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Conservation Agriculture

In South Africa, crop production systems based on intensive and continuous soil tillage have led to excessively high soil degradation rates. This adds to the growing problems with profitability and poverty in some of the rural areas. There is general agreement that sustainable and economically viable agriculture will be achieved through the adoption of regenerative Conservation Agriculture principles and practices. Conservation Agriculture is seen as an ideal system for sustainable and climate-smart agricultural intensification, through which farmers can attain higher levels of productivity and profitability while improving soil health and the environment.

Conservation Agriculture Farmer Innovation Programme: rationale and motivation

There is now worldwide consensus that plough-based farming, as still widely practised, has unsustainable elements, whose continued promotion and application endangers global capacities to respond to the food security concerns. Ploughing and removal of crop residues after harvest leave soil naked and vulnerable to wind and rain, resulting in gradual, often unnoticed erosion of soil. This is like tire wear on your car — unless given the attention and respect it deserves, catastrophe is only a matter of time. Erosion also puts carbon into the air where it contributes to climate change.

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The CA Farmer Innovation Programme for smallholders has been implemented in the Okahlamba District Municipality (Bergville) area of KwaZulu-Natal since September 2013 as a joint initiative between Grain SA and Mahlathini Development Foundation.

KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

The Grain SA farmer-centred Innovation System approach has been instrumental to the success of the CA project intervention in Bergville and was introduced into other communities and maize producing areas within the province to scale out (expand) CA.


This project was initiated in 2013 through collaboration between the Grain SA CA Farmer Innovation Programme (FIP) and the Ottosdal No-till Club. A number of key stakeholders, who could play a role in the implementation of the project, were identified and involved at the start of the project.

Reitz and Vrede

The north-eastern Free State Province has been identified by Grain SA as a suitable target area to promote CA among farmers in order to improve their sustainability and profitability.

Southern KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape

The CA FIP for smallholders has been implemented in the Matatiele area of the Eastern Cape since September 2013 and then expanded in 2015 to include areas in Southern KZN as a joint initiative between Grain SA and Mahlathini Development Foundation (MDF).

Other Projects

Sandy Soils Development Committee (SSDC)

Investigating the impacts of conservation agriculture practices on soil health as key to sustainable dry land maize production systems on semi-arid sandy soils with water tables in the north western Free State. The current project builds on previous projects funded by the Maize Trust, where the main objective had been the implementation and evaluation of various cultivation practice options for sustainable dry land maize production systems on semi-arid sandy soils with water tables in the north western Free State.

Carbon Footprint
Western Cape Winter Cereal Region

Phase 1 of this project aimed to calculate the carbon footprint in kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per ton of different winter grain farming regimes from existing data and a predicted ideal future scenario in the Western Cape. The current scenario includes the main inputs and yields for winter grain cultivation using the conventional (CT) and conservation agriculture (CA) farming regimes. The future scenario includes an ideal but realistic CA system predicted to be adopted by most grain producers twenty years into the future with corresponding inputs and yields.


Shepherds of the Soil 1 - Reflections on Conservation Agriculture in South Africa


Shepherds of the Soil 2 - Small-scale Conservation Agriculture in South Africa


Shepherds of the Soil 3 - Conservation Agriculture in Reitz, Free State


Shepherds of the Soil 4 - Conservation Agriculture in Vrede, Free State


Shepherds of the Soil 5 - Conservation Agriculture in Migdol, North West


Shepherds of the Soil 6 - Conservation Agriculture in Viljoenskroon, Free State


About CA

Shepherds of the Soil 7 - Conservation Agriculture in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal


Shepherds of the Soil 8 - Conservation  Agriculture in Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal


Shepherds of the Soil 9 - Conservation Agriculture and Cover Crops


Shepherds of the Soil 10 - Conservation Agriculture: A Fresh Approach

Part 1 - The Soil Connection


Part 2 - How to get Going


Part 3 - Crop Systems









View the latest Conservation Agriculture manuals.

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