Africa’s agricultural systems are on the brink of radical transformation

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Conservation Agriculture

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  • Rungwe Avocado Company Caroline Schmidt
  • Rungwe Avocado Company Caroline Schmidt
  • Rungwe Avocado Company Caroline Schmidt
  • Kolo Hiills Andrea Athanas
  • Kolo Hiills Andrea Athanas
  • Kolo Hiills Andrea Athanas
  • Kolo Hiills Andrea Athanas
  • Conservation Agriculture Andrea Athanas
  • Conservation Agriculture Anna Behm Masozera IGCP
Overview

Landscapes are suffering as more people see agriculture as a way to improve their lives.

Agriculture is an important source of livelihood, food security, and development opportunities. Many aspects of the current agricultural systems in Africa, such as over-irrigation, short rotation cropping, and slash-and-burn agriculture, threaten wildlife and landscapes—and even people. As the agricultural sector grows to achieve local and national food security and meet the growing global demand for food, fuel, and fiber, these threats are poised to intensify.  

Challenges

Without best practices, agriculture can be detrimental not only to the environment, but to the people relying on it.

Inappropriate agricultural practices in the wrong places can cause habitat destruction and degradation, deforestation, exploitation of water and soils, erosion, sedimentation, pollution, and even regional and local climate change. This sets in motion a vicious cycle, where farmers, faced with declining crop yields from degraded soils, turn to even more destructive practices—such as short rotation cropping, shifting agriculture, and over­-irrigation—which then even further strip the soil.

The whole world looks to Africa.

As populations increase, demand for biomass for food fuel and fiber grows, and agricultural productivity reaches its limits in the traditional breadbaskets such as the American Midwest and Brazil’s Cerrado, the world is turning to Africa to produce more crops.

At the same time, Africans are working to improve their own economic situations and are depending on traditional livelihoods, like agriculture and livestock, to achieve security.

Solutions

Our solutions to successful conservation agriculture:

  • Reactivate sustainable agricultural practices.

    African Wildlife Foundation knows that agricultural reform succeeds when sustainable practices result in better, more productive outputs and increased food and economic security. AWF works with rural communities to establish agreements where communities adhere to practices that foster conservation and, in exchange, AWF provides training and improved seeds that increase agricultural output. 

    In Central Kenya, we worked with about 7,000 small-scale coffee growers to improve the quality and quantity of their coffee production through environmentally friendly practices. Coffee farming overlaps with many of Kenya’s biologically rich regions; as a result, the country’s wildlife, forests, water, and other natural resources were overexploited, and deforestation was especially high. If growers adhere to conservation principles, however, coffee production can be both economically and ecologically beneficial. Through the Kenya Heartland Coffee Project—a groundbreaking initiative between AWF, the Starbucks Corp., and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—coffee farmers improved management of natural resources, increased productivity, decreased environmental impact on wildlife and landscapes, and implemented reforestation schemes around Aberdare and Mt. Kenya National Parks. The project benefited some 7,000 people directly and another 36,000 household members indirectly.

  • Provide access to markets.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), years of civil war had destroyed the infrastructure that allowed farmers to bring their crops to market. With limited opportunities and high poverty rates, people began to settle in forests where they could have access to more bushmeat and, at the same time, grow subsistence crops. These practices impacted both the forest landscape—critical to wildlife survival—and populations of wildlife within the forests, like bonobos. As an alternative, AWF, with financing from a Dutch grant and USAID, introduced the Congo Shipping Project. We trained farmers in conservation agriculture, providing guidelines for best practices that would allow them to see higher crop yields. We further purchased a barge that would take farmers’ crops from the remote parts of the Congo Heartland to markets in Kinshasa, thereby providing these farmers with sustainable livelihoods.

Projects

Explore some of our related projects:

  • Lupani Primary School
    Education for conservation in Zambia

    Education remains one of the major challenges facing Africa.

    In the Sekute community of Zambia, students often had to walk miles a day to attend school. Classes were...

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  • Inyambo Fish Farm
    Feeding the future through environmentally sustainable agriculture

    Overfishing threatens people and wildlife along the Zambezi River.

    The Zambezi river is home to more than 200 different species of fish, all of which contribute to...

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  • Congo Shipping Project
    Growing the DRC's agricultural options

    Civil war has led to poverty and environmental degradation. 

    Following years of social turmoil and civil war, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was left without...

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  • Starbucks Conservation Coffee
    Combatting deforestation and improving livelihoods

    Kenyan farmers needed a more profitable and sustainable crop.

    Arguably, the best-quality Arabica coffee on earth grows in East Africa’s volcanic soils—coffee so good...

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  • Kitengela Land Conservation
    Protecting habitat and communities near Kenya’s capital

    Human expansion is threatening wildlife outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

    For many years, local Maasai communities, their livestock, and wildlife comfortably shared the open...

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