Mécanisme multidonateurs flexible (FMM)

FMM funds help southern Africa to scale up Conservation Agriculture


Photo Credit: ©FAO

16 June 2022 – Climate change and non-resilient agricultural production systems have resulted in an increase in the number of people suffering from food and nutrition insecurity and loss of livelihoods in southern Africa. In 2021, an estimated 47.6 million people in the subregion are food insecure. 

About 70 percent of the subregion’s population depends on agriculture for food, income, and employment. The prevalent level of food insecurity in the subregion is an indictment of conventional farming approaches under the current environment of climate shocks and variability.

The unprecedented shocks such as the global rise in prices of agricultural commodities and in agro-inputs including fertilizer will affect access to food for many people especially those in the vulnerable profile. 

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a proven win-win alternative Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) approach that can contribute to the building of resilience of smallholder farmers and assure them of food and nutrition security and decent livelihoods. 

The CA practices based on maintaining soil cover, minimum soil disturbance, and diversification of crop species ensureefficient use of agro-inputs including fertilizers.

Despite its benefits, CA practice by smallholders in the subregion is still low, leaving an untapped potential that could positively transform local farming systems. 

The slow scaling up of CA is partly attributed to the limited stakeholder coordination, information sharing and messaging, resulting in a ‘’muted voice’’ lacking the thrust necessary to bring about the desired transformation from the conventional to the more resilient CA anchored production systems.

To address these challenges, the Norwegian Cooperation, through the FAO Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM) has  since 2020,  been funding the “Strengthening Coordination, Scaling up and Governance of Conservation Agriculture in Southern Africa (SUCASA)” subprogramme.

Common messaging 

The subprogramme supports Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group (CARWG), and National Conservation Agriculture Task forces (NCATFs) in ten countries in southern Africa. Through these knowledge exchange platforms, CA partners share information and knowledge on CA practices, as well as building common understanding, consensus and harmonization for collective impact in the scale up of the approach in the subregion.

The SUCASA subprogramme has strengthened the operational capacity of the CA platforms by rallying key CA stakeholders (farmers, NGOS, private sector, innovation hubs and government extension) in the subregion towards a collective goal and impact. The voluntary and inclusive multi-stakeholder platforms have fostered dialogue and learning that is contributing to the scaling up of CA.

Supporting organization of subregional meetings and the annual Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group (CARWG) meeting has enabled swift sharing of documented CA knowledge products and best practices with key stakeholders for enhanced CA adoption. CA coordination at subregional and national level strengthened has been strengthened; and 

Why partnerships matter?

In Eswatini, before SUCASA subprogramme, the partnership in CA was mainly between FAO and Government through the Ministry of Agriculture. Upon realization of the importance of partnerships, other stakeholders were then engaged- mostly NGOs. As the platform was getting a wider audience of stakeholders, the Eswatini National CA TaskForce (ENCATF) was established which brought in more partners including the University and some parastatals. SUCASA project further provides for the strengthening of the ENCATF and other stakeholders through fostered national dialogue and learning. 

CA entry points to development

In order to align CA to development frameworks in southern Africa, a study was conducted by the FAO in partnership with FANRPAN so as to identify CA entry points into national development frameworks. The study also identified climate resilience related investment opportunities for Scaling up of CA among smallholder farmers. The study focused on 10 countries in Southern Africa, namely, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

The ultimate beneficiaries of the intervention are poor smallholder male and female farmers including youths and other marginalized groups.

The major outcome of the project should be a transition to locally appropriate climate smart and disaster resilient production systems and landscape interventions that foster achievement of national development commitments, plans and actions in contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

As a climate Smart Agriculture approach, CA has a role in situating itself to contribute towards mitigation of some of the current climate change and food systems challenges in southern Africa.

Lewis Hove,
FAO SFS - Resilience Team Leader
[email protected]
1. No poverty, 2. Zero hunger