Could Food Insecure Africa Have Found a Saviour in Farming God’s Way?

Proponents term it the long awaited messiah that food-insecure Africa has been yearning for! ‘Farming God’s way’ promises to end fertilizer woes of resource-poor farmers in the continent by providing a cheaper and less labour intensive farming method.

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her "Farming God's Way" - farmed maize has got (A Rocha Kenya)

Elizabeth showing how high and dense her “Farming God’s Way” – farmed maize has got
(A Rocha Kenya)

Food security remains the number one major challenge that citizens across the African continent contend with. While the Green Revolution of the 1960s allowed erstwhile food deficient regions of Asia and Latin America to triple crop yields, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained stagnant and in many instances it has even declined. According to IFPRI, among the factors fuelling the continent’s low agricultural outputs include poor resource endowments, minimal use of inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and irrigation) and adverse policies undermining agriculture. Additionally, continuing environmental degradation, crop pests, high population growth and low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure has further aggravated the resource limitations of agriculture in Africa.

In light of the aforementioned challenges facing SSA’s food security, a new or “business as unusual” model called “Farming God’s way” is being mooted as a possible saviour to a food insecure region. ‘Farming God’s way’ offers a fascinating model for Africa that is radically different from the conventional farming methods that place a lot of emphasis on farm inputs. ‘Farming God’s way’ is premised on three principles namely zero tillage, use of post-harvest crop residues for fertilizer and crop protection, and rotational cropping. Among the benefits provided by zero tillage to rural farmers include reduced labour costs and decreased soil erosion. The use of old crop residues to cover newly planted crops enable soils to retain moisture and protects emerging seedlings from adverse weather conditions. Crop rotations have great advantages over monocropping systems, including breaking disease and insect pest cycles and improving soil structure.

The technology was first introduced in Zimbabwe but has since been rolled out in other African countries including South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania and Kenya. In the North Rift region of Kenya, as it has been widely reported in the mainstream media, the technology is being fronted over the conventional farming due to its perceived impact on yield. According to Mr Chepkonga, an agricultural extension officer at AIC Cheptebo Rural Development Centre, following a trial carried out to compare maize yield from conventional farming and ‘Farming God’s way’, the farm that used conventional farming methods produced an average of 16 to 22 bags per acre while the farm using the new method produced 40 to 60 bags.

Notwithstanding the growing support for ‘Farming God’s way’, experts urge caution in the across-the-board rollout of this technology. Dr. Dora Kilalo, an agricultural entomologist and a lecturer at the University of Nairobi opines that the technology, inadvertently, provides an ideal habitat for insect pests such as thrips, white flies and leaf miner, thereby compounding pest challenges.

‘Farming God’s way’ may well be the long awaited messiah or not! Whichever the case, the current buzz generated on the technology provides fresh fodder for the research community to mull over.

Source: ‘New form of farming in Elgeyo Marakwet’ – KTN Kenya

About Willis Ochilo
Experienced and resourceful agricultural entomologist with a proven background in agricultural research and mass rearing of beneficial insects

13 Responses to Could Food Insecure Africa Have Found a Saviour in Farming God’s Way?

  1. argylesock says:

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… I wasn’t going to read this article, because I don’t believe in God. But lots of people do, and anyway the ideas now labelled ‘Farming God’s Way’ sound very sensible.

    • Willis Ochilo says:

      Agreed! Hopefully, the research community will take it up and tell us the viability of this farming model.

      • argylesock says:

        I hope so too. ‘Farming God’s Way’ doesn’t sound like a new technology to me, here in England. It sounds like reclaiming farmers’ old knowledge. Since you’re an entomologist, no doubt you’re familiar with Integrated Pest Management. What do you think of it?

        Thank you for informing me of how the Green Revolution helped some parts of the world but not others. Now we in the rich world have been hearing of the New Deal for Africa. It’s not for me to judge but I’m interested to learn.

      • Willis Ochilo says:

        Hi argylesock, I strongly advocate for IPM as a collective strategy to manage crop pests. However, it is not an end in itself when it comes to improving crop yield. One needs to factor in other aspects such as soil fertility and other agronomic best management practices. In a nutshell, there needs to be a synergy between crop production and crop protection hence the emergence of integrated crop management as a viable model.

        To my thinking, the reason the Green Revolution probably had minimal impact on the African continent is premised on the timescale it occurred! Around that time, Africa was emerging from colonial era and priority wasn’t so much placed on agriculture but on “nation building” (though one would argue you can’t detach agriculture from the drive to build a nation). Additionally, other dynamics played out which more or less meant Africa was going to play catch up.

        Would love to glean your perspectives on the aforementioned.

        Thanks

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  3. Ogechah says:

    This, in my view is a step in the right direction for Africa. A paradigm shift to Ecological intensification of agriculture, creating synergies between food production and ecosystem services is the way to go to avoid the pitfalls of the green revolution’s ‘conventional intensification’ that only focuses on increasing food production.

    • Willis Ochilo says:

      Undeniably, ‘creating synergies between food production and ecosystem services’ is definitely the way to go. As for the viability of this farming model to catapult us to that next level, the jury is still out there! Notwithstanding the benefits of “Farming God’s Way,” like mentioned in the post, experts interviewed felt the model is weak when it comes to insect pest management, particularly the ones which pupate on the soil. So hopefully, moving forward we may need to see how best to integrate the principles of this farming model with best practices when it comes to pest management.

  4. Certainly, improving food security is the ultimate goal especially in SSA. ”Farming God’s way” despite the challenges as mentioned by Dr Kilalo needs a second thought for its adoption as an alternative method to boosting agricultural productivity

    • Willis Ochilo says:

      Hi Edward, I agree, food security should concern every SSA government. Encouraging to note though, there seems to be an awakening of sort as evidenced by the uptake of initiatives such as Plantwise by African governments. As for the adoption of “Farming God’s Way,” hopefully the research community would provide an advisory soon rather than later on the viability of the model to solve food security issues facing SSA.

  5. John Agano says:

    I think ”Farming God’s way” is a farming practice that includes all components of biodiversity at genetic, species and ecosystem level that are relevant to food and agriculture and that support the ecosystem in which agriculture occurs. This includes the crop species, varieties and breeds within these and those components that support agricultural production.Therefore adoption of ”Farming God’s way” will provide an essential resource to meet the challenges through genetic diversity within crop species that will enable breeding and adaptation to changing conditions and enable production in diverse conditions and maintanance of healthy service providing ecosystems hence improving food security in Africa.

  6. Willis Ochilo says:

    Hi John, not particularly sure about plant breeding within the context of “Farming God’s way” but I am inclined to think,it would advocate the use of indigenous seeds. Notwithstanding, as you rightly highlight, the role of improved germplasm is critical in addressing Africa’s food security issues.

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