Which are the SLM groups?

Which are the SLM groups?

What is it?Benefits
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    Integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) combines different methods of managing nutrients and water. It is based on 1) maximizing organic fertilizer use, 2) minimizing nutrients loss and 3) using inorganic fertilizer where applicable.  ISFM is effective when combined with water harvesting.

    ISFM can regenerate soils degraded through loss of soil organic matter and/or nutrient loss. It can also benefit soils suffering from physical degradation and aridification. Six low-cost ISFM technologies are:

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  ISFM can be used in all parts of SSA.  The specific technologies vary.  Areas with low and rapidly declining soil fertility are the key targets for ISFM.  ISFM is particularly applicable in mixed crop-livestock systems where there are abundant resources to recycle.  Not suitable for rangelands.  Limiting factors: access to and availability of organic matter – residues, manure, compost; awareness and knowledge; labour for compost; affordability of chemical fertilizer.

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Covering ground with crop residues
     
     
     
     
    manuring and composting
     
     
     
     
    planting nitrogen-fixing crops
     
     
     
     
    Integrating agroforestry
     
     
     
     
    Applying rock phosphate
     
     
     
     
    microdosing with inorganic fertilizer
     
     
     
     

     

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    The benefits of ISFM are increased soil organic matter and biomass, replenished soil nutrients, and improved soil water-holding capacity to support drought-tolerant cropping systems.  These increase food security, income, enhance climate change resilience and improve livelihoods.

     

    Examples from the field:

     

    • Mali: micro-fertilizing pearl millet resulted in a 50-70% gain.
    • Ghana: zaï pits for water harvesting together with micro-fertilization of sorghum yielded a 50-100% gain.
    • Cameroon: using green manure from Tithonia on beans resulted in a 10-55% gain.
     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio: All types of ISFM practices result in high levels of benefits during the short-term establishment phase as well as in the long-term maintenance period.

     

     
     
     
     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Conservation agriculture (CA) is a farming system that combines and integrates soil, water and biological resource management. CA follows three principles of ‘pillars’; read below to learn more.

    The fundamental principle of CA is minimum soil disturbance (no-till or zero tillage).  This reduces the exposure of soil organic matter to oxygen and thus reduces their mineralization.  Seeds are directly drilled into cover crops or mulch. There may be need for special equipment, such as those shown in the pictures, to penetrate hard soils.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Permanent soil cover with vegetation or residues increases the organic matter content of soils, increases their porosity and hence improves their ability to absorb and retain water. This reduces soil evaporation, protects the soil surface from raindrop splash, and leads to less surface runoff and soil erosion.  It also suppresses weeds. In the initial years of CA, farmers may use herbicides or hand weeding to reduce the weed population. The use of herbicides and weeding falls after a few years, as the number of weed seeds is reduced and their growth is increasingly hindered by soil cover.

    Crop rotation reduces the risk of pests, diseases and weed infesta­tion. Typical systems of rotation are cereals followed by legumes and fodder crops. If smallholder farmers have difficulties in crop rotation, they can use inter­cropping.

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  CA has proven to work in a variety of agro-ecological zones and farming systems – high or low rainfall areas, degraded soils, multiple crop­ping systems, and areas with labour shortages. It has good potential for spread in dry environments due to its water saving ability – though mulching materials can be a constraint in these zones. It is mainly used for annual crops. CA increases tolerance to changes in tem­perature and rainfall including incidences of drought and flooding. Upscaling requires a change of the land user’s mind-set, support for no-till tools and equipment, and technical guidance.  Critical constraints to adoption appear to be competing uses for crop residues, increased labour demand for weeding initially, and lack of access to tools.

     

     
     
     
     
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    Training on the use of a jab planter for direct seeding, Burkina Faso. (John Ashburner)
     
     
     
     
    Direct seeding with special animal traction equipment, Zambia. (Josef Kienzle)
     
     
     
     
    A no-till seeder at work on a large-scale farm in Cameroon. (Josef Kienzle)
     
     
     
     

     

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    CA is considered a major component of a ‘new green revolution’ in SSA. CA has many benefits for both agricultural production and environmental sustainability.  CA gradually increases crop yields, makes production more reliable during droughts and can reduce labour and fuel use in the long-term, which translates into savings in production costs. It mitigates climate change impact by adding more carbon to soils (carbon sequestration) and by reducing GHG emissions.

     

    Examples from the field:

     

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio:  CA results in very high benefit-cost ratios in the long-term.  If farmers have to buy new machinery and tools in initial years, they may see only small positive revenue in the short-term due to initial extra costs. Afterwards, large-scale farmers benefit from reduced labour and fuel costs, and small farmers see some increased yields and soil fertility. Often it takes 4-5 years of continued CA application to show significant increases in crop yields. Ecosystem benefits require a number of years to show.

     

     
     
     
     
    • Ghana: while no-till reduced labour requirements by 22%, farmers saw a yield gain from 150-400% in maize.
    • Kenya:  farmers practicing CA gained a 100-150% yield increase in wheat and maize.
    • Tanzania:  maize yields doubled and sunflower increased by 140-360%. In the severe drought year of 2004, CA farmers managed to harvest 90 kg/ha of maize because of better moisture conservation.
     
     
     
     

     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Cross-slope barriers are measures established on sloping lands: they are in the form of earth or soil bunds, stone lines, or vegetative strips. Their effect is achieved by reducing steepness and/or length of slope. The purpose is to reduce runoff velocity and soil loss. Thus, they contribute to soil, water and nutrient conserva­tion.  Terraces are not usually constructed per se, but rather developed gradually behind the barriers, as a result of soil movement from the upper to the lower part of the structures.  Erosion between the barriers helps to achieve the levelling of the terrace bed.

    While cross-slope barriers are primarily intended to reduce soil erosion, they also ease cultivation between the structures, which are usually sited along contours. However, in high rainfall areas, they may be graded at 0.5-2.0% across the slope to allow safe discharge of excess surface water, along the barriers, to reach watercourses.

    Some common technologies used by smallholder farmers include:

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption: The measures are applicable on gentle to steep slopes. In sub-humid and humid areas, cross-slope barriers protect against soil erosion. In semi-arid areas, they are employed for in situ water conservation. They help cope with extreme rainfall events.

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

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    In sub-humid areas, they can improve water management through reducing runoff and soil erosion. In semi-arid areas, cross-slope barriers increase water infiltration and storage.  Overall, they help maintain soil fertility, increase crop yields and underpin food security.

     

    Examples from the field:

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio: The short-term benefit-cost ratio for cross-slope barriers is usually low due to the high investment costs. It can take two years or more until the barriers lead to a positive return. In the long-term, the benefit-cost ratio is high.

     

     
     
     
     
    Kenya: farmers using grass strips or fanya juu measures improved their maize yield by 10-45%.
    Tanzania: in the West Usambara Highlands, crop yields of maize and beans increased by 10-85% from implementing bench terraces, fanya juu or grass strips.
    Ethiopia: for an original slope of 15%, after cross-slope barriers are introduced, yield on sorghum doubled. For an initial slope of 35%, the productivity benefit is even greater as the technology helps to increase yield on even steeper slopes.
     
     
     
     
     

     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Rainwater harvesting (RWH) refers to technologies that collect rainwater to make it available for agricultural production or domestic purposes. RWH minimizes effects of seasonal variations in water availability, and enhances reliability of production in drylands.

    RWH systems consist of three components:

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  RWH is most relevant in semi-arid and sub-humid zones with poorly distributed rains and/or areas with common seasonable droughts.  It is mainly used for supplementary watering of cereals, vegetables, fodder crops and trees, but also to provide water for domestic and stock use, and sometimes for fish ponds. RWH can be applied on highly degraded soils. Micro-catchments (collecting runoff within the field) are more suitable for areas with relatively reliable rainfall. Macro-catchments (collecting flow from a larger catchment) are effective in areas with fewer runoff events. 

    The RWH techniques recommended must be prof­itable for land users and local communities, and techniques must be simple, inexpensive and easily manageable. Incentives for the construction of macro-catchments, small dams and roof catchments might be needed, since they often require high investment costs.  The greater the maintenance needs, the less suc­cessfully the land users and / or the local community will adopt the technique.

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

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    Overall, RWH contributes to food security and healthy households – with access to safer and more sufficient water supplies.  It delivers multiple benefits. RWH reduces the risk of crop failure and enhances agricultural productivity especially in drier areas.  Combining with other SLM interventions – such as composting, mulching, vegetation covers – it can help increase water infiltration, reduce evaporation loss and improve soil fertility.

     

    Examples from the field:

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio: All RWH incur high initial costs and thus low benefit-cost ratios in the short term. This is especially true for macro-catchment systems. Due to the high level of maintenance activities, the costs for micro-catchments are slightly less positive in the long-term than for roof catchments and small dams/ponds, etc. In the long-term, the overall benefits and costs ratio is high to very high for all systems.

     

     
     
     
     
    • Burkina Faso: farmers implementing RWH for millet production improved their yields by 30-400%.
    • Tanzania: farmers using RWH for maize and paddy increased yields. For vegetables, the technology reaped returns to labour of between 10 US$ and 200 US$ per person-day.
     
     
     
     
     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Smallholder Irrigation (SI) is applicable to farm units that typically cover less than 0.5 ha. The unit may be managed either by an individual land user or by groups/communities. The guiding principle of SI is ‘more crop per drop’.

    SI comprises a group of practices that help achieve water use efficiency in irrigated agricultural production. This is attained through better 1) collection and abstraction, 2) storage, 3) distribution and 4) application in the field. Two main categories of SI are traditional surface irrigation and the more recent micro-irrigation, including drip irri­gation that is more commonly used for the production of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

     

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  SI is valid for all types of agro-ecological zones. It is most applicable to arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas, where a small amount of irrigation water leads to a significant yield increase and/or reduction in crop failure rates. SI builds on the principles of supplementary irrigation, with rainfall as the principle source of water, and sup­plementary irrigation helping during dry spells and extending the growing period. Soils with high sodium content need special care due to the risk of waterlogging.  The major constraint to SI is availability of water.  Financing (high costs of equipment) and the lack of a func­tioning market system to sell farm products can also be constraints. It is important that access to financial services is provided to land users. Land user organizations can pool land users and resources together to develop SI.

     

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Low-cost drip irrigation for vegetable production on a small plot in Niger. (William Critchley)

     
     
     
     

     

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    Smallholder irrigation management systems can build resilience to droughts and temperature increase. Such systems also enhance labour and land productivity. This helps land users move from subsistence farming to producing cash crops. Through SIM, agricultural production risks are managed and farmers increase their income. As such, communities can achieve food security and poverty reduction directly from this SLM practice.

     

    Examples from the field:

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio:  Across all its varied technologies, SIM delivers good benefit-cost ratios in both the short-term and long-term. In the long-term, the return on investment is high. Returns to labour are much higher than for traditional methods – particularly under African Market Garden systems.

     

     
     
     
     
    • Niger: lettuce yields under SIM rose more than 70%.
    • West Africa: establishing ‘African Market Gardens’ (drip irrigation combined with high-value crops) has doubled the profit of gardens compared to those irrigated with traditional methods.
    • Zambia: using treadle pumps (foot-powered) increased incomes of small-scale producers up to 1,700 US$ per 0.25 hectare, compared to 125 US$ under bucket irrigation.
     
     
     
     

     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Agroforestry (AF) is a collective name for land use practices that integrate trees into cropping and livestock systems in order to achieve various benefits and services. The integration can be either in a spatial mixture (e.g. crops with trees) or in a temporal sequence (e.g. improved fallows or rotations).  Agroforestry practices include:

     

     

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  Agroforestry is suitable for all types of systems where woody and non-woody species can be mixed. It is mainly applicable to small-scale land users – but also valuable in tea/coffee plantations. In drylands with problems of wind erosion and low soil fertility, agroforestry is employed, particularly in the form of parkland systems or windbreaks.  One particular tree – Faidherbia albida or ‘the fertilizer tree’ – is especially popular in parts of Africa. It is non-competitive with crops, dropping its leaves in the growing season while fixing nitrogen in the soil and providing seed pods for animal fodder.

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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    Agroforestry systems provide multiple benefits to surrounding areas. They help stop and reverse land degradation by providing favorable microclimates. They help buffer extreme weather events. AF provides permanent cover, improves organic carbon content and helps to enhance soil fertility. Overall land productivity improves. Crop yields can increase under an agroforestry system if the density of trees is right. Aggregate yields improve because products from the trees/shrubs compensate for any crop loss.

     

    Examples from the field:

     

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio:  Agroforestry systems overall result in high benefit-costs ratios in the long term. Certain practices yield positive short-term benefits, such as improved fallows and multistory systems. .

     

     
     
     
     
    • East Africa: in the highlands, farmers increased their net income by US$ 62-122 after practicing AF
    • Malawi: using improved tree fallow rotations, farmers increased maize yields by 110-190%
     
     
     
     
     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Sustainable forestry (SF), especially in the drylands, seeks to 1) protect and maintain undisturbed forest areas, and 2) sustainably manage forests for productive purposes to balance profitability and ecological integrity. SF aims to ensure that the goods and services from the forest meet present-day needs while also being maintained to contribute to long-term development and environmental protection.

    SF includes the following actions:

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  Sustainable forest management is applicable to, and crucial for, all primary and secondary forests: these may be natural forests in drylands, rainforests in tropical and mountain areas, or plantations.  To implement, a legal and institutional framework, including the integration of forests in overall sustainable landscape and rural development planning, is needed.

     

     
     
     
     
    The main techniques include spatial zoning for various uses, restricted access, protective measures, promotion of best practices in non-wood forest harvesting, grazing management and improved governance.
     
     
     
     

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    Sustainable forestry management promotes biodiversity, protects against water and wind erosion, and improves water management. Forest diversity is a prerequisite in ensuring effective ecosystem function. A well-managed and diverse forest can also adapt better to changes, and maintain its resilience to climate variability.

    SFM also improves livelihoods and human well-being through income diversification, enhanced food security and poverty alleviation. Forests are a common resource pool. How well the forest is maintained will determine how effectively communities will be able to deal with climate change impacts.

     

    Examples from the field:

     

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio:  Assisted natural regeneration of degraded lands is one type of sustainable forestry management that delivers very high long-term benefits. In addition, cost-benefit analyses of community forests indicate that there are more environmental and economic benefits than costs from this type of forestry management.

     

     
     
     
     
    • Burkina Faso:  villagers promote natural regeneration of surrounding forests. Fuel wood is the most important product collected from the forest, accounting for 28% of household environmental and forest income
    • Cameroon:  community-based forestry delivers positive long-term benefits, including a growing ecotourism industry. The cultural diversity is an asset for the country: it brings in ecotourism revenues annually.
     
     
     
     

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What is it?Benefits
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    Range and pasture management aims to make best use of Africa’s extensive grazing areas for production of livestock. Many of these zones cannot be cropped – and livestock production is the only option. These systems are characterized by continuous adaptation to uncertain environments, especially climate. Systems can follow practices of pastoralism (group use of common resources) or rangeland management (often individually owned). Many of the pastoral systems are richly underpinned by traditional knowledge.

    A common traditional strategy of pastoralism is to closely monitor grazing and water resources, destock in times of drought (often by accepting that livestock will be lost as well as sold), and aim for rapid response post-drought through livestock restocking. Restocking is often based initially on sheep and goats which reproduce quickly. It also seeks to optimize mobility, whether seasonal, or following erratic rain.

    These pastoral strategies of livestock management can be economically viable and environmentally sustainable. They need not necessarily lead to overgrazing as commonly thought.

     
     
     
     

    Potential for adoption:  These systems are mainly found in arid and semi-arid areas. They comprise primary production systems for marginal drylands which suffer from relatively low inherent productivity due to aridity, altitude, temperature and/or a combination of all factors.

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Cattle and camels in a pastoral system, Kenya. (Wiliam Critchley)
     
     
     
     

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    A major benefit of such systems is combining economic production in marginal lands with environmental protection – of biodiversity and of ecosystem function.  The drylands are, surprisingly to some, very biodiverse. Another benefit is that areas of pastoral production and rangelands play a vital role in storing, and further sequestering, carbon. Due to their vast areas, the drylands of Africa are important sinks of carbon in both the soil and the vegetation: this is simultaneously an opportunity and a threat.

     

    Examples from the field:

     
     
     
     

    Benefit-Cost Ratio:  General benefit-cost analysis is not presented here as it is difficult to make generalisations. The benefits and costs vary enormously from system to system – and because of drought cycles, from year to year.

     

     
     
     
     
    Now that you have learned about the 8 SLM practices, proceed to learn how to scale up by clicking on "Next".
     
     
     
     
    • Botswana: communal area production via pastoralism exceeds returns from ranchers in Australia and US by 3 times per hectare.
    • Mali:  transhumant pastoral systems yield, on average, two times the amount of protein per hectare per year compared to sedentary agropastoralists and ranchers in US/Australia.
     
     
     
     

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