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Farming pioneers: making every drop count

April 2014

When water is scarce, you have to make every drop count. That simple principle lies at the heart of ‘conservation farming’ – a set of agricultural techniques designed to grow food in near-drought conditions.

After trials that showed dramatic success in Zimbabwe, we have now introduced the practice in several other countries.

April is harvest time across southern Africa. After months of hunger and hardship, poor families are finally gathering in their maize.

Once again, those who practise conservation farming will grow much more food than their neighbours.

The Flickr gallery below shows how these techniques work, and why we are so committed to promoting them.

To view the gallery full-screen, simply press play and then select the enlarge button on the bottom right. To show the captions, select 'Show info' on the top right.

Daring to be different

Conservation farming enables farmers to make the most of their precious, limited natural resources – water and soil.

But it involves some major changes from the agricultural practices that people have been using for generations.

Imagine: when you have been farming one way all your life, daring to risk a dramatically different approach. You are gambling with your family’s food, and the stakes are very high.

Going halves

Like many newcomers to conservation farming, when grandparents Pauline and Kenneth Ndlovu first started out, they didn’t dare risk their whole harvest. So they divided their field into two evenly sized plots.

On one, they continued to use an ox-drawn plough, just as they had done for decades.

On the other, they put the new techniques into practice, making small, individual planting holes.

The results spoke for themselves – the conservation farming plot gave them five times as much maize and twenty five times as many groundnuts as their traditional farming plot. Since then, they haven’t looked back.

Scaling up

Pauline and Kenneth Ndlovu Pauline and Kenneth’s family is just one of thousands whose lives have been transformed by conservation farming. 

In Zimbabwe, our partners have been championing these techniques since 2005. We began with small projects focusing on a few dozen farmers at a time.

Seeing the dramatic results, we soon scaled our work up – in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

With learning events and visits between countries, our partners and individual farmers were able to see the transformation for themselves.

Conservation farming is now a key feature of our agricultural projects across Africa, from Ghana to Malawi.

And in Zimbabwe, where it all began, our conservation farming manual is in use in every agricultural college in the country.

Please help us to reach more families like Pauline and Kenneth’s by giving what you can today.

Find out more

• Discover more of our work in Africa
• Learn about a community in Malawi who now have more security and more food.

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