Adoption and impact of conservation agriculture among farming households in Kyankwanzi district, Uganda
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The agricultural sector in Uganda is challenged by a number of constraints including low technological adoption, limited financing, reduction in agricultural land, poor access to extension services and poor farming practices among others (World Bank report 2018). As part of the campaign to take care of some of the challenges, conservation agriculture package which involves minimal soil disturbance, retention of crop residues as mulch on the soil surface, and the use of crop rotations was proposed as a sustainable solution to agricultural problems in smallholder farming systems and has been promoted in parts of Uganda. In Kyankwanzi District, it was implemented by Rural Enterprise Development Services (REDS) from 2011 to 2015. This study determined the extent to which conservation agriculture has addressed the challenges faced by farmers in Kyankwanzi District. Specifically, the study determined: i) the level of adoption of conservation agriculture among smallholder farmers, ii) the factors that influence the adoption of conservation agriculture, and iii) the impact of conservation farming adoption on the income of farmers in Kyankwanzi District. The study was conducted in three sub-counties namely; Nkandwa, Wattuba and Kiryanongo in Kyankwanzi District. A sample of Ninety-one (91) households was selected from a population of 120 smallholder farmers using the purposive sampling method with the Yamane’s formulae (1967). Binomial probit regression model was used to investigate the driving factors of conservation agriculture whereas the propensity score matching (nearest neighbor) was used to assess the impact of conservation agriculture on income using SPSS and STATA packages. The level of adoption of conservation agriculture based on application of at least one conservation principle was 64.8% while non-adopters were 35.2%. Among the adopters, 58% applied only one of the CA principles, 5% applied only two principles and 37% applied all the three principles of conservation agriculture. However, only 17% of the total land holding for the households investigated was under CA. The results from the probit regression analysis indicated that: i). adoption of conservation agriculture among the households surveyed depended on access to agro-inputs (P ˂ 0.01), access to credit (P ˂ 0.05) and access to agricultural extension services (P ˂ 0.05); ii). information access through training significantly influenced adoption of CA (χ2 = 9.755, P = 0.002, α = 0.05); and iii). That the major source of extension service on CA significantly influenced adoption of CA (χ2 = 14.223, P=0.003, α= 0.05) ,with non-governmental organization (NGO) leading as a source of extension services (71.2%) followed by government (13%), farmer group (3%) and by other sources (1%). It is evident that exposure to information played a key role in enabling the uptake of CA. The propensity score matching (PSM) analysis, revealed that CA adopters on average earned eighty thousand shillings (Ug shs 80,000/=) more (P<0.001) and spent 3 units less of agro-inputs (P<0.05) than non-adopters per acre per season. These results suggest that conservation agriculture practices are reducing the cost of inputs per acre and agro-input cost per kilogram of produce harvested among smallholder farmers in Kyankwanzi District. This is particularly important for smallholder rural farmers where inputs such as improved seeds, pesticides and fertilizers are both costly and unreadily available. Fostering adoption of conservation agriculture has a good chance of improving the income status of households (poverty reduction) in the farming community. The study recommended increasing farmers' awareness of CA and its benefits via various means such as training/workshops, extended extension services and other possible channels to increase its adoption; and increasing farmer’s access to credit and agro-inputs. It is desirable that farmers adopt all the principles in order to attain the best returns from conservation agriculture. Farmer training as a means to attaining increased CA adoption should be strengthened and the contribution of NGOs in this regard is indispensable and should be encouraged. Conservation agriculture potentially increases the income and welfare of smallholder farmers, especially via reduction in unit cost of production and efforts to increase its adoption should be supported by adequate policy measures and it should be extended to other parts of the country where it has not yet been introduced in a bid to reduce poverty in the sector.