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Conservation Agriculture

Considerations

One of the challenges in promoting CA is the fear of changing from "good" practices to new practices and the fact that these "good" or actual practices are culturally linked to the communities. The change can generate opposition within the community, which is completely normal, but it is useful to identify reasons and strategies for changing beforehand. Soil tillage is a traditional practice and thus presents some cultural barriers. Tillage is perceived as:

  • Necessary
  • Soil improving
  • Facilitating crop management
  • Giving higher yields

Tillage is considered a tradition by farmers and changing the practice is difficult because:

  • They are satisfied with the actual practices
  • They know better than anyone else to manage their production
  • They don't feel an economic pressure to change
  • Clean, well-tilled fields are associated with good farming practice and this results in self-confidence

As extension officers and pioneer farmers will be the change agents in a region, they should assume a facilitating role that will encourage the confidence of farmers new to CA that the technology is working. This includes demonstrating the technology in other farmers' fields, demonstrating the economic benefits with facts and numbers and training people in the region to help others.

As tillage is often considered traditional, some cultural barriers that might aggravate the change process can exist in a region. For extension personnel it is always important to recognize these barriers. They include:

  • Not understanding the technology
  • Being afraid of the economic risk
  • Not being able to buy equipment
  • Soils or crops are not adequate and need to be adjusted

Change never appears "overnight" and will take time. Extension personnel therefore need to be patient and accept that agricultural technologies are adopted step-by-step, because farmers:

  • Need to feel at ease with the new technology
  • Do not have the capital to invest
  • Cannot run a big risk, especially when the technology is unknown
  • Need a learning-by-doing environment