One of the main aims of the Conservation Agriculture (CA)
Farmer Innovation Programme (FIP), which is implemented
by Grain SA and funded by The Maize Trust, is to understand,
improve and facilitate the implementation of CA
in smallholder farming systems in South Africa.
Through this process the programme expects to achieve significant
improvements in natural resource status and quality, allowing sustained
crop production intensification.
The farmer-centred innovation systems research process underpinning
the programme is based on working intensively with farmer
learning groups and local facilitators to scale out CA in and between
selected villages and study areas.
Within the learning groups, farmer innovators volunteer to set up
and manage farmer-managed adaptive trials in their backyards or
fields. These plots become the ‘learning venues’ for the whole learning
Farmer field school and action research methodologies are used
within the group to focus the learning on the actual features and
changes in the field throughout the season, such as growth and development
of the crops and soil health. The new CA practices are
tested against the ‘normal’ practice in the area as the controls.
During frequent learning events or workshops, farmers observe,
analyse and assess what is happening in the trials and discuss appropriate
decisions and management practices in view of continuous
adaptation. Short information provision and training sessions
(e.g. on special topics) are included in these workshops…