Conservation agriculture for livelihood resilience

Wheat crops at the conservation agriculture site in El Krib, Siliana, Tunisia Photo by Katrin Park_ICARDA
Wheat crops at the conservation agriculture site in El Krib, Siliana, Tunisia Photo by Katrin Park (ICARDA)

In the drylands, soil damaged by fierce storms and winds, and land productivity is negatively impacted by population growth. As a result, farmers' incomes decrease, and food security is threatened. To remedy this, ICARDA promotes conservation agriculture practices in the dry areas, making crop production more resilient to climate change. Conservation agriculture – a combination of reduced tillage, crop rotations, and other sustainable land management practices – reduces farmers’ workload and expenses, and preserves the soil. 

This technology package encourages farmers to grow legume-based forages and crops between harvests, and to leave these nutritious residues to enrich the land.This balances yields, improves soil fertility, and increases efficiency while conserving water and resources. It also enables small family  farmers to optimize yields while reducing production costs and farmers' workload and improving soil health.

ICARDA has developed a locally manufactured, low-cost zero-tillage seeder machine  to help farmers adopt conservation agriculture systems. This innovation helps reduce fuel, labour and machinery costs while conserves soil moisture and nutrients. Compared to imported machines, the seeders produce similar yields with enhanced sowing adjustability, and higher germination/growth rate. 



In addition to income diversification, conservation agriculture has the following impacts: 

  • Increased yields: In Jordan, prolonged drought constrains wheat production. Farmers in Irbid, using ICARDA’s conservation agriculture innovation, have produced 16 percent more yields than those generated under conventional practices, creating net returns of US$296 per hectare.


  • Government support: After trials recorded a 19 percent increase in wheat yields, Moroccan policymakers included conservation agriculture in their policies within a national effort to stabilize yields.


  • Local job creation:  After field trials recorded a 19 percent increase in wheat productivity, Morocco included conservation agriculture in its national policy supporting stable yields.


  • Training: 1,200 female farmers and 600 youths benefited from the capacity development efforts undertaken in Latin America and the Near East and North Africa region.