byBarbara Adolph via web
SIRAF partners TLC (Total Land Care), LUANAR (Lilongwe University for Agriculture and Natural Resources) and IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) undertook a field visit to the research site in Mwansambo EPA (extension planning area) in November 2016. TLC is promoting Conservation Agriculture (CA), which involves leaving crop residues on the field (without burning them) to increase soil organic matter and reduce weed growth. Farmers are also taught not to plough the field, but to sow into small planting holes.
CA can in the long term increase agricultural productivity and resilience, whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, such "zero tillage" practices require at least initially the use of herbicides. "Round up" (glyphosphate) is widely used and sold in local trading posts. Farmers told us that they have been trained in responsible use of herbicides and are able to reduce the amount applied over time. So is the use of herbicide the price farmers have to pay to practice an otherwise sustainable way of farming?