To address complaints raised by farmers that wild animals destroy their crops, the Pabalelo Trust recently launched its Conservation Agriculture (CA) initiative in the Ngamiland and Okavango sub-district.
The Trust has been training farmers on CA since 2010. From 2010 to 2011, 20 farmers were trained on CA in four villages of Sekondomboro, Mogotho, Gunotsoga and Eretsha. The necessary equipment for CA was distributed, including hoes, strings bucket and others. A farmer’s manual was also designed and distributed to farmers, while Community Enumerators were trained and deployed to encourage farmers to implement CA techniques, monitor successes and challenges. The same farmers were also trained on chilli deterrent methods to encourage a combination of CA and chilli mitigation techniques. Another 60 farmers were trained from 2011 to 2014.
Pabalelo Trust’s founder, Willemien Leroux told Sunday Standard in an interview that CA can reduce the impact of elephant crop- raiding because smaller fields used for CA are easier to protect using mitigation measures.
“The smaller fields enable better wildlife mitigation, are easier to guard and eventually need less work. CA techniques reduce field size without reducing harvest yields. There is holistic combining of on-farm livestock and crop production to the benefit of both products,” she said.
Leroux gave an example of a famer whose yields improved after she shifted to CA. The farmer harvested 794 heads of millet in 2013-14, which weighed 31kg. This was equivalence to 3100kg/ha or 10 times mean yield for the area. She further explained that improved yields make farmers less vulnerable to the effects of crop raiding. CA also facilitates proper land use planning and builds soil quality naturally which promotes biodiversity and restores the environment. Leroux further said CA uses a set of soil management practices that minimize disruption of the soil structure, composition and natural biodiversity.
“Its principles are maintenance of permanent or semi-permanent soil cover, minimum soil disturbance through tillage and regular crop rotation,” she said.
CA also promotes various management practices like utilization of green manure or cover crops to produce the residue over; no burning of crop residues, integrated disease and pest management, controlled or limited human and mechanical traffic over agricultural soils. Talking about challenges faced by her Trust, Leroux said as NGOs they are financially insecure which impedes long term planning. The CA is not always in line with the government policy and strategy, which results in the NGO often being left out and uninformed.
“Its capacity is not yet proven. It has limited target groups and is not representing everyone,” she said.
Government also has some limitations in that farmers are widespread, making empowerment ineffective.
“Government is dependent on policy, therefore it is not able to adapt to real needs as they arise. Government has funding and resources but these are not always reaching where they are meant to,” said Leroux.