This process was a joint effort between MDF and Lima RDF in the Mt Frere area where Conservation Agriculture was tried out in plots where environmental conservation and wattle clearing had been undertaken. Adaptive trials with mulching of plots under Conservation Agriculture were also undertaken in two communities in Matatiele; Nkau and Sehutlong.

Below is the action plan designed for this process with the farmers.

Table 1: Action plan for Ntenentyane (Mt Frere) farmer level experimentation process

Activity Timeframes Person Responsible Notes
1. Consultation with Farmers in the area

-briefing and introduction to Joint Experimentation

-selection of study sites and participants

-final experimental design and crop selection

  1. 30 September
In Ntenetyana: Lumko, Teboho and Ndumiso

In Ficksburg: Mpho

Soil samples will be done on all plots during this period as it takes almost 3 weeks to process results.

– Results of the soil analysis will be shared with farmers and how best-to-follow recommendations will be discussed

2. Land preparation

– Spraying weeds (1st Week of October)

– tilling the soil

-applying recommendations

– securing seedlings

1-15 October Investigating Farmers and Facilitator

In Ntenetyana: Ndumiso Mhlongo

In Ficksburg: Mpho

– A till/no till idea will be explored with Farmers and Conservation Agriculture Specialists from Mahlatini (Teboho and Mazwi)
3. Fencing of Plots 1- 15 October Investigating Farmers/ Project Only where necessary. This can be the farmers responsibility and show of commitment to the project
4. Planting 15 October- 15 November Facilitators and Investigating Farmers Include buying of seedlings
5. Measuring germination (3 weeks after planting) rates and plant growth 15 Nov- March 2016 (Harvest) Investigating Farmers
6. Measuring each crop yield March 2016 (Harvest) Facilitators and Investigating Farmers
7. Top-dressing (6 weeks after planting) 10 December 2015 Mazwi and Teboho
8. Writing report on preliminary and final findings March 2016 Lumko, Teboho, Mpho, Ndumiso Separate Reports between Organisations
9. Presenting Findings to Stakeholders March- April 2016 Facilitators and Investigating Farmers Photographs will be used to monitor, troubleshoot with specialists and produce visual feedback material (Ndumiso)

An introductory meeting was held in the community jointly with Lima RDF on 8 September 2015. This is also a PID farmer experimentation site. An adaptation trial as well as few home garden trials were planned for the season. $ Participants were identified. The adaptation trial is small distance from the village as this is a wattle cleared area that was earmarked for productive use. That was part of the experimental process as Lima is trying to facilitate use of land reclaimed form wattle infestation in productive ways and implementation of CA seemed a great opportunity

The table below outlines the small trials planned for this group

table 2: trial plot layout for participants in Ntenentyane

Participating Farmers Mr Maphasa Mrs Manyala Mr Mvambi Totals
Total Area TR- 300m2

CA- 200m2

TR- 300m2

CA- 300m2

TR- 100m2

CA- 100m2

TR: 700m2

CA:600m2

HOME 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise
100m2– Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric 100m2– Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric
WATTLE(NO LIME) 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise
100m2 Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric 100m2– Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric
WATTLE(LIME) 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise 100m2– Maize/Beans-Traditional Practise
100m2– Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric 100m2– Maize/Beans-Conservation Agric

word-imageFor this group a rain gauge was installed and the farmer level monitoring forms and system was designed (See appendix 1) for the Farmer level monitoring form).A camera was provided to the group to take photos as part of their monitoring process. An action plan outlining the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders was also done (See Appendix 2)

Right/above: Planting demonstration at Mrs Manyala’s trial plot in Ntenentyane

Matatiele

Nkau

We introduced the idea of CA in Nkau in the 2014-2105 planting season. Generally the response was only lukewarm as participants did not look after their trials well and growth was somewhat disappointing. For this season, the local facilitator Bulelwa Dzingwa took it upon herself to find more enthusiastic people and set up an experimentation group with 7 participants. 6 participants have implemented the basic 1st level experiment and Mrs Dzingwa has worked on the adaptive trial as well as a number of other options.

Participants were encouraged to spray their own plots. This process of spraying was assisted by placing a dye in the knapsack sprayer so that participants could check for the coverage they were achieving in their spraying and adjust their paths accordingly

Spraying at Jackie Nldovu’s trial plot:

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Mapontsho Ranqabang spraying her trial plot. She has a nice layer of maize stover as ground-cover. The strips of blue dye to show he spraying progress are visible on the plot:

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Below: Mrs Makemelo Nkejane’s plot. Despite the drought and subsequent weed pressure she did have some germination and growth

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Bulelwa Dzingwa also did the mulching experiment and a 5x10m plot of the summer cover crops. The latter however did not germinate at all

Below: Bulelwa’s mulching trial . In the foreground is the beans plot and behind that the Maize and bean inter-crop. On the right hand side are the same plots without mulch. The mulched plots germinated and grew better than their un-mulched counterparts. Mulch had to be redone a few times during the season given the tendency to blow away and get washed away in storms.

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Sehutlong

In this area we continued with three of the participants from the 2014-2105 season and one new participant who all continued with the basic layout of close spaced intercropping of maize, beans and cowpeas.

In addition two participants conducted a mulching trial (Matshepo Futhu and Mamolekeng Lebeoua). The experiments were planted on 30 October 2015; thus much earlier than any of the other plantings in the area.

Mastepho Futhu also planted a summer cover crop plot- but had 0% germination on that plot.

The layout of their plots are illustrated below:

Trial

(All plots are mulched)

Maize & Beans Maize Maize Beans
Control

(un-mulched)

Maize & Beans Maize Maize Beans

Figure 2: Layout of the mulching experiments for the farmer trials.

Mtshepo Futhu’s mulching trial; the maize and bean intercropped plot shows somewhat patchy germination but reasonable growth. Weed suppression was very good with no weeding required:

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Mrs Futhu’s maize only un-mulched plot. Weeding had to be done 2-3 times, germination was worse than the mulched plots and consequent ground cover was very little:

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