By Staff Reporter
Maputo, 24 August– According to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), an alarming 57.5 million people in the region currently grapple with food and nutrition insecurity, a stark rise from just over 14 million a decade ago.
In an earnest effort to tackle this critical situation, representatives from ten southern African nations recently gathered in Maputo for the annual Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group (CARWG) dialogue. This gathering received support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the FVC/Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation-funded project, “Strengthening Coordination, Scaling Up and Governance of Conservation Agriculture in Southern Africa (SUCASA).”
The central goal of the dialogue was to heighten awareness about the significance of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in bolstering food security across the region. By facilitating the exchange of knowledge, the dialogue aimed to cultivate the sharing of best practices and science-based innovations to amplify productivity, output, and climate resilience among smallholder farmers.
This collaborative endeavor within CARWG arrives at a critical juncture, considering the impending threat of potential drought during the upcoming 2023/24 production season, owing to El Niño forecasts. Such a scenario could further aggravate the already substantial number of individuals experiencing acute food insecurity in Southern Africa.
Jose Luis Fernandez, the FAO Representative (FAOR) in Mozambique, underscored the urgency of the situation. He noted that productivity and production among small-scale farmers have been dwindling for decades, contributing to heightened food and nutrition insecurity in the region. He emphasized the necessity for governments and key stakeholders to take decisive actions in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and other external disruptions to food systems, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The adoption of Conservation Agriculture, an environmentally conscious agricultural approach, gained prominence through the 2014 CAADP-Malabo declaration by African Heads of State. This declaration aims to extend climate-resilient practices like CA to 25 million farmers by 2025, reflecting a shared concern for regional agricultural sustainability.
Despite the potential benefits of CA, its adoption by small-scale farmers in Southern Africa faces various hurdles, including limited awareness, inadequate equipment, insufficient training for extension agents and farmers, and weak integration into value chains. The SUCASA project, which aims to upscale CA among smallholder farmers in the region, seeks to address these challenges by supporting National Conservation Agriculture Taskforces (NCATFs) and CARWG in promoting CA to decision-makers and fostering additional investment in this climate-resilient approach.
During the CARWG dialogue, stakeholders unanimously agreed on the pivotal role of mechanization in expanding CA. Mechanization introduces efficiency, timeliness, and precision to critical tasks such as soil preparation, planting, and harvesting, thereby reducing the physical labor demand. Empowering women and youth, who play a significant role in agriculture, to access and utilize diverse machinery is crucial. Investment in agricultural mechanization is deemed essential not only for expediting the adoption of CA practices but also for elevating productivity and resource management in the region.
The CARWG dialogue played a pivotal role in bridging the gaps in CA adoption by facilitating knowledge exchange, disseminating best practices, and sharing science-based innovations. By prioritizing conservation agriculture and investing in mechanization, Southern Africa can make substantial progress in mitigating food insecurity and ensuring a more sustainable future for its populace.- Namibia Daily News