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Further participatory adaptation is required for community leaders to champion conservation agriculture in Africa

Brown, Brendan, Nuberg, Ian, Llewellyn, Rick
International journal of agricultural sustainability 2018 v.16 no.3 pp. 286-296
agricultural conservation practice, farmers, Africa
There is a recognized need for the participation of local communities in designing and implementing agricultural interventions for the sustainable intensification in smallholder systems. This study examines the perspectives of local community leaders towards the widely promoted, but not widely adopted, practice of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in African smallholder systems. Perceptions from 47 community leaders (both from traditional local authorities and farmer organizations) across six African countries are documented regarding how CA matches the wants, needs and capabilities of farmers in their communities. While community leaders generally perceived CA as potentially beneficial, they also indicated that CA is not currently perceived as feasible within their communities and hence has limited relevance. Three key themes were identified that limit both CA use and sustainable intensification more generally: [1] a perceived reluctance of farmers to engage with the community platform as part of a higher input, market-oriented production system; [2] informational constraints due to non-functional exchange mechanisms; and [3] a lack of local adaptation of CA underscored by the persistence of top-down, linear research and extension approaches. Through greater understanding of local perspectives, a clearer picture emerges of the need for greater participatory engagement and local adaptation if sustainable intensification of African smallholder agricultural systems is to be achieved.