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Conservation agriculture and sustainable crop intensification in Lesotho

Conservation agriculture

By Laura Silici
Published by FAO
Website: www.earthprint.com
2010, ISBN 978 9 25106 588 4(Pb), US$30 or free to download

The use of planting basins for maize and bean cultivation was introduced in Lesotho in 2000, as a means to increase yields and tackle land degradation. Combined with other conservation agriculture (CA) practices, such as mulching of crop residues, the practice has now been adopted by many thousand households, following promotion by FAO and other development organisations. In 2006, data were gathered to assess the impact of CA in Lesotho, in terms of productivity, livelihoods and the environment - with the results and analysis presented in this report.

In general, the report finds significant advantages for those who have adopted the new approach. Labour demands are higher in CA than the conventional system, which in Lesotho generally involves draft power, either animal or tractor. But in a country where increased labour involves little opportunity cost, returns in yield and food security were found to outweigh the investment, even in the first two seasons when demands are particularly high.

Other points of interest include the relative higher adoption rates among communities where social networks or trust are high. Traditionally in Lesotho, livestock and people have access to crop residues for feed and fuel, but such a tradition is incompatible with good practice in conservation agriculture. But where introduction of CA takes place through a participatory approach that involves the whole community, not just the adopters, alternative systems for accessing fuel and feed may be developed. Findings such as these, as well as policy recommendations for successful promotion of CA, make this report of interest and importance for decision-makers in the wider region.

Date published: September 2010

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