Integrated evaluation of conservation agriculture (CA) technologies using multipurpose grain legumes (MGL) to improve productivity and sustainability of cotton-cereal systems

Agricultural expansion is one of the main threats to ecosystems of global conservation importance  in the Mid Zambezi Valley. Introduction and expansion of cotton farming appears to be a major driver of change in cropping patterns, in fertility management and in overall farming systems. Modern conventional systems can only be sustainable if increased quantities of external inputs are used, combined with mechanical operations. However, increased poverty of rural communities combined with a general decrease in quantities of fertilizers used by farmers have forced most farmers to rely more and more on the natural fertility of their soils. Subsequent land degradation is also influenced by effects of immigration, fueling agricultural expansion and loss of natural vegetation.

As a response to the crisis of land degradation in the small-scale sector, more sustainable cropping systems using the principles of conservation agriculture (CA) have been developed. These technologies are often presented as offering a ‘win-win’ situation for production and conservation. The present research work aims at ‘testing’ this strategy in the particular case of cereal-cotton systems, with CA technologies based on multipurpose grain legumes (MGL) i.e. cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), lablab (Dolichos lablab), pigeonpea (Cajanu
s cajan) and soyabean (Glycine max).

The main objective of this research is to evaluate socio-economic and environmental impacts of various CA technologies based on MGL for the diversity of smallholder livelihoods in the Mid Zambezi Valley. A farm-scale simulation model will be developed to evaluate trade-offs between productivity/income and sustainability/ externalities of different CA technologies using MGL, for the diversity of farming units in the area and under various scenarios of adoption. Simulation model results will be used to engage extension agents, representatives and field staff of cotton companies, conservation agencies and rural development NGOs in discussion about scaling out promising technologies to wider areas. PhD researcher: Frédéric Baudron (MSc)

Co-funded project in collaboration with CIRAD.

Livestock and concerted action in the face of competing interests

Two broad perspectives may be distinguished in the understanding of natural resource-related conflict. First, the ‘resource scarcity’ thesis views conflict as emanating from increased scarcity. Second, in ‘political ecology’ perspectives, such conflicts are understood as reflecting socio-political struggles. Solving or mitigating resource-related conflict thus requires delineating the different drivers of conflict.

This study seeks to disentangle the drivers of natural resource-related conflict in Mbire district, northern Zimbabwe. Characterized by immigration-fuelled population growth and rapid expansion of agricultural land, this areas is the habitat of mega-fauna of global conservation importance - both within (unfenced) protected areas and outside. Over the past decades a mosaic of land uses has emerged: relatively populated areas where smallholder farmers use animal-drawn ploughs to cultivate relatively large pieces of land, less populated areas where tsetse-fly infestation hampers such type of agriculture causing cultivated lands to be small and shifting, state-designated wildlife conservation and hunting areas, and undesignated forest areas inhabited by wildlife. Water availability is often of a major limiting factor that influences settlement and agricultural productivity, which explains human settlement along the riparian zones of the major rivers. Riparian areas provide good grazing for livestock but are also the areas where the threat from tsetse flies, ticks and helminths are the greatest.Riparian zones are also important for wildlife; as habitat and a source of forage, and rivers as a source of water. Mbire district thus represents a region of contrasts and conflict; immigrant farmers versus autochthons; wildlife versus livestock; wildlife versus crops and, crops versus livestock. In addition, the area has a dualistic governance structure of traditional authorities (chiefs, headman) and state institutions and both are involved in natural resource management. In light of these competing jurisdictions and competing land uses, it is critical to clearly distinguish socio-politically driven conflict on resources from resource scarcity driven conflicts.

PhD researcher: Steven Matema (MSc)


Zimbabwe: Zambezi Valley

Cotton cultivation in Tsetse infested area.
Zambezi Valley, northern Zimbabwe 
(© Jens Andersson)

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