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Your Questions!

Can I practice conservation agriculture in Canada?

One of the techniques our church partners teach farmers living in poverty is called conservation agriculture.

Using this sustainable farming method, some farmers can increase their harvests by 2-3x despite droughts and poor soil quality!

But what exactly is conservation agriculture? You can read about it on our website or take a look at the 5 steps of how we teach it here:

Step 1:
  • We work with local churches to train communities on simple, environmentally friendly agriculture techniques from the fundamentals of mulching to Smart Crop Rotation.

Step 2:

  • Mulching keeps available moisture and the soil, suppresses weeds, and improves soil fertility. This means that farmers cover their fields with cover crops (grass or hay), or with homemade mulch made out of composted materials (corn cobs, stalks).

Step 3:

  • Farmers learn about “no-till” cultivation of soil, which retains water, decreases erosion, and reduces labour. Soil quality is degrading around the world, and farmers in Canada have been practicing no-till farming for the past 30 years to preserve soil quality.
We work with local churches to train communities on simple, environmentally friendly agriculture techniques from the fundamentals of mulching to Smart Crop Rotation. Picture source: Foodgrains Bank.
A potato plot grown using Conservation Agriculture
Through smart crop rotation and intercropping, the land retains its nutrients and protects against crop diseases and pests.

Step 4: 

  • Through smart crop rotation and intercropping, the land retains its nutrients and protects against crop diseases and pests. Some plants have symbiotic relationships that feed off of each other like beans and corn. When planted together, beans grow up the corn stalks and help put nitrogen back into the soil. 

Step 5:

  • Within three years, farmers are able to increase their crop output by 2-3X and reduce the hunger gap.

So, can you practice conservation agriculture in Canada? Absolutely!

It will look slightly different than how a farmer practices conservation agriculture in Ethiopia or Tanzania, but someone with a plot of land in Canada can easily try it. In fact, some Indigenous peoples in Canada traditionally practiced conservation agriculture growing what they called ‘the three sisters’; corn, beans and squash.

Want to get started in conservation agriculture? Check out this ‘how-to’ from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Have you tried to farm using conservation agriculture methods? We would love to see what you’ve grown and how you did it! Email us at connect@tearfund.ca.