LTRA-9: Developing sustainable CAPS for smallholder farmers in Southern Africa

Principal investigator

Neal Eash, associate professor and soil scientist, Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee (UT)

Research team

  • Forbes Walker, soil scientist, extension, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Department, UT
  • Dayton Lambert, agricultural economist, UT
  • Michael Wilcox, agricultural economist, UT
  • Makoala Marake, head of Soil Science Department, National University of Lesotho, Roma, Lesotho
  • Patrick Wall, director, Global Conservation Agriculture Program, CIMMYT
  • August Basson, director, Growing Nations, Maphutseng, Lesotho


Subsistence farmers across Southern Africa struggle with food security and often address the shortfall by plowing more land. This approach usually results in fewer crops due to less timely weeding, limited inputs such as fertilizer being spread across a larger area, and higher erosion rates due to larger tracts of erodible, residue-free land. The continued use of this approach has resulted in degraded soils that further limit crop potential.

To address these challenges, this project will research the effectiveness of different no-till and tilled crop management systems. The goal is to find an appropriate cereal, grass, and legume cover-crop mix that protects the soil surface from erosion, builds soil organic matter, sequesters carbon, limits weed germination, enhances soil fertility, and increases yields and income through adaptation of conservation agriculture systems to local conditions. Research plots will be established in Lesotho, Malawi, and Mozambique.

The project will include detailed collaboration and consultation so that researchers understand the farm family structure, including gender roles, the markets for purchase of inputs and sales of crops, and the reasons why certain technologies are adopted or abandoned. Accomplishing these objectives would be a significant step toward increasing incomes, food security, and gender equity for small-scale farmers in the region.