Wednesday, October 20, 2021

“Rolong” farmers turn towards new methods of farming

BY ARNOLD LETSHOLO

Different stakeholders the past week met in Borolong, a district already experiencing the impacts of climate change, to device means of reducing its impacts- mitigation; and device means of positively living with its impacts-adaptation.

Themed; “Adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture as a Tool to Attain Food Security for Batswana and Resilience to Climate Change” ; the workshop attracted stakeholders from the Department of Meteorological Services (DMS), Department of crop production, Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security as well as United Nations Agents-United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF), Small Grants Program(SGP), Birdlife Botswana and BITRI.

The one day workshop ended with participants- predominantly crop farmers resolving to adopt the new method of farming; conservation agriculture. They would gradually abandon the conventional agricultural systems as they have to learn the new method first. This they would do through starting small, by partitioning off small experimental plots.  The CA method is applied through conservation tillage or minimum tillage or reduced tillage.

Convincing them to consider changing their farming method was eased by the fact that they were quite awake to the impacts of climate change in their districts. By beginning of December rains had not begun in their area. The DMS official, Esther Jansen also informed them, “Analysis show a shift in rainfall pattern, a decrease during the October, November and December (OND) season and a slight increase during the January, February and March (JFM) season. Implication means a reduction in the cropping season especially, for the south where winter comes earlier than in the North. Climate change is very evident in the temperatures that there is an increase over the entire country. Climate change is evident in the trends and also the frequency in extreme weather events.”

She further highlighted that looking at the 2018/19 rainfall season; the outlook shows that it will be a better year than 2015/16 but a worse year than 2017/18. The JFM season shows a slight increase in rainfall trend whereas OND shows a decrease.

Moilwe Mosime from the Department of crop production explained that the three core principles of CA are: maintenance of permanent or semi-permanent soil cover; minimum soil disturbance through tillage and regular crop rotations.

“CA also uses or promotes the following various management practices: utilization of green manures or cover crops (GMCC’s) to produce the residue cover; no burning of crop residues; integrated disease and pest management, as well as controlled or limited human and mechanical traffic over agricultural soils,” said Mosime.

He said condition of the soil must be significantly improved before agricultural yields can be maintained or improved. He further explained that enhanced weed and pest problems during the “transition phase” to CA are a major problem. However, crop rotations and enhanced biodiversity help control weed and pest problems under CA.  Conventional agriculture, he said is not sustainable as it increases dependence on chemical fertilizers; while CA greatly reduces soil erosion and actually builds up soil organic matter.

Besides the experts’ information, some farmers, who had applied some CA trials after seeing them somewhere, testified that indeed they got more yields from two hectors than they got on more hectors using conventional methods.

Coordinator of SGP Abigail Angleton informed participants who had Community Based Organizations like Farmers Associations that her office through funds from GEF offers grants for projects that are meant to conserve the environment and help mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Through such grants partnership is established for conservation. Conservation Agriculture fits well as such project.

The announcement was good music to the ears of the farmers who, though they were determined to embrace change wondered where they would get the resources to attain their dreams.

Participating farmers came from Sothern District, Jwaneng/Mabutsane area, Kweneng West(Letlhakeng), South East District and Kgatleng. Both Farmers’ Associations and famers committees’ as well as individual farmers participated.

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