Quantitative research support to the Conservation Agriculture Smallholder Farmer Innovation Programme KwaZulu-Natal

This project is funded by the Maize Trust and implemented by the Mahlathini Development Foundation.

MDF

The Conservation Agriculture smallholder farmer innovation programme is a multi-faceted systemic research process into the adaptation of CA into the smallholder farming system. Investigation of the production, ecological, social and economic aspects of this system is outlined in the two accompanying proposals for Bergville and SKZN and Midlands.

Quantitative researcher-managed experiments will be conducted alongside the farmer level experimentation in the fields of a few selected participants from both the Bergville and the SKZN and Midlands project sites (36 participants in total). This aspect both relies on the farmer level experimentation (and -participation) process, but also requires researchers to assist in design, management and data gathering for specific experimental protocols.

To date, smallholder farmers have been involved to assist in data collection and record keeping. This strategy has met with mixed success, where some of the participants have not been meticulous enough in their record keeping activities. In addition, literacy levels among the participants are quite low for some of the participants and working with their children and other household members to undertake the record keeping has been problematic. It is thus suggested that the research manager and interns take a much more active role in the data collection processes.

This small research team will be embedded within the larger research process and will both be provided with training and capacity building to undertake the research and provide training and input to the rest of the adaptive research team and the smallholder farmers.

Description of the target areas and beneficiaries

The same research protocols will be implemented across Bergville, Southern KZN and Midlands, working with 8-16 farmers in each site. Farmers will be carefully selected with criteria including: the length of their CA implementation, the number of CA and complementary practices they are experimenting with, the care they take in their production practices and their willingness to undertake careful experimentation and monitoring of researcher led experiments.

It is expected also that yield data will be gathered for all participants (60 Bergville, 50 SKZN and 50 Midlands) and crop growth monitoring data is to be collected for 60 of these participants).

Project Aim

The long-term aims for this project are to promote the use of CA to increase farming production and profitability, to improve the natural resource status and quality allowing sustained crop production / intensification and to promote systems for providing appropriate value chain support to smallholder farmers.