9 May 2017
'This is a farming system cited to be beneficial to the community using the resources that are around the homestead. Conservation agriculture doesn’t damage the environment and actually improves soil quality,' explains Chrispin. 'It has short and long term benefits for the community, who can grow and harvest their vegetables almost immediately. And it’s sustainable year-round with irrigation.'
What makes conservation agriculture different is that it causes minimal disturbance to the soil, less land is used as yield is high and so less land needs to be cleared. Forested areas are also spared because farming is more viable than burning mopane trees to make charcoal to sell. In all, conservation agriculture provides food security, profit from the sale of surplus produce, and it conserves biodiversity as minimal land is needed for high yields.
Community buy in
From the first round of farmers trained, they all went back to their villages and immediately started farming prolifically, using conservation agriculture methods, intercropping and crop rotation. Maize, sorghum, pearl millet and cassava are the crops that are grown during the rainy season. The backyard garden crops which are grown during the dry season are: onions, tomatoes, brinjal, pumpkin, ground nuts, maize, rape, ochre, sorghum and cow peas. All the gardens are lush and abundant. Chrispin adds that because farmers can irrigate using the treadle pumps given to them by Peace Parks Foundation, they can now grow fresh maize for sale in during the dry winter season – which is sold at far higher prices than dry maize. He says: 'Families produce far more than they can consume from their gardens, so surplus is sold to pay for other things the family needs, including school fees.' The farmers are all smiling.
From poacher to farmer
Story and photos by Keri Harvey
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