Adoption,impact and spatial diffusion of conservation farming among the small-scale farmers in Chipata District: The case of Southern agricultural farming block

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Phiri, Kenneth
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Since 2006 the Conservation Farming Unit (CFU) of the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has been promoting Conservation Farming (CF) in Chipata District among the Small-scale Farmers (SsF) and in 2008 the Government of the Republic of Zambia also stepped up the promotion of CF among the small-scale farmers. The aim of this study was to find out the channels of communication through which the SsF received CF messages and the extent of the adoption of CF in the Southern Agricultural Farming Block of Chipata. The objectives of the study were to: (i) find out the rate of adoption of CF and CF practices by the SsF, (ii) examine the impact of CF among the SsF in the study area. (iii) Identify barriers to adoption of CF among the SsF and (iv) to determine the spatial pattern of adoption of CF in the study area. Data were collected by interviewing a sample of SsF and some key informants who included CFU Officers, the District Agriculture officer, Agriculture Extension Officers, Farmer Coordinators and Lead/Contact farmers. The analysis of quantitative data involved the use of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 11). Pearson’s Product-Moment Correlation Co-efficient and the Student’s t test were used to test correlations between age and adoption of CF, period of stay in the area and adoption of CF and the significant difference of maize production between basins and ridges respectively. Results revealed that there is a gradual increase in the rate of adoption of CF by the SsF in the Southern Agricultural Farming Block. However, it has also been noted that CF has impacted positively on the production of crops, particularly maize and cotton, by the small-scale farmers. Thus where farmers practised CF, they were able to harvest more crop than where conventional methods of farming were practised. In terms of the extent of diffusion, CF has covered the entire study area and this has taken place mainly through hierarchical diffusion. This was from CFU to Farmer Coordinators, to Contact farmers and finally to all small-scale farmers or from MACO to Agriculture Extension Officers, to Lead farmers and finally to all small-scale farmers. The prevailing situation in the Southern Agricultural Farming Block (SAFB) was that the small-scale farmers who adopted CF on one hand had also continued with conventional farming (Conv.F). However, the persistence of these conventional methods of farming and the Field Day Demonstration centre (FDD) (Mtenguleni) which is not at the mean travel distance to all farmers in the farming block and the unreliable maize market act as barriers to adoption of CF. In view of these findings the following recommendations were made:SsF should not base adoption of CF on what they are to be given by the promoters but on the benefits arising from practising it such as high production of maize; CFU should open up other Field Day Demonstration centres in the study area and Government should ensure that all Agriculture Camps (ACs) have Agriculture Extension Officers (AEOs) so that the ratio between the small-scale farmers and these officers is minimal in their respective catchment areas.
Soil Conservation