Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Conventional "arable" agriculture is normally based on soil tillage as the main operation for seed bed
preparation with the “downturn” being no effort to develop an erosion-protective organic mulch cover.
Soil tillage has in the past been associated with increased fertility, which originated from the
mineralization of soil nutrients as a consequence of soil tillage. This process however leads in the
long-term to a reduction of soil organic matter and collapse of the soil structure. Soil organic matter
not only provides nutrients, but together with minimal mechanical soil disturbance, is also a crucial
material for the stabilization of soil structure through the action of soil micro-organisms and for
driving essential soil biochemical and hydrological processes.

The structural, biochemical and hydrological degradation of the soils, from repeated tillage, results in
the formation of crusts and the compaction of deeper soil layers. Without organic soil cover, the
outcome is diminished surface soil structure, increased water runoff and consequent severe soil and
wind erosion. This process is most dramatic under tropical climatic situations because of high
temperatures and heavy rainfall intensities. Once the fertile surface soils have been eroded,
compacted subsoils inhibit water infiltration (particularly in the rainy season), leading to both rill- and
gully erosion. Appropriate land preparation together with crop rotation can prevent this. A living and
stable soil structure is essential to enhance water infiltration that prevents soil erosion.

Soil erosion resulting from soil tillage has forced us to look for alternatives so as to reverse the
process of soil degradation. The natural approach to this is minimum (or zero) mechanical soil
disturbance. This produces many benefits, and has led to movements promoting what has generally
become known as conservation agriculture (CA). This involves zero tillage and protection of the soil
with an organic mulch cover, and crop rotation and/or crop diversification. Practices such as the
precise placement of agrochemicals, and application of animal manure and crop residues, can enhance
the positive effects from CA. CA with the controlled movement of farm vehicles also reduces the soil
compaction that results from excessive use of heavy machinery for field operations.

CA aims to conserve, improve and make more efficient use of natural resources through the integrated
management of available soil, water and biological resources combined with purchased external
inputs. It contributes to environmental conservation and enhances and sustains agricultural production.
It can also be referred to as resource-efficient /resource-effective type of agriculture.

Natural ecosystems, in their altered states, have always been relied upon to support continuity of
agriculture production and provision of ecosystem services such as flood control, mediation of water
quality, microclimate regulation and biodiversity. Improper agricultural practices can reduce the
ability of ecosystems to provide food and other services, but efforts to promote food security and
environmental sustainability can often reinforce each other and can enable all farmers to adapt to and
mitigate the impact of climate change. Some of these efforts will be based on appropriate technologies
such as CA and practices that restore natural ecosystems and improve the resilience of farming
systems, thus enhancing food security.

The region is prone to a wide range of natural disasters such as droughts and floods, cyclones,
tsunamis and earthquakes that threaten farm and rural livelihoods. Climate change may increase both
the frequency and severity of weather-related disasters. As such, climate change poses major risks to

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food security, generally, and the agriculture sector, specifically. The expected impact of climate
change is particularly fraught with danger for smallholder farmers in developing countries and for
already vulnerable populations and environments. CA is one of the options for confronting the
challenges of climate change.

2. Issues

Agricultural practices can reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide goods and services. For
example, high applications of fertilizers and pesticides can increase nutrients and toxins in
groundwater and surface water, incurring health and water purification costs, and decreasing fishery
and recreational values. Agricultural practices that degrade soil quality contribute to eutrophication of
aquatic habitats and may necessitate the expense of increased fertilization, irrigation and energy to
maintain the productivity of degraded soils. Practices that change species composition or reduce
biodiversity in non-agricultural systems may also diminish goods and services, because the ability of
ecosystems to provide some services depends both on the number and type of species in an ecosystem.

The recently held international meeting on agroecology in Brussels in June 2010 reported that most
efforts to boost food production focused on large-scale investments in land and were directed towards
a green revolution model, and scant attention has been paid to the more effective agroecological
methods. The meeting also reported that agroecological approaches resulted in an average crop yield
gain of 79 per cent. It was emphasized that these sustainable techniques must be rapidly scaled up to
address the problems of food insecurity, climate change, and depletion of natural resources,
simultaneously.

As stated earlier, efforts to promote food security and environmental sustainability can often reinforce
each other. In many cases, the more environment-friendly techniques may also prove to be more
productive. Adopting the complementary approaches more widely and ensuring that they are targeted
to benefit the poor could improve both food security and environmental sustainability.

CA is based on the principles of rebuilding the soil, optimizing crop production inputs, including
labour, and optimizing profits. It advocates that the combined social and increasingly economic
benefits gained from combining production and protecting the environment, including reduced input
and labour costs, are greater than those from production alone. CA involves the integration of
ecological management with modern, scientific, agricultural production.

CA has been practiced for more than three decades in different locations and the field results are by no
means insignificant. Indeed, they showed that the introduction of crop rotation, no-tillage and straw
mulching is economically viable and that CA has the ability to control weeds, retain soil moisture and
thus to provide better conditions for plant development. Despite the obvious advantages and benefits
of CA in terms of productivity as well as from economic, environmental and social perspectives, its
adoption does not happen spontaneously. There may be good reasons for farmers not to adopt CA.
The barriers to adopting CA could be intellectual, social, financial, biophysical and technical,
infrastructural or may be related to policy issues. Knowing the respective bottlenecks and problems
allows the development of strategies to overcome them. Crisis and emergency situations which are
likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change, and the political pressures for more
sustainable use of natural resources and protection of the environment provide opportunities to

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harness support for the adoption and spread of CA and to help overcome the existing hurdles to its
adoption.

3. Innovation/good practices

Main principles of conservation agriculture

CA maintains a permanent organic soil cover. Rather than removing crop biomass for animal feed or
fuel, CA leaves such materials on the soil surface to reduce mineralization and increase levels of soil
organic matter. Additionally, the retained biomass serves as physical protection of the soil surface
from sunlight, rain and wind. It also feeds soil biota and produces a favourable environment for soil
fauna, in particular earthworms that in sandier and silty soils provide all-important biopores to take
water from the soil surface into the active crop root zone and eventually to the aquifer. Retention of
surface residues, and the subsequent reduction in runoff, reduces pollution of surface water and
groundwater by agrichemicals, and improves the efficiency of input use and helps with weed
management. Further benefits include reduced use of fuel, labour, water and fertilizers, less pollution
and increased carbon sequestration.

Experience has shown that techniques associated with CA are much more than just reducing
mechanical tillage. They question the paradigm of soil tillage altogether. In a soil that is not tilled for
many years, the crop residues remain on the soil surface and produce a layer of organic mulch. This
layer protects the soil from the physical impact and also stabilizes soil moisture and the temperature
of the surface layers. In these ways, this zone becomes a habitat for a whole ecosystem of organisms,
from larger insects down to soil-borne fungi and bacteria. Those organisms macerate the mulch,
incorporate and mix it with the soil and decompose it so that it becomes humus. This in turn
contributes to the physical stabilization of the soil structure. At the same time this soil organic matter
provides a buffer function for water and nutrients.

Larger components of the soil fauna, such as earthworms, provide a soil structuring effect, producing
very stable soil aggregates as well as uninterrupted macropores leading from the soil surface to the
subsoil and allow fast water infiltration in the event of heavy rains. This process is commonly called
"biological tillage." However, biological tillage is not compatible with mechanical tillage as with
increased mechanical tillage the biological soil structuring processes will disappear; that is totally the
opposite of the effect of biological tillage.

Most tillage operations are, however, targeted at a loosening of the soil which inevitably increases its
oxygen content, leading to mineralization and thus to a reduction in organic content. Organic matter in
the soil is essential for soil life. Thus agriculture with minimum mechanical soil disturbance is only
possible when soil organisms are taking over the task of working the soil. This also has implications
for the use of chemical inputs. Synthetic pesticides and mineral fertilizers have to be used in a way
and in quantities that do not harm soil life or disrupt the biological systems in the soil and above the
surface.

CA practices reduce soil degradation through reduced impact of rainfall and therefore reduced
structural breakdown, less erosion and diminished runoff. Hence, avoidance of tillage and direct
seeding through a protective organic soil cover are important elements of CA. A diversified crop

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rotation is important to avoid build up of disease and pest problems. In addition, the accumulated soil
cover ultimately helps manage weeds, although for the first few years weeds may have to be
controlled by the conventional means of chemical and/or physical control. Large areas of farm land in
many countries in the region have been exhausted by continuous cropping of market-oriented crops
such as soybean, corn and cassava (Tivet, 2005). Rapid recovery of degraded soils with CA in Lao
PDR increased productivity of corn to 8 t/ha from 6.5 t/ha with a conventional ploughed system
(Seguy et al., 2008).

The benefits of CA also include lower farm traffic, reduction in use of mechanical power and labour
inputs thus resulting in more timely field operations, lower risk of crop failure and ultimately higher
yields, lower costs and reduction in environmental pollution (FAO, 2001; Kassam et al., 2009). The
latter relates to reduced use of fossil fuels with associated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,
reduced use of fertilizer and chemicals and hence improved carbon sequestration. CA saves 75
percent or more on fuel, uses about half the amount of herbicide, and requires at least 10 percent less
water, which is equivalent to a million litres less on a hectare of land, on most irrigated crops, and as
much as 30 to 50 percent less with rice (Hobbs and Morris, 1996).

Globally, CA systems are estimated to have been adopted on over 106 million ha (Kassam et al., 2009)
largely, but not exclusively, in rainfed areas. This is equivalent to about 7 percent of the total world
cropped area. The countries where the system is being adopted and promoted extensively include:
Canada (25.9 percent of total cropped area), Brazil (38.3 percent), Argentina (58.8 percent), Paraguay
(54.5 percent), Kazakhstan (5.7 percent), and Australia (26.9 percent) (Kassam et al., 2009). In India
and other South Asian countries, the spread of CA technologies is taking place in the irrigated Indo-
Gangetic plains, where the rice-wheat cropping system (RWCS) dominates. Similarly, China is
promoting CA on both, rainfed and irrigated land.

Over the past two decades, as experience has been gained with this new approach to agriculture, CA
technologies have been improved and adapted to all farm sizes, soil and crop types and climatic zones.
Technologies are now available (and used) to practice CA on small farms with animal traction and on
very small farms with only manual equipment (e.g. jab planters). The system has been adapted for
cereals, pulses, vegetables, sugarcane and root crops (Derpsch, 2003). Perennial crops like fruit and
vine can also be grown using CA techniques. Indeed, CA is practised from the humid tropics to
almost the Arctic Circle and on all kinds of soils.

Livestock production can be fully integrated into CA by the recycling of nutrients. This reduces the
environmental problems caused by concentrated and intensive livestock production. Integration of
livestock into agricultural crop production enables the farmer to introduce forage crops into the crop
rotation, thus widening it and reducing pest problems. Forage can often be used as dual purpose crops
for fodder and soil cover. In addition they can add a substantial amount of organic carbon to the soil
and improve soil health and structure. Particularly in arid and semi-arid areas with low production of
biomass, the allocation between the use of organic matter to feed the animals or to cover and feed the
soil must be managed differently.

Major advantages of conservation agriculture

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CA, as described above, provides a number of advantages at the global, regional, local and farm
level:

• it provides a truly sustainable production system, not only conserving but also enhancing
natural resources and increasing the variety of soil biota, fauna and flora (including wildlife)
in agricultural production systems without sacrificing yields or high production levels;
• CA-based production acts as a sink for CO2 - when applied on a global scale it could provide
a major contribution to the control of air pollution in general and global warming in particular;
• soil tillage is the most energy consuming of all farming operations - by not tilling the soil,
farmers can save between 30 and 70 percent of time, labour and fossil fuels as compared to
conventional cropping;
• soils under CA have very high water infiltration capacities, reduced surface runoff and
consequently reduced soil erosion - this improves the quality of surface water by reducing
pollution from soil erosion, and enhances groundwater resources;
• the system depends on properly functioning biological processes and thus it enhances
biodiversity in an agricultural production system on a micro as well as macro level, including
flora and fauna;
• CA gives yields comparable to modern intensive agriculture - but in a sustainable way - and
thus is by no means a low output agriculture; yields and profit margins tend to increase over
the years with both yield variation and input requirements decreasing; and
• for the farmer, CA is attractive as it allows a reduction in production costs, reduction of time
and labour, particularly in the peak times of planting, and it reduces in mechanized systems
the costs of investment and maintenance of machinery in the longer term.

CA is not “business as usual”, based on maximizing yields while over-utilizing the soil and other
agro-ecosystem resources, producing negative externalities from inefficient use of agrochemicals.
Rather, CA is based on optimizing resource use, yields and profits to achieve a balance of agricultural,
economic and environmental benefits. The benefits accrue not only on the production side, but also
from reduced cost and diminished environmental pressures which, if left to continue, would degrade
or destroy the natural resource base upon which the farmer depends. With CA, farming communities
become providers of more healthy living environments for the wider community through reduced use
of fossil fuels, pesticides, and other pollutants, and through conservation of environmental integrity
and services. At the same time, CA is generally more profitable for the farmer (Baker and Saxton,
2007; Knowler and Bradshaw, 2006).

CA strives to develop a balanced co-existence between rural and urban societies, based on increased
urban awareness of the environmental benefits and services provided by the rural sector. It works with
the international and national marketplace to develop financial mechanisms to ensure that
environmental benefits provided by CA are recognized by society at large, and the practitioners
rewarded accordingly. A recent example from which lessons can be drawn is the marketing of carbon
credits under the Kyoto Accord. Although this system does not yet apply to agriculture, it is
increasingly being discussed in this context. This is only the beginning. Many other opportunities for
environmental payments will develop in the future, including the potential for farm products produced
under CA to be sold under a new “conservation label”, as now happens in Argentina. The rapid
adoption of conservation technologies by farmers in many areas of the world, often without

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government support, is clear evidence of at least the economic benefits that accrue from these
practices.

Constraints on conservation agriculture adaptation

CA is still a new and unknown concept whereas the majority of the world’s farmers practice
conventional tillage-based farming. The primary constraints are intellectual - the CA concept and
principals are counterintuitive and contradict the common tillage-based farming experience, and there
is a lack of experimental data on CA.

Other constraints are biophysical and technical in that in principle CA practice has to be developed
locally depending on the specific farming situation and agroecological conditions. Long-term
experience with CA globally has shown that it does not give more or fewer problems for the farmer,
but different ones, for example, the completely new dynamics of CA systems, which require high-
level management skills and a steep learning process by the farmer. Nevertheless, it should be noted
that all problems can be solved. For example, in order to adopt CA, the minimum a farmer needs is a
zero tillage planter, which may be unavailable in the neighbourhood. Buying one without knowing the
system or without even having seen the system is a risk that few farmers will take. Machinery dealers
might not wish to promote CA if not supported by extension trials. This is partly because of the cost
of the equipment but more importantly because widespread adoption of CA will reduce machinery
sales, particularly of large tractors.

Before a significant number of small farmers can adopt CA practices, they will need access to
competent technical assistance and long-term credit at affordable rates to purchase or share a
minimum of equipment and machinery. However, CA can be practised successfully as a manual
system as well as with simple and affordable animal drawn equipment.

A number of studies have sought to identify barriers to adoption beyond the obvious divergence
between onfarm costs and wider social benefits under CA. For example:

• initial investment costs may discourage adoption;


• the perceived risk of adopting CA may serve as a barrier;
• longer gestation periods for some of the benefits of CA to materialize may serve as a
disincentive to farmers with short-term planning horizons, especially for tenant farmers,
although benefits can be harnessed immediately if the transformation is managed properly;
and
• some barriers may be particular to a culture or its recent history.

Financial constraints to adoption include the lack of availability of capital to invest in the change of
production system, such as for creating favourable conditions for the soil and new equipment. A
suitable market and service infrastructure must be in place to provide inputs and to allow the
processing and marketing of produce. Thus, to have a good supply of inputs including fertilizers,
chemicals (herbicides), seeds for cover and rotational crops and equipment for direct seeding, planting
and residue management, good infrastructure as well as a proactive attitude of the supply sector, such
as dealers and manufacturers, are necessary. Adequate policy is necessary to accelerate the adoption
process considerably, e.g. by removing the constraints through a range of supports such as

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information and training campaigns, suitable legislation and regulatory frameworks, research and
development, incentive and credit programmes.

4. Action areas/recommendations

CA is a concept containing several good agriculture practices and a good base for a strategy of
sustainable agriculture management. There are many case studies of successfully implemented CA in
South and North America, Australia, and more recently in Asia, but fewer in Africa and the Middle
East (Kassam et al., 2009). The main constraints to promote CA are lack of knowledge, lack of the
necessary skills, lack of suitable equipment/machinery/tools, and lack of the vision required to see the
need for change.

Promotion of CA and testing good practices for both small and large scale farmers

Most countries consider only initial establishment costs and not the subsequent success or failure after
implementing CA practices. However, there are many success stories in countries such as in Brazil,
Paraguay and China involving large and small farmers. In countries which share a similar agro-
ecological environment there is potential for sharing experience, knowledge and technologies.
Considering the overall benefits and advantages, there is a need to promote CA and apply it in
practice.

Development of institutional framework and national roadmap for introduction of CA

The institutional framework for the introduction and spread of CA will normally require strengthened
monitoring and evaluation capacity. Adopting CA on a small, non-mechanized farm involves different
considerations when compared to a large mechanized farm. For example, as smallholders use few
purchased inputs, non-herbicide-dependent strategies for weed management in CA have to be applied.
In addition, few smallholders use significant amounts of chemical fertilizer, so that a debate over the
impact of CA on fertilizer use is largely irrelevant.

Increasing access to credit for introduction of CA practices

The availability of credit to assist with CA’s need for different equipment plays an important role.
However, if smallholders hire land preparation equipment, then a switch to CA should be relatively
simple, as past investment in conventional equipment is not a consideration. Short-run costs would be
close to long-run costs when switching to CA. Cases are known where very small-scale farmers
adopted CA without any new inputs, using a narrow hoe to open planting holes for the seeds, rather
than hoeing the entire surface of the field.

Availability and access to knowledge and information on CA

Lack of access to knowledge and information is the main constraint to CA adoption in most countries
as the adoption of CA depends primarily on farmers’ perceptions of its short-term and near-term
economic benefits relative to conventional systems. An abrupt modification in tillage systems
involves increased risk until farmers gain sufficient experience with different crop production
conditions. Thus, information has to be relevant, actual, locally appropriate, and useful in order to
generate interest among farmers. The first step before changing to the CA system should be that

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farmers, researchers, technicians and extensionists improve their knowledge about all aspects of the
system. The superiority of the CA system over conventional tillage has generally been proven under a
great variety of conditions worldwide (Derpsch and Friedrich, 2009). It is necessary, now, to develop
and adapt the system locally and make sure that the technology works under the special environmental
and socio-economic conditions of each specific site.

We also need to learn what other limitations to adoption exist under local conditions (i.e. availability
of machines, herbicides, adequate crop rotations, adequate green manure cover crops, knowledge) and
also be aware of socio-economic constraints and find ways to overcome those limitations.

We should not be over concerned with lower yields in the initial phases of CA
adaptation/establishment as long as we have higher profits and avoid environmental degradation
followed by eventual accomplishment of yields as high as they are in conventional agriculture. Some
farmers already accepting a higher level of risk have the prospect of doing CA because of greater
flexibility in the growing season and lower risk of having to reschedule or repeat operations because
of inclement weather. With lower variable costs, farmers can reduce borrowed capital. Thus, yield
loss, if not competitive with the conventional system especially in the initial years, caused from
switching to CA, can be compensated by additional yield from multiple cropping during the extended
cropping period (Crosson, et al., 1986). Especially under erratic and limited rainfall conditions, timing
of cropping is critically important to utilize inherently low soil fertility and the flexibility of timing is
a great advantage of CA. With improved productivity per unit land area per year, under globally
degrading soil productivity, CA has a great potential for addressing food security problems. In general,
the risk of obtaining lower yields in the initial phase of transition is overrated. In most cases yields
remain the same or even increase from the beginning. Yield decline, if it occurs, is mostly a result of
mistakes in the management because of inexperience, which can be overcome with adequate technical
assistance.

Erosion control, improvement of hydrological, chemical, physical and biological soil conditions,
lower machinery costs, reduced labour and tractor hours, timelines, higher economic returns and other
benefits of the system will guarantee a steady growth of CA in most regions of the world. As the
negative impacts of further degrading agriculture land, increasingly scarce water resources, and
unpredictable climatic conditions become increasingly apparent, the need for a new paradigm will
become evident. The analysis in Africa showed that conventional farming practices remain viable
only under high rainfall conditions and CA is more viable under normal and below normal (drought)
rainfall (Mazvimavi and Twomlow, 2008). Under high rainfall conditions, the reported corn yields
were 1 650 kg/ha and 2 900 kg/ha for conventional and CA practices, respectively. The corn yield
decreased to 370 kg/ha and 1 780 kg/ha for conventional and CA practices, respectively, under low
rainfall conditions.

Experience shows that there are no system-inherent reasons for lower yields with CA other than the
lack of knowledge of the farmer. Where land productivity is low, as is normally the case with the
poorest farmers, with good guidance, yields would normally rise rather than drop, even in the first
year, after changing to CA.

More specific strategies to convert to CA are needed to enable farmers to see the attractions of CA
and encourage them to make the initial investment. Good information on potential benefits,

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opportunities and constraints is a prerequisite for farmers in making their choice. A key intervention
here will be a series of demonstration plots where farmers can see the benefits with their own eyes.
Finding the right approach of facilitating a participatory conversion and technology development
requires the support of convinced and capable extension workers and researchers. Both play an
important facilitating role in reaching a critical mass of farmers and generating knowledge and
adaptations to the system.

The experiences in South America indicate that the large-scale shift to CA requires close collaboration
between innovative farmers and the private sector to develop and disseminate appropriate equipment.
The testing, manufacturing and provision of required tools and implements, cover crop seeds,
herbicides and spraying equipment through local markets are critical.

Access to information is very important in reaching a critical mass of CA practitioners, both within
and between countries and organizations. Selected case study material describing CA experiences
under different conditions can be made available and researchers can help validating information such
as the selection of cover crop species and adaptation of different equipment.

The transfer of the concepts, principles and technologies of CA needs network interchange within and
between countries to facilitate sharing of known solutions to problems identified during the continual
learning process. Such networks can accelerate the advancement of knowledge and techniques being
steadily accumulated by both national institutions and community groups in their efforts to reverse
land degradation on a global scale.

Policy support, services and infrastructure for enabling environment

To spread CA rapidly and widely, government policies, services and infrastructure are required to
facilitate change. Policy support is needed to adjust a range of policy instruments in order to create an
enabling environment. Development of an appropriate set of incentives is crucial.

New incentive measures could include the identification and multiplication of seeds and supply of
equipment through public and private sector involvement. Financial support alone cannot boost a CA
programme. It is essential to make the general public, decision-makers and opinion-makers aware of
the social benefits of the adoption of these practices in order to gain the government’s support for the
natural resource management initiatives of farmers. Media campaigns are another important entry
point to promote CA through integrated action at farm, community, national and international levels.
Market development for new crops that will fit in the diversified crop rotation in the CA system is
also to be considered.

Growing recognition of the negative impact of climate change, and political pressures to encourage
sustainable natural resources use and management provide opportunities to harness these pressures as
a means of supporting the adaptation and spread of CA. This is the most promising path to attaining
sustainable food security (Friedrich and Kassam, 2009; Kassam et al., 2009). Thus, the increasing
challenges faced around the world, from the recent sudden global crisis caused by soaring food prices,
high energy and input costs, increasing environmental concerns to issues of climate change smooth
the progress of the justification for policy-makers to introduce supportive policies and institutional
services which could be linked to the introduction of sustainable farming methods such as CA.

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In accelerating the mainstreaming of CA, a formulation of a global network of interconnected
communities of practices (CoPs) was proposed at a stakeholders meeting in July 2008 (FAO, 2008)
and a small interim facilitating group, coordinated by FAO, to oversee the creation of a global
network of CoPs, to firm up the agenda for action and to manage related tasks. In early 2009, a global
communication platform for the CA community of practice (CA-CoP) was launched by FAO as
recommended by the stakeholders meeting.

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