Sesbania sesban improved fallows in eastern Zambia: Their inception, development and farmer enthusiasm
In eastern Zambia, nitrogen deficiency is a major limiting factor for increased food production. Soil fertility has been declining because of nearly continuous maize (Zea mays) cultivation with little or no nutrient inputs. The use of short-duration tree fallows was one of several agroforestry options hypothesized to restore soil fertility. This study reports on long-term trials with Sesbania sesban in field station and farm trials.
Research goals & methods
Sesbania sesban, an indigenous N2-fixing tree was the most promising among species tested in screening trials. Several studies since 1987 have demonstrated the dramatic potential of two- or three-year sesbania fallows in restoring soil fertility and increasing maize yields. Analyses showed that these improved fallow systems were feasible, profitable, and acceptable to farmers. Results suggest that high maize yields following fallows are primarily due to improved N input and availability by the fallows. The potential to increase maize production without applying mineral fertilizers has excited thousands of farmers who are enthusiastically participating in the evaluation of this technology. The number of farmers who are testing a range of improved fallow practices has increased from 200 in 1994 to over 3000 in 1997.
Conclusions & takeaways
Presently, a strong network of institutions comprising government, NGOs, development projects, and farmer organizations is facilitating the adaptive research and expansion of improved fallow technology in eastern Zambia. Key elements in the research process that contributed to the achievements are effective diagnosis of farmers’ problems, building on farmers’ indigenous knowledge, generating several different fallow options for farmers to test, economic analysis, farmer participation in on-farm trials, and development of a network for adaptive research and dissemination.
Sesbania sesban improved fallows in eastern Zambia: Their inception, development and farmer enthusiasm. Agroforestry Systems. 1999;47:49–66. doi:10.1023/a:1006256323647..
- SADC-ICRAF Agroforestry Research Project, Harare, Zimbabwe
- International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya
- Zambia/ICRAF/AFRENA Agroforestry Project, c/o Eastern Provincial Agricultural Office, Chipata, Zambia