Conservation Agriculture Builds a Better Life for Phumelele Hlongwane in Bergville

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Case Study 1: Conservation Agriculture builds a better life for
Phumelele Hlongwane in Bergville
Authors: Phumzile Ngcoboand Erna Kruger
Mahlathini Development Foundation. 2 Forresters Lane Pietermaritzburg, 3201.
www.mahlathini.org. Cell: (+27)828732289
Phumelele Thembisile Hlongwane is a 38 year old woman and a mother of 6 fromEzibomvini
village near Emmaus, Bergville area. She says her passion stems from agriculture’s ability to enable
her to be self-reliant, and in her case the key is diversification of her farming system. She has a
vegetable garden in her homestead planted to a wide variety of crops including brassicas, cabbage,
spinach, tomatoes, potatoes and green peppers. She owns the following livestock: 3 cattle, 6 goats, 2
pigs and a flock of indigenous chickens. She also grows field crops such as potatoes, sweet potatoes,
maize, drybeans and soy.
”Maka Ndoza”, as she is affectionately known joined the Grain SA CA project in 2014 and is now the
community facilitator of her Ezibomvini learning group.She is a member of the village savings and
loan association, along with other members of her learning group. Here they save andtake small
loans for inputs and other livelihood necessities. She is also one of the pioneers of the programmes
local farmer centre model, which she runs jointly with her sister in law Zodwa Zikode, who is also a
member of the learning group.
Phumelele mentioned that the primary aim of the farmer centre is
to provide production inputs to farmers in quantities and at prices
they can afford. The farmer centre provides seed, fertilizer and
chemicals, and has really increased the agriculture activity in her
community as farmers are gaining access to small quantities of
inputs, such as 1 kg and even up to entire bags of seed or fertilizer.
“Many people in the village havestopped planting because they
cannot afford inputs.” said Phumelele, stressing the importance of
the farmer centre.
The income derived from the farmer centre is not large and isalso
quite seasonal. To date they have made a profit of around R300 to
R600 per month from sales, most of which has been re-invested in
buying stock.
Right: Offerings form the local farmer centre also includes some
local produce, to augment the sale of inputs in the slow periods
While her vegetable garden yielded some income for her, this
has been periodic because she only sells surplus, leaving her
with social grants as predominant source of income. Field crops
are also primarily produced for household consumption.
Right: Phumelele’s vegetable garden (November 2016)
Conservation Agriculture Experimentation
Phumelele’s CA trials were continued for the fourth season. The
layout of her plots for the 2016/2017 seasonis shown below.
She is practicing crop rotation as well as intercropping and
planting of cover crop mixes; both summer (sunflower, millet,
sunnhemp) and winter (saia oats, fodder ryeand fodder
radish).
Figure 1: Phumelele Hlongwane’s experimental plot layout for the2016/2017 growing season
Crop yield results
In the 2015-2016 season, Phumelele outperformed almost all the other smallholders and managed
to get rather impressive yields at a time when most other farmers’ crops failed. She experimented
with a number of different crop combinations in her CA plots. Her maize control was also a CA plot,
but with use of her own fertilizer and seed options. Her experimental plots included:
Intercropping of maize with beans
Intercropping of maize with cowpea
Planting cover crops in between rows of maize (relay cropping)
Intercropping maize with lablab
Planting a single crop of maize (control)
(10)
M + B
(5)
M
Control plot
(8)
M + CP
(6)
sunhemp,
millet and
sunflower
(3)
M + B
Con-
trol
plot
(9)
M + B
(7)
M
(4)
LL
(2) M +
runoff
plot
(1)
M
Planting a single crop of Lab-lab (Dolichos) beans and
Intercropping of maize with Lab-lab beans
Phumelele followed with a rotation schedule of the same experiments in the 2016-2107 season.
Left to right: Phumelele standing in front of her maize and bean intercrop plot, taken on 17Jan 2017.
Her Lab-Lab plot and aSCC plot where she grew sunflower separately and millet and sunnhemp
together.
The table below shows yield comparisons for Phumelele’s experimental plots.
Table2:MaizeyieldsfromdifferentexperimentalplotsinPhumleleHlongwane’sfieldat
Ezibomvini,Bergville
Plot number
(see plot
layout above)
2015/2016 season
2016/2017 Season
Crops Planted
Maize Yields
(t/ha)
Crops planted
Maize Yields
(t/ha)
Change in
yield (t/ha)
10
Maize + Beans
8,3
Maize + Beans
8,8
0,5
9
Maize + Cowpea
8,7
Maize + Beans
8,9
0,2
8
Maize + Beans
10,4
Maize + Cowpea
7,7
-2,7
7
Maize + Cowpea
6,9
Maize
6,5
-0,5
3
M + SCC + WCC
8,7
Maize + Beans
10,1
1,4
1
Maize + Beans
6,9
Maize
6,2
-0,7
The small table below indicates yield averages over the last two seasons.
Table3: Summary of different crop yieldsinPhumelele Hlongwane’s experimentalplots.
Crops
Yield (t/ha)
2016
Yield (t/ha)
2017
Maize (Control) - CA
7,8
9,7
Maize (CA Trial) average
6,93
8,3
Beans
0,25
1,81
Sunflower
0,3
0,8
NOTE: Yield increases in 2017 wereachieved despitereduction in fertilizer application. She did not apply basal
MAP, only top-dressed with LAN
Table 3 shows Phumelele’s very impressiveyield levels, with yields on a par with or somewhat
better than commercial yields in the area.
Runoff plot results
Two small runoff plots were set up for Phumelele: one in her
CA trial plot and onein the conventional maize control plot.
Measurements were taken by her to compare the effect of the
different treatments. Runoff data was collected for those
rainfall events where runoff could be correlated to rainfall
dates.
Right: A view of the run-off plot set up in Phumelele’s CA trial
plot planted to maize early in the production season (December
2016)
In general, there was more runoff in the conventional tillage
plot compared to the CA trial plot. The runoff average for the
control plot was 3.1 mm per rainfall event and that for the CA
plot averaged 1.1 mm. Results are shown in Table 4 below.
Table4: Rainfallandrunoff relationship from Phumelele Hlongwane’s plot.
The percentage of rainfall converted into runoff, ranges between 11.36% and 38.46% under
conventional tillage and between 6.82% and 17.86 % in the CA plot. The average percentage of
rainfall converted to runoff is almost double on the conventional tillage plot at 20,1%, while that for
the CA plot was 11,7%. This shows that CA significantly reduces runoff in a short period (2-3 years)
even without the ideal increase in soil cover usually associated with CA systems.
The results also show that the
runoff collected from the CA plots
had much less sediment lost from
soil erosion than from the
conventional tillage control plot
(see photos below).
Right: Runoff collectedin the
bucket for the CA plot is clear
while that for the conventional
tillage plot (far-right) is full of
sediment. These photographs were
taken in mid-December 2016, on
the same day, after a small rainfall
event.
Conclusion
The Grain SA FIP in smallholder communities introducesCA practices to improve productivity,
resilience and food security, but also contributes significantly to broader community development
and social capital. Phumelele’sstory is a good example of a local smallholder who has been
empowered and encouraged to improve her farming system in order to feed her family and make
an income for herself, but also playing a mentoring role forother women in her village. Her
message is that “Poverty should never be an excuse if you are able to work. Whatever little you may
Rainfall
event
(mm)
Control plot - Conventional tillage
Trial plot - Conservation Agriculture
Runoff
(mm)
Ratio
% rainfall
converted
into runoff
Runoff
(mm)
Ratio
% rainfall
converted into
runoff
14
4
3,5:1
28.6
2.5
5,6:1
17.9
22
2.5
8,8:1
11.4
1.5
14,7:1
6.8
9
1.25
7,2:1
13.9
1
9:1
11.1
20
3.25
6,2:1
16.3
2
10:1
10.0
13
5
2,6:1
38.5
2.25
5,8:1
17.3
21
2.5
8,4:1
11.9
1.5
14:1
7.1
AVERAGE
3,1
20,1%
1,1
11,7%
have can go a long way if one is willing to learn and work with others. Her greatest wish is forher
children to learn that they can make a living from farming.