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Ecological agriculture’s potential in building the resilience of smallholder agricultural soils under a changing climate.

Handbook of climate change management: research, leadership, transformation

Nciizah, A. D., Mupambwa, H. A., Nyambo, P., Muchara, B., & Nantapo, C. W.

March 2021

Smallholder agriculture in Southern Africa is facing countless challenges due to climate change. A number of practices such as conservation agriculture, intercropping, crop rotation, and irrigation have been evaluated for their potential to improve the resilience of smallholder farmers to climate change. Notwithstanding these mediations, smallholder farmers have realized varying levels of improvements in agricultural production and soil resilience. This highlights the need for continuous investigation and subsequent recommendation of other alternatives for these resource-poor smallholder farmers. Ecological agriculture, which aims to integrate natural ecosystems that would have been deliberately disturbed to produce food fiber and fodder into more resilient agro-ecosystems, is a plausible intervention. It provides both mitigation and adaptation capabilities to climate change as it tries to replicate the natural ecological functions of the land before it was converted for food production, thus ensuring a resilient agro-system. The chapter argues that ecological agriculture has a potential to create resilient and healthy soils through integrated soil-crop management system, wherein optimal high-quality crop yields are attained with insignificant undesirable impact on the environment. However, some authors have raised questions on the viability and sustainability of ecological agriculture arguing that there are barriers, limitations, and costs, which are not fully understood. In the context of the challenges highlighted, this chapter discusses the potential for ecological agriculture to preserve the resilience of smallholder agricultural soils in Southern Africa, under changing climatic conditions. Likewise, the chapter presents opportunities for future research, which can be critical in the transition from research data into realizing actual productivity among smallholder resource-poor farmers.

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