Minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation (IFAD)

Read at : IFAD electronic newsletter

General feature on Conservation Agriculture

The world is facing one of its biggest challenges to date: producing more food for a growing population without increasing the land surface used to do so. It is estimated that by 2050, farmers around the world will have to produce 70 per cent more food to feed a growing, more urbanized population, and they will have to do so with the likelihood that arable land in developing countries will increase by no more than 12 per cent.

This monumental challenge can be met only if sustainability is the foundation of approaches to food security and poverty reduction in every country and every community. No other strategy has a hope of feeding current populations while protecting and restoring the natural resources that future generations will need to support their livelihoods.

“Land is each smallholder’s chief capital asset, and the quality of that land is one of the single most important factors in determining a smallholder’s quality of life. In order to improve nutrient content as well as productivity, traditional ‘business as usual’ production practices are no longer viable,” explained Geoffrey Livingston, regional economist at IFAD. “Responsible stewardship of land, water and tree cover is no longer just an option but rather an economic imperative for the vast majority of smallholders in the region.”

The agriculture sector will have to transform itself to become more community-focused, and establish an appropriate local balance of crops, livestock, fisheries and agroforestry systems to avoid overuse of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers and to protect soil fertility and ecosystem services – while increasing production and income. It will be imperative to work within ecosystems, using natural processes and a mixture of new and traditional technologies.

What is Conservation Agriculture?

Conservation Agriculture (CA) aims to achieve sustainable and profitable agriculture by promoting three principles: minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation.



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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