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Conservation Agriculture (CA)—characterized by the three linked principles of minimizing soil disturbance, permanently covering the soil, and including crop rotations and associations – has proven effective at restoring soil health and fertility, improving the capture and use of rainfall, and increasing crop yields and farm profitability. Scientific studies and farmer experience have also shown it can improve food security, reduce labour requirements (thus leading to significant benefits for female small-scale farmers), and help build farming systems that are more resilient to climate change. In the semi-arid regions of Africa where much of Canadian Foodgrains Bank programming is focused, CA practices have been shown to improve soil moisture and fertility and lead to substantial yield gains.

Over the last decade, partners of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank network have implemented over 50 CA projects in many different countries across sub-Saharan Africa. This momentum has stimulated the creation of resource materials, annual meetings and other opportunities to share and learn together, and the hiring of six full time CA technical officers.

This CFGB technical team has been collecting learnings and experience of partners, reviewing scientific literature, and talking to others involved in CA programming. They’ve used these learnings to date to develop the following list of basic principles to guide CA programming. Please note that these are principles (general truths that guide action) and not laws (hard and fast rules about what to do). Accordingly, these principles need to be worked through, used, and adapted to specific situations. We would greatly appreciate your feedback and thoughts on these principles, as we expect to update these on a regular basis.