Africa’s No-Till Revolution

Author: Mike Wilson | Published: February 3, 2015

Sustainable, integrated cropping systems are boosting yields and building food security for smallholder African farmers

In a quiet rural corner of Ghana, near the humble village of Amanchia near Kumasi, Dr. Kofi Boa goes about revolutionizing food production in Africa, one farmer at a time.

“It is my dream that the whole of Africa will know how to sustain the productivity of a piece of land,” says Boa, speaking to a group of seed growers who have flown in from several countries to learn his techniques at the No-Till Centre he opened here two years ago. The Centre is supported by a partnership between John Deere, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and DuPont Pioneer.

In Ghana, where agriculture makes up 60% of GDP and accounts for over a third of all employment, Dr. Boa is something of a hero. One by one he is showing farmers how traditional ‘slash-and-burn‘ methods lead to extreme erosion and poor yields that have kept them impoverished for decades.

Instead, Boa shows farmers how a sustainable system focusing on no-till, cover crop mulch and intercropping can lift them out of self-sustenance and inject new income streams to the poorest of families.

Slash-and-burn farming today is used by upwards of 500 million farmers worldwide. With slash-and-burn farming, says Boa, many smallholder farmers could not get enough production from their farms to afford even the basics, like sending their kids to high school, which costs real money in Ghana. But with no other options and limited education, many farmers just continued the same old techniques.

Until now.