A combination of conservation agriculture and agroforestry techniques is boosting milk production in Kenya. So called ‘fodder trees’ such as Trichandria, tree lucane, Sesbanis sasban and sawyer lupin fix nitrogen into the soil, a natural fertiliser, so the farmer will not necessarily need synthetics. About 225,000 small-scale farmers in East Africa grow fodder shrubs to feed their dairy cows and total incomes have grown from $19.7m to $29.6m over the past 15 years. Conservation agriculture as been shown to increase soil fertility, but a study in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana shows that only 5% of African farmers apply its principles. Scientists contend that this type of agriculture is ideal in the face of climate variability and irregular rainfalls.
$4bn investment planned
Côte d’Ivoire has mapped out a national agricultural investment programme and plans to invest nearly $4bn in farming by 2015 to improve crop yields for its world-leading cocoa sector, and to become a rice exporter. Planned projects aim to boost yields and quality for all farm products through distribution of improved seed strains, better storage conditions and the rehabilitation of roads and irrigation infrastructure. Agricultural authorities are researching new cocoa strains capable of increasing yields from 400kg to 2 tonnes per hectare and have already introduced new rice varieties.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), which restores existing trees on drought-stricken land, could improve Senegal’s harvests. Trees planted under reforestation have seen only a 5% success rate, so farmers have been encouraged to prune trees like Faidherbia albida to give life to the vegetation already there, thus improving resources they already have and boosting the ecosystem. Millet harvests have increased from 430kg to 750kg a hectare.
Training future farmers
In Nigeria, NGO The Africa Farming Project trains two million youths to boost the government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda. As well as reducing unemployment, it aims to get young people interested in agriculture, improve the agriculture information network and get farmers involved with new technology, build capacity and promote essential crops and livestock.
Growing Green Cities in Africa, a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation, says that greener cities could help ensure food security and there is an urgent need for peri-urban agriculture in homes, schools, community and market gardens. Though most gardens grow fruit and vegetables, it says governments should work with growers, processors, suppliers and vendors to give them the support they need for sustainable development by protecting land and water for market gardens and adopting the organisation’s farming model, Save and Grow, which seeks to boost yields while conserving and enhancing natural resources.
Better farm management
To keep pace with the growing world population, food production needs to increase by 70%, but climate change may reduce cereal yields globally by up to 20% if farmers do not adapt. Climate-smart agriculture aims to increase farm productivity in an environmentally and socially sustainable way. In Kenya, on nearly 45,000 acres, a project is helping 60,000 farmers adopt new land management practices, such as cover crops, rotations, composting and mulching, which have increased yields and will enable them to receive income under a carbon finance scheme. In Niger, agroforestry techniques on 5m hectares have benefited over 1.25m households, sequestered carbon and produced an extra half a million tons of grain a year.