Dissertation Defense: Philip Grabowski

Date: November 7, 2014
Location: 338 Natural Resources Building

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Conservation agriculture (CA) combines three principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and the incorporation of legumes through intercropping or rotations. It has been widely promoted to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers but the benefits and challenges of reducing tillage vary by soil type and rainfall regime. Due to the complexity of both the livelihood strategies of resource-poor farmers and of their agro-ecological conditions, technologies need to be adapted to specific agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts. 

This dissertation aims to contribute practical guidance for this adaptation process by linking empirical observations with lessons from the literature on smallholder agricultural development. The first paper analyzes the specific challenges and opportunities facing the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture and its partners as they consider how to effectively invest in adapting CA technologies for Mozambican smallholders. The second and third papers combine quantitative and qualitative analysis of farmers’ practices in Eastern Province, Zambia. 

The main conclusion is that farmers are not stuck in traditional practices but are carefully evaluating CA with the information they have available to them. Widespread adoption will require adapting existing technologies to overcome technical challenges and developing new ones to match a broader range of resource endowments. 

Dissertation Guidance Committee

  • Dr. John Kerr (Chair) 
  • Dr. Kimberly Chung 
  • Dr. Laura Schmitt-Olabisi 
  • Dr. Steven Haggblade