In most high-level agriculture deliberations, the farmers’ voice is often neglected yet the outcomes of such events expect farmers to make substantial investments towards attaining set targets. The Second Africa Congress on Conservation Agriculture (2ACCA) held in Johannesburg, South Africa in October 2018, took an unfamiliar turn by hosting a Farmers’ Forum, which deliberated on challenges faced by farmers and existing opportunities they may explore in attempting to scale Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) through Conservation Agriculture (CA).
Held under the theme, “Making CSA real in Africa with CA: Supporting the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2063”, SACAU participated in the deliberations alongside the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF).
Some of the contributions made were that as part of the adoption process, farmers undergo a period of learning, adaptation, and continued use. Throughout this process, experience has shown that farmers find themselves exposed to several forms of risk, which if not shared among different actors along the value chain, may see farmers not adopting CA practices as expected or disadopting after a few years.
It was also highlighted that getting into a new paradigm tends to be knowledge intensive and can be overwhelming for farmers. Hence, CA promoters need to devise innovative means of creating awareness and disseminating relevant information to the different segments of farmers. Furthermore, considerable research has been done on the effects of CA on a number of societal priorities (e.g. gender, labour, and food security), but still the rate of adoption remains relatively low. Perhaps, there is need to provide more evidence on the economic returns of CA at farm level beyond the environmental benefits.
The contributions also touched on the need for the public sector to ‘get the basics right’ (e.g. by providing better road networks, communication infrastructure and schools.) to facilitate private sector investment in CSA/CA related infrastructure.
Finally, farmers’ organisations themselves should be part of the scaling up infrastructure.For instance, apart from carrying out their advocacy function, they can facilitate the establishment of CA farmers’ networks, develop profiles of CA champions and create a platform to enhance the exchange of ideas among farmers.