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Constraints to the utilisation of conservation agriculture in Africa as perceived by agricultural extension service providers

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Brown, Brendan (main author), Nuberg, Ian (author), Llewellyn, Rick (author), School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide CSIRO Agriculture
Journal article
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
adoption, adoption behavior, Africa, agriculture research, conservation, extension, extension agents, extension communication, extension education, farmer perceptions, food security, information needs, small farmers
10 pages., Via online journal., Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a knowledge-intensive set of practices which requires substantial access to functional agricultural extension services to enable utilisation. Despite this importance, the perspectives of those providing extension services to smallholder farmers have not been fully investigated. To address this, we qualitatively explore the perspectives of agricultural extension providers across six African countries to understand why uptake of CA has been limited, as well as the institutional changes that may be required to facilitate greater utilisation. Across the diversity of geographical, political and institutional contexts between countries, we find multiple commonalities in the constrained utilisation of CA by smallholder farmers, highlighting the difficulties non-mechanised subsistence farmers face in transitioning to market-oriented farming systems such as CA. The primary constraint relates to the economic viability of market-oriented farming where farmers remain in low input and low output systems with limited exit points. The assumed exit point used by CA programs appears to have led to a culture of financial expectancy and reflects a continuation of top-down extension approaches with inadequate modification of CA to the contextual realities of subsistence farmers. If African agricultural systems are to be sustainably intensified, we find a need for greater flexibility within extension systems in the pursuit of sustainable intensification. If extension systems are to persist with CA, it will need to be promoted through more transitional pathways that disaggregate the CA package, and with that there is a need for the provision of a mandate to, and necessary funding for, more participatory extension services.