Building sustainable practice and understanding where science and technology can impact success.
Conservation Agriculture is an agricultural method that has been specifically designed for the small scale African farmer. It introduces an appropriate method to increase yield and impact livelihood in a truly sustainable manner.
Working with Foundations for Farming, an organization dedicated to improving sustainable farming practice for both small and large-scale growers in Zimbabwe, Rift Valley (through its Northern Farming subsidiary) continues to introduce and promote the principles of conservation agriculture to its farmers. These principles have widespread impact, with the techniques being dispersed within communities as they are seen to universally increase yields.
The conservation agriculture method based on the following key principles;
- Minimum soil disturbance
- Provision of soil cover – mulch
- Use of Crop mixing and rotation
- Use of high management techniques
- Timely implementation of all operations
- Precision farming
- Efficient application and use of inputs – ‘bang for buck’
Through the above method, yields improve and inputs are reduced. Furthermore, land retains its’ agricultural potential without degradation, allowing for sustainable land use whilst maintaining bio-diversity in the region.
Rift Valley Energy (RVE) has a successful history of the expansion of renewable energy, largely hydro power, in Tanzania. We intend building on RVE’s experience to apply solar energy to some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges in the region; specifically the ability to provide power to rural communities to impact small business development whilst also providing a solution to tobacco curing without need of solid fuel
The ‘Green revolution’ saw global agricultural yields dramatically improve, particularly in developing countries within South America and Asia. Largely as a result of the introduction of combined developments in high yielding seed, irrigation infrastructure and fertilizer improvement, productivity from the 1960’s has been impacted by 40 to 50% per capita in many countries in these regions. During the same period however, we have seen in Africa a general decline in production per capita by approximately 13%.
The principles of the green revolution would therefore seem ripe for adaptation to African agriculture, and yet yields have remained well below global averages. Despite significant investment in its application to poorer regions of the continent, the revolutions’ applied biotechnology, including research and development of genetically modified (GM) varieties, has not led to any significant gain to date. Perceived advantages remain unfulfilled due to a complicated set of circumstances that thwart the introduction of GM to most countries. These barriers now constrain further research and development, and have led to a convenient stalemate between pro GM and anti GM proponents, resulting in stalled legislation and a poor enabling environment for change. Furthermore, a widespread lack of land tenure regulation within subsistence level communities contributes to a reduced capacity for improvement in food security.
Rift Valley believes that despite these circumstances, there remains the opportunity to impact the prosperity of subsistence farmers by introducing the best and most innovative combination of appropriate technology and acceptable agricultural practice. By blending the existing science of successful open-pollinated seed varieties with Conservation Agriculture and applied nonmechanised farming principles, food sovereignty can indeed be maintained and sustainability accomplished. An alternative ‘Green revolution’ could impact the African scenario; improving yields, increasing productivity and allowing adaptation to climate change.
Rift Valley plans to roll out a programme in northern Mozambique that introduces a tailor-made agricultural model to sample communities that are currently struggling at subsistence farming level. The programme will be designed to bring together the most successful methods of Conservation Agriculture in Southern Africa, along with appropriate-scale, low-cost commercial agricultural models from uniquely successful communities such as the Amish in USA.
At the same time, we will lend our support to advocate change to crippling land tenure legislation wherever possible. We believe Africa’s frustrated agricultural potential will linger without the ability of farmers to raise capital against land title and we remain convinced that security of tenure will be key to improved prosperity throughout the continent. Rift Valley is excited to explore these initiatives that offer an opportunity to unlock the potential of a homegrown ‘Green revolution’ for Africa.
A continuing priority is to adhere to international standards where possible. Currently, our tobacco and avocado businesses are audited by the following:
- Global G.A.P.
- Tesco Nuture
- Albert Heijn