Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

1. What technical innovations are leading to improvements in food production with SARD?


Land and soil quality improvements

SUMMARY

Nineteen cases have been selected to illustrate the types of technical innovations leading to food productions increases with SARD

Benin: Mucuna (velvetbean) cover cropping

This is an example of the introduction of a simple regenerative component into farm systems combined with increasing farmers capacity for local-adaptation of the technology. The spread of mucuna (Mucuna pruriens) for suppression of the aggressive weed imperata (Imperata cylindrica) has occurred because of land scarcity, decline in soil fertility, lack of fertilizer, and weed encroachment. Soils on the plateaux of southern Benin and Togo are nearing exhaustion. Fertilizer use is low among the large class of smallholder farmers. But even if fertilizers were available, the benefit from their use is declining because of a degrading soil resource base. Another consequence of the reduced fallow periods is encroachment of imperata, an aggressive weed that is very difficult to eradicate by hand. Researchers with the Recherche Appliquée en Milieu Réel project introduced mucuna cover cropping to alleviate the constraint of low nutrient supply to maize, the staple crop. The government extension services (Centre dAction Regional pour le Developpement Rural CARDER) became interested in this success and started testing the system. In 1990, the CARDER for Mono Province tested the system in 12 villages with 180 farmers. They expanded to other southern provinces in 1991 and the number of farmers testing mucuna grew to approximately 500. Large NGOs became involved and some 14 000 farmers now growing mucuna throughout Benin.

Farmers who adopted mucuna cover cropping benefited from higher yields of maize with less labour input for weeding: maize following mucuna yields 3-4 t/ha without application of nitrogen fertilizer (similar to yields normally obtained with recommended levels of fertilization at 130 kg N/ha); whilst yields on plots previously planted with maize and cowpea was 1.3 t/ha. Mucuna as an intercrop or as a sole crop provides more than 100 kg N/ha to the following maize. The benefit: cost analysis over a period of 8 years indicated a ratio of 1.24 when mucuna was included in the system, and 0.62 for the system without mucuna. The ratio was as high as 3.56 if mucuna seeds were sold. However, yearly analysis of the benefit cost ratio indicated a declining trend over time for all systems suggesting that addition of external inputs (probably P and K fertilizer) are required in order to achieve full sustainability. Adoption of mucuna throughout the Mono Province would result in savings of about 6.5 million kg of nitrogen or about US$1.85 million/year.

® Source: Robert Carsky, IITA, Benin <r.carsky@cgiar.org>

Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua: Hillside improvement

Some 45 000 farm-families in Honduras and Guatemala have benefited from the adoption of sustainable agriculture, increasing crop yields from 400-600 kg/ha to 2 000-2 500 kg/ha. Farmers use green manures, cover crops, contour grass strips, in-row tillage, rock bunds and animal manures, which are finely tud through experimentation to local conditions. These programmes have regenerated local economies. Land prices and labour rates are higher inside the project areas, and families have moved back from capital cities. There are also benefits to the forests. Farmers say they no longer need to cut the forests, as they have the technologies to farm permanently the same piece of land. Throughout Central America, various NGOs have promoted the use of grain legumes, especially velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) to be used as green manure, an inexpensive source of organic fertilizer to build up organic matter. Taking advantage of well established farmer-to-farmer networks, e.g. campesino a campesino movement in Nicaragua and elsewhere, the spread of this simple technology has occurred rapidly.

® Source: Roland Bunch, COSECHA, Honduras <rolando@cosecha.sdnhon.org.hn>
Juan Carlos Moreira, Centro Maya, Guatemala <centromaya@guate.net>

Kenya: Adaptive research programme, Environmental Action Team (EAT)

The EAT is a small on-farm research project based in Kitale in western Kenya, working with 130 farmers on about 80 hectares. In this area of Trans-Nzoia, food insecurity is widespread amongst smallholders. Farmers typically plant whole 0.51 ha farms with maize, usually intercropped with beans. They use late maturing hybrids, which remain in the ground for 89 months. But due to low soil fertility, and farmers inability to purchase fertilizers, yields are only 650-1 750 kg/ha. The yields of the main source of household protein, beans, are also very low, mainly die to pests and diseases (especially root rot and bean fly) and low soil fertility. This leads to protein malnutrition amongst poorest households. EAT seeks to address these problems through participatory research and training. Farmers are trained in the principles and practice of biological agriculture, with a particular focus on soil health. New technologies are tested on farm, adapted, and then spread by farmers to neighbours if they work. The project helps farmers form groups - mostly it is women who come together first, and men who are attracted once the dramatic changes in productivity have been achieved.

A variety of technologies and practices have been adopted to improve household food production. These include: i) legumes and green manures - e.g. relay cropping of lablab into maize after 120-140 days - the legume takes over the land during the dry season, and the legume and maize residues are incorporated into the soil after harvest; and ii) composts and farmyard manure, with or without diammonium phosphate fertilizers, Tithonia and Sesbania. As a result, maize yields have improved to 3 300 - 5 500 kg/ha, and bean yields four to eight fold. Further research is focusing on the trade-offs of harvesting legume grain and/or leaves compared with retaining all the green manure residues for the soil. EAT also promotes crop diversification with finger millet, soybean, groundnut, pigeon pea and Irish potatoes, as well training farmers in organic vegetable production in raised beds in home gardens.

® Source: Beth Kirungu, Joseph Mureithi

Philippines: Contour farming on sloping lands in Claveria

Claveria is in northern Mindanao, and is characterized by acid soils on sloping lands with severe erosion. ICRAF and local research and extension agencies worked with farmers on the development of a variety of contour farming technologies. The project began with leguminous trees, but after relatively weak uptake, developed more locally suited methods in the form of natural vegetative strips combined with ridge tillage. A wide range of perennial crops have been tested by the 2 000 farmers working in the 80 local groups formed by the project, including fruits, coconut, mulberry and fast-growing timber species. On farms with soil improvement (some 6 000 ha), maize yields have improved 15-25 percent and land values by 35-50 percent.

® Source: Dennis Garrity, ICRAF

Senegal: Rodale Regenerative Agriculture Research Center

In Sahelian countries, the major constraints to food production are related to lack of moisture and soils most of which are sandy and low in organic matter. Where they are heavier and better in quality, they are subject to intensive use and so exposed to erosion by water and wind. In Senegal, soil erosion and degradation threaten large areas of agricultural land. Since 1987, the Rodale Institute Regenerative Agriculture Research Center (RARC) has worked closely with farmers associations and government researchers to improve the quality of soils in Senegal by using agroecological methods.

Regenerative agriculture in the groundnat basin has resulted in positive biophysical, environmental, social and economic benefits. The primary cropping system of the region is a millet-groundnut rotation. Fields are cleared by burning, and then cultivated with shallow tillage using animals. But fallow periods have decreased dramatically, and the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides is rare amongst smallholders, owing to high prices. It has also been well-established that inorganic fertilizers do not return expected yields unless there is concurrent improvements in organic matter - nutrients are washed away by the first rains, or are taken up by soil microbes and weeds. Soils low in organic matter also do not retain moisture well.

The RARC works with about 2 000 farmers in 59 groups to improve the soil quality, integrate stall-fed livestock into crop systems, add legumes and green manures, improve the use of manures and rock phosphate, incorporate water harvesting systems, and develop effective composting systems. The result has been a 75-195 percent improvement in millet yields-from 330 to 600-1 000 kg/ha, and in groundnut yields from 340 to 600-900 kg/ha. Yields are also less variable year on year, with consequent improvements in household food security. As Amadou Diop has put it: "crop yields are ultimately uncoupled from annual rainfall amounts. Droughts, while having a negative effect on yields, do not result in total crop failure".

® Source: Amadou Diop, Rodale Institute <adiop@rodaleinst.org>

Better efficiency of green and blue water use

Burkina Faso: Soil and water conservation

Abandoned and degraded lands in dryland Burkina Faso have been improved with the adoption of tassas and zaï: 20-30 cm holes dug in soils that have been sealed by a thin surface layer hardened by wind and water action. The holes are filled with manure, which improve organic matter, promotes termite activity and enhances water infiltration. When it rains, the holes fill with water and millet or sorghum is planted. Tassas are normally used in conjunction with stone bunds.

In Burkina Faso, some 100 000 ha have been restored - producing some 700 kg/ha of grain per year. Yields of millet without tassas, demi-lunes and contour stone bunds are 150-300 kg/ha; they rise to 400 kg with manure in a poor rainfall year, and 700-1 000 kg/ha in a good rain year. Reij (1996) indicates that the average family in Burkina Faso using these technologies has shifted from being in annual cereal deficit amounting to 644 kg (equivalent to 6.5 months of food shortage) to producing a surplus of 153 kg per year. Tassas are best suited to landholdings where family labour is available, or where farm hands can be hired. The technique has spawned a network of young day labourers who have mastered this technique and, rather than migrating, they go from village to village to satisfy farmers growing demands.

® Source: Reij (1996)

China: East Gansu Sustainable Agricultural Techniques for Effective Use of Rainfall Resources

The East Gansu region is part of the 51 million ha dryland area in the Northwest of China. This sustainable agriculture project was initiated by the Gansu Academy of Agriculture in 1991 as part of Ninth Five-year National Development Plan aimed at achieving food security and self-sufficiency. It promotes more efficient use of rainfall through run-off collection techniques, water storage tank construction, devices for lifting and conveying water, microcatchment water conservation with film mulching, and multiuse crop products and byproducts for livestock. The number of farm households adopting sustainable agriculture is now 100 000 on an area of some 70 000 ha. Cereal yields have increased substantially wheat by 40 percent (from 3 to 4.2 t/ha), and spring maize by 38 percent (from 6 to 8.3 t/ha). There is greater availability of both irrigation water and drinking water for people and animals. Additional benefits include reduced soil erosion, decreased pesticide and fertilizer use, increased social capital formation through farmers mutual aid groups, and increased capacity of women who now play a major part in fruit and vegetable management and livestock rearing.

® Source: Fan Tinglu

India: The Society for Peoples Education and Economic Change, Tamil Nadu

SPEECH has been working in Kamarajar District of Tamil Nadu since 1986, and has helped to build and strengthen local groups and institutions in 45 villages. The region is known for its acute droughts, erratic monsoons, poor services and entrenched socio-economic and cultural division. Village groups, or sanghas, have adopted a range of sustainable agriculture approaches to make better use of existing resources. Water harvesting has been particularly effective, as it not only brings previously abandoned land into production, but also means sufficient water can be saved for an additional wet rice crop on the small amount of irrigated land. Milk cows have been introduced, bringing particular benefits to women and children. Sorghum and millet yields have doubled, and extra crops and fruit and timber trees are being cultivated. As sanghas become more confident, they begin to develop new activities, such as providing for health care, building roads, and running savings and credit schemes. Representatives are elected to a Cluster Level Governing Council, an independent society that provides a platform for local groups to address emerging concerns.

® Source: John Devavaram, SPEECH, Madurai, Tamil Nadu <speech@md3.vsnl.net.in>

Malawi: Small-scale aquaculture

The International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) works to integrate pond fish culture into low input farm systems in Malawi. The programme uses a participatory process for farmers and scientists jointly to map resource flows on farms, and then identify the potential for adjustments that would bring synergistic effects. It has worked with some 2000 individual farmers on both vegetable improvements in home gardens and fishpond aquaculture. This integrated agriculture-aquaculture component of farmers often comprises only 500 m2 within an average farm size of 1.5 hectares. Yet intensification of just this core component has led to significant improvements in food security - vegetable yields have grown to 2 700 to 4 000 kg/ha, and fish ponds produce the equivalent of 1 500 kg/ha of fish - a new source of food for households. These integrated farms also produce six times more cash than conventional farms - with the vegetable-fish element contributing up to 70 percent of annual cash income.

ICLARM has documented the steady improvement of productivity in these systems amongst collaborating farmers - with pond productivity increasing steadily from 800 to 1 500 kg/ha. Amongst those farmers trained only through the conventional Training and Visit system in southern Malawi, yields by contrast fall steadily, as the over-designed systems unraveled as farmers lost control. An asset-building approach, building both on natural capital on the farm and farmers own human capital (skills and knowledge) allows for continuous readjustments over time.

® Source: Randall Brummet, Daniel Jama; Brummet (2000)

Peru: Raised fields in Lake Titicaca Basin

The Proyecto Agrcola de los Campos Elevados works with Quechua communities in and around the District of Huatta to rehabilitate ancient raised fields. These chinampas or waru-waru were used widely in the Lake Titicaca basin by pre-Hispanic farmers, but had fallen into disuse. In addition, many thousands of hectares had been destroyed by modern, capital-intensive irrigation projects that then failed to improve agricultural yields. The Basin, located about 3 800 m above sea level, is a difficult environment for agriculture because of irregular rainfall, poor and degraded soils, and frequent and severe frosts during the short growing season. Pre-Hispanic farmers had developed sophisticated ways to overcome these limitations, by focusing on diverse and intensive cropping on terraces, sunken gardens (gochas) and raised fields (camellones or waru-waru), together with social mechanisms to ensure efficient and collective action to achieve high and secure levels of productivity. Local farmers organizations of Huatta, involving some 500 families in ten communities, began to reconstruct these ancient raised fields. The success of the effort was because of the community participation and the development of effective teaching and learning materials. Although the technology was new to present-day farmers, it was they who conducted the experiments to adapt the technology to their own conditions. In 1986, the programme was taken on by the Peruvian government, and has since expanded to include over 30 altoplano communities.

Raised beds require strong social cohesion for the cooperative work needed on beds and canals. For the construction of the fields, labour was organized at the individual family, multi-family and communal levels. Most of the raised fields were constructed on community-owned land that had formerly lain unused for want of local motivation and presence of appropriate institutions. The labour required for construction was between 200-900 person-days per ha, depending on local physical conditions. The raised fields are surrounded by canals, which trap silt, improve the micro-climate for crops, act as a barrier to pests and grazing animals, and act as a habitat for aquatic animals. This microclimate of beds and canals reduces frost incidence. Soil fertility is maintained by green manuring with aquatic plants, livestock manures and crop-weed residues. This fertility encourages a highly productive agriculture. Potato yields are 8-14 t/ha without use of pesticides or fertilizers. This compares with an average of 14 t/ha using fertilizers for the Department of Puno. Extra crops are grown, with forage crops of oats, wheat and barley now grown in winter. These raised fields are also more resilient: one year hundreds of hectares of mechanically prepared fields of wheat and potatoes were destroyed by flooding, but raised fields adjacent to them were unaffected.

® Source: Altieri (1999); Pretty (1995)

Pest management with minimum/zero pesticides

Bangladesh: Integrated pest management for rice

Integrated Pest Management for rice in Bangladesh is being implemented through three projects (INTERFISH, NOPEST and GOLDA) that are supported by DFID and the EU and implemented by Care. They involve farmers attending farmer field schools ('schools without walls') during a whole rice season. They meet each week to learn new agro-ecological principles and concepts relating to rice, pest and predator management. Some 6 000 farmer field schools have been completed, with about 150 000 farmers adopting more sustainable rice production on 54 000 ha. The programmes also emphasize fish cultivation in paddy, and vegetable cultivation on rice field dykes. Rice yields have improved by 5-7 percent, and costs of production have fallen owing to reduced pesticide use - some 80 percent of farmer field school participants no longer use pesticides. The fish-rice-vegetable systems have been shown to produce synergistic benefits: additional income from fish is US$156/ha, from vegetables on dykes US$23/ha, but fish and vegetables together bring an additional US$250/ha. As a result, the 150 000 participating households are now food secure throughout the year.

® Source: Desilles (1999)

Kenya: Vutu-sukumu (push-pull) pest management in smallholder systems

The work of International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) is explicitly focused on designing low-cost integrated pest management technology. It works closely with farmers to test and adapt technologies. It is also producing unexpected synergistic effects through manipulation of agricultural systems and the paradigms that define them. One activity is investigating novel habitat management approaches to suppress cereal stem borer and Strigapopulations in maize and sorghum. This project is developing novel 'push-pull' strategies to repel stem borers from the cereal crop and attract them to intercrop or barrier forage grasses. It has found extra-ordinary multi-functionality in a range of fodder grasses and legumes in cereal systems. The strategy involves trapping pests on highly susceptible trap plants (pull) and driving them away from the crop using a repellent intercrop (push):

1. The forage grasses, Pennisetum purpureum (Napier grass) and Sorghum vulgare sudanense (Sudan grass), attract greater oviposition by stem borers than cultivated maize.

2. Non-host forage plants, Melinis minutiflora (molasses grass) and Desmodium uncinatum (silver leaf) repel female stalk borers (Chilo sp.).

3. Intercropping with molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora)increases parasitism, particularly by the larval parasitoid, Cotesia sesamiae, and the pupal parasitoid Dentichasmis busseolae. Meliniscontains several physiologically active compounds. Two of these inhibit oviposition (egg laying) in Chilo, even at low concentrations.

4. Molasses grass also emits a chemical, (E)-4,8-dimethyl-1, 3,7-nonatriene, which summons the borers natural enemies.

5. Napier grass also has its own defense mechanism against crop borers: when the larvae enter the stem, the plant produces a gum-like substance kills the pest.

6. Sudan grass also increases the efficiency of the natural enemies (the parasitism rate on larvae of the spotted stemborer, Chilo partellus more than tripled, from 4.8 percent to 18.9 percent when the grass was planted around maize in a field and from 0.5 percent to 6.2 percent on Busseola fusca, another important pest).

7. ICIPE has found that intercropping maize with the fodder legumes Desmodium uncinatum (silver leaf) and D. intortum (green leaf) reduced infestation of parasitic weed, Striga hermonthica by a factor of 40 compared to maize monocrop. Reduction in Striga infestation by intercropping maize with the two species of Desmodium was significantly more than intercropping maize with soybean, sun hemp and cowpea.

Researchers from ICIPE and IACR-Rothamsted have found that such push-pull, using the attractive plants as trap crops and repellent plants as intercrops, reduces stem borer attack and increases levels of parasitism of borers on protected maize, resulting in a significant increase in yield. Farmer participatory trials in 1997 and 1998 have shown significant yield increases in maize. The aim is now to develop a maize-based cropping system that will reduce yield losses due to both stem borer and Striga and at the same time improve soil fertility due to nitrogen-fixing action of Desmodium. Such a redesigned and diverse system has many of the characteristics of traditional farms in Kenya.

Further ICIPE research is showing the effectiveness of neem to control weevils in bananas, diamondback moth in brassicas, and fruitborers in tomatoes; is developing resistant cultivars based on traditional germplasm; is showing the value of sterile male release for fruit fly control; and is demonstrating control of the stemborer, Chilo partellus, through identification of a natural enemy from Pakistan, the parasitic wasp Cotesia flavipes (Chilo was accidentally introduced from Asia in the 1930s, and has no co-evolved local natural enemies), which has now been released in Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Somalia.

® Source: Dr Hans Herren, Director-General of ICIPE <hherren@icipe.org>
Prof John Pickett, IACR, Rothamsted <john.pickett@bbsrc.ac.uk>

Philippines: Integrated pest management for highland vegetables

The CABI Bioscience IPM for Highland Vegetables Project was set up in 1994 and is funded by the Asian Development Bank. Insecticide resistance and human health problems had become severe, and so the IPM project set up farmer field schools to increase awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides, to increase knowledge of natural enemies, and to encourage discussion on best husbandry practice amongst farmers. The project reached 1 719 farmers in 65 FFS groups, with 48 trainers trained, mainly from local government. As a result, a range of alternative pest control methods was developed by farmers. There has been an 80 percent decrease in pesticide use in the wet season (55 percent fall in the dry season) and the synthetic fertilizer rate has halved, giving farmers a net rise in income of 17 percent. Vegetable yields have also increased by about 20 percent. Farmer field schools are now considered locally to be a good investment by municipal authorities.

® Source: FAO, Peter Kenmore

Zimbabwe: Organic farming of cotton with natural pest management

This project involves 400 households, and has led to the elimination of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides from the farming system, provided information and training in sustainable agriculture directly to farmers, and led to the conservation of indigenous trees.

This project was initiated by a group of resource-poor, mainly women farmers who were keen to produce cotton without pesticides for economic, health and environmental reasons. Alocal NGO, ZIP Research, was asked to provide training and research assistance for the farmers, due to their lack of knowledge, regarding pest management and organic agriculture. This training is provided during regular farmer field schools, which are facilitated by farmers who have been selected by their group and trained for one month by ZIP Research at the Eco-Lab, near Harare. These facilitators (or Farmer Field Workers) are trained, during a process of learning through experimentation (based on the FAO IPM model) in natural pest management and organic farming. The Farmer Field Workers collaborate in farmer-participatory research and are also responsible for operating the organic internal control system. These activities are regularly followed up by ZIP Research. Funds for the training and follow-up are being provided by Novib. In order to encourage more women into the organic project, a local market has been found for their groundnuts. In addition, the organic inspectors (from Krav and Ecocert) have accepted the conditional wives special exception, in which a wife may be allowed to have her unsprayed cotton certified, even though her husband is still a conventional farmer. Furthermore, considering that cotton, in common with most cash crops, is considered to be a mans crop, while many AIDS widows are keen to grow cotton in order to generate a cash income, organic production is accessible to these resource-poor farmers because there is no need for costly inputs. Marketing of the organic products from this project is a crucial aspect of this project and this service is being provided by the local consultant from Agro Eco. The organic seed-cotton is sold to Cargill at a premium which is currently 20 percent. Last years harvest of one tonne of organic lint is being locally processed into export quality, printed T-shirts. Once the farmers are able to produce more than 25 tonnes of organic lint (or one container load) it can be sold on the world market at an enhanced premium. This seasons harvest is expected to be between 50 and 70 tonnes of organic seed cotton, depending on the rains, which are currently casing flooding in the area. Five percent of the premium is used to remunerate those Farmer Field Workers who are judged by their farmers and ZIP Research staff to have performed well during the season.

This is a 'development through trade' project and initial running costs came from Sida/EPOPA. This project/enterprise is continuing due to the enthusiasm of the farmers and the support of Novib, the United Kingdom Pesticide Action Network, Cargill and the dedicated work of the Agro Eco consultant and ZIP Research staff. The most outstanding results are that the farmers in the Zambezi Valley were able to market Zimbabwe's first organic cotton. Zip Research has developed an organic conversion process for commodity crops that can be used to assist in the conversion of all smallholders in Africa.

® Source: Pesticides Action Network UK at <www.pan-uk.org>

Whole system redesign and large-scale adoption

China: Wheat-Maize Double Cropping System Programme, Hebei Plain

The Wheat-Maize Double Cropping System Programme is located on Hebei Plain, northern China. It began in 1996 and is financially supported by the provincial government, Xinji County government, and the Science and Technology Committee of Hebei Province. After a successful field trials, the wheat-maize double cropping system was extended through model farms, videos and printed materials. Some 224 000 households have since adopted the technology on about 100 000 ha. Yields have improved by about 10 percent, water use has been reduced by 30 percent, and fertilizer use reduced by 20 percent. As a result, net returns have improved by 30 percent.

® Source: Liang Weili

India: The spread of soybean cultivation

The rapid spread of soybean in Indian farming systems illustrates how the introduction of a single regenerative component into farm systems can have multifunctional benefits. The change in extent has been from some 0.04 million ha in the mid-1960s, rising to 0.5 m ha in the 1980s (ave. yield 0.57 t/ha), and now 5.6 million ha (ave. yield 0.96 t/ha). Each year, some 0.5 m ha are added to cultivation, with extent expected to pass 8 m ha by the year 2000. Soybean exports in 1997 earned India US$518 million (Rs 20 bn).

The multifunctional outcomes of soybean cultivation in India are:

® Oil production - soybean has played an important role in national self-reliance in edible oils

® Foreign exchange

® On-farm nitrogen fixation and contribution to natural capital

® Rural employment through soya based agro-industry

® Compatibility as intercrop with other monsoon (kharif) crops such as pigeon pea, maize, sorghum, finger and pearl millet

® Monetary returns for farmers

® Contribution to soil fertility through organic matter addition - 0.5-2.5 t/ha of crop residues and 45 kg N/ha of fixed nitrogen (equivalent to the free use of 250 000 tonnes of nitrogen fertilizers per year, and the addition of 2.8-14 million tonnes of organic matter)

® Rehabilitation of degraded lands - e.g. in Punjab where continuous rice-wheat systems would benefit from introduction of soybean into rotation

® 95 percent of seed saved from previous harvest, so farmers not dependent on external seed delivery systems.

Source: Bhatnagar and Joshi, FAO

Lesotho: Machobane farming system

The Machobane Farming System is an example of a fundamentally redesigned system yielding multi-functional benefits. Lesotho is severely affected by erosion and land degradation. During the last twenty years, arable land fell 14 to 9 percent of the country's total area, and crop yields are now about half the 1970s level. Dr J.J. Machobane, a Mosotho agronomist, first conceived his system over 40 years ago, experimenting on his own land for 13 years before attempting to launch it amongst fellow farmers. Unlike most extension methods, the Machobane approach starts with the basic behavioural requirements for adopting its technical message:

® self-reliance - farmers must be convinced that they can achieve food security without external assistance;

® appreciation of the resource base - farmers must be ready to work hard, and be convinced that they can improve crop production by fully exploiting their resource base;

® learning and teaching by doing - farmers must be trained on their own fields and farmer trainers must be ready to do work along with them;

® spontaneous technology spreading - farmers learn from other farmers, and Machobane farmers have the duty to help their neighbours.

In Lesotho mountain areas, most crops are grown on terraced land, but poor soil structure, inadequate soil fertility management and erratic rainfall, mean that land productivity is low and variable. According to Machobane, these constraints can be overcome by rational exploitation of the resource base and minimizing the need for purchased inputs. The technical elements include intercropping, localized placement of ash (from household waste) and manure, weeding, introduction of potato as a cash crop, preservation of natural enemies, row-rotations, and legumes with cereals.

Farmers adopting the MFS indicate three advantages of the system: (i) higher land productivity (0.4 ha per family needed for food security compared with the more normal 1.2 ha); (ii) large cash income obtained by planting potato; and (iii) better resistance to drought: their fields are green compared to non-Machobane fields during drought. In addition, MFS will substantially reduce farm income fluctuations through the combination of lowering yield fluctuations of individual crops, spreading risk of fluctuations in yields and prices by planting a larger range of crops and decreased reliance on imported inputs (fertilizers and pesticides). Some 2000 farmers are now practising this system.

® Source: Pantanali (1996)

Madagascar: System of rice intensification (SRI)

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was first developed in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de Laudanié in the 1980s, has been promoted since 1990 by the Association Tefy Saina, and evaluated by the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development. The system has improved rice yields from some 2 t/ha to 5, 10 or even 15 t/ha on farmers fields. This has been achieved without having to use purchased inputs of pesticides or fertilizers. The SRI is centred on making best use of the existing genetic potential of rice by breaking many of the conventional rules of management:

1. Rice seedlings are usually transplanted at about 30 days (sometimes as late as 40-50). In the SRI, seedlings are transplanted at 8-12 days. This increases tillering - with SRI plants typically having 50-80 tillers compared with 5-20 for conventional ones.

2. Rice seedlings are usually planted close together to minimize weed infestation. But in the SRI, they are planted at least 25 cm apart in a grid pattern rather than rows. This facilitates mechanical weeding, as well as reducing seed use from 100 kg/ha to about 70 kg/ha. Wider spaced plants develop a different architecture, with more room for roots and tillers. Better root systems means reduced lodging.

3. Most scientists and farmers believe that rice, as an aquatic plant, grows best in standing water. In the SRI, however, paddies are kept unflooded during the period of vegetative growth. Water is only applied to keep the soil moist, which is allowed to dry out for periods of 3-6 days. Only after flowering are paddies flooded, which are then drained 25 days before harvest (as for conventional rice). Such management encourages more root growth.

4. Flooding is the conventional approach to weed control. With SRI, farmers must weed up to four times mechanically or by hand. Farmers who do not weed still get respectable yield increases of 2-3 fold; but those that weed get increases of 4-6 fold. SRI farmers also use compost rather than inorganic fertilizers

The improvement in rice yields with SRI have been so extraordinary that, until lately, they have been simply ignored by scientists. SRI challenges so many of the basic principles of irrigated rice cultivation, and so many professionals have been entirely sceptical. But it is the number of farmers adopting SRI that is proof of its effectiveness and efficiency. It is estimated that some 20 000 farmers have now adopted the full SRI in Madagascar (Tefy Saina estimates that 50-100 000 farmers are now experimenting with elements of the system). Cornell have helped research institutions in China, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Nepal, Cote d'Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh locally to test SRI. In all cases, rice yields increased several fold. In China, for example, yields of 9-10.5 t/ha were achieved in the first year (compared with a national average of 6t/ha).

® Source: Sébastien Rafaralahy, ASSOCIATION TEFY SAINA<tefysaina@simicro.mg>
Prof. Norman Uphoff, CIIFAD, Cornell University, USA<ntu1@cornell.edu>

Nepal: Jajarkot Permaculture Programme

This promotes sustainable food production in 31 villages of Jajarkot Khalanga, and is supported by ActionAid Nepal. Acommunity-based process builds on the skills and knowledge of local people and professionals through social capital formation. The main impacts of the programme are increased food production - some 40 percent of the 580 participating households, organized into 44 groups, are now entirely food self-sufficient through increased used of regenerative agriculture technologies, including green manures, composting, intercropping, agro-forestry, and increased diversification of farm systems through incorporation of fruit trees, bees, sheep, rabbits, cotton, flowers; and intensification of kitchen gardens. The programme also works with smokeless stoves, pit latrines, community groups for managing local savings and credit system, support to small businesses, strengthened adult education and access to health facilities.

® Source: Jajarkot Permaculture Programme (1997-2000); Chris Evans, pers. comm.

India: Participatory integrated watershed development

The Integrated Watershed Development in Kharaiyanala in central India is a part of the overall strategy of the Government of India to increase food production and food self-sufficiency at national level as well as to address the needs of the poor at the community and at the household level. The Plan of Action for Food Security in India incorporates policies and programmes aimed at increasing food production, including through Integrated Cereal Development Programmes focussing on the propagation of improved production technology, encouragement of the production of certified High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds, and expansion of irrigation. Another priority action area is improved watershed management. The strategy also embraces policies relating to procurement and storage, public distribution systems and maintenance of buffer stocks and open market sales. The participatory watershed development approach in Kharaiyanala, within the overall Food Strategy of India, reflects a success story in overcoming food insecurity and poverty at community level.

® Source: FAO, CFS

Brazil: Conservation No Tillage Agriculture:

The Conservation "No Tillage" Agriculture in Santa Catarina, Brazil, demonstrates a non-conventional approach which focuses on the maintenance of both live and decaying vegetable material on the soil surface. Besides maintaining continuous soil cover and eliminating soil tillage, conservation agriculture involved planning crop sequences over seasons, to minimise the building-up of pests or disease and to optimise plant nutrient use. The approach in a few years led to higher yields in crop production, decline in labour costs, diversification into livestock as well as agro-processing, resulting in improved food security of small farmers.

® Source: FAO, CFS

Burkina Faso: Small scale irrigation development under the Special Programme for Food Security

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in Burkina Faso is an integrated approach focussing on promoting appropriate technologies and farming practices, using improved water use and management systems as an entry point. The SPFS in Burkina Faso has shown significant increases in yields both in irrigated and rainfed rice as well as vegetables in the demonstration areas. The Programme forms part of the national programme for sustainable growth in agriculture and livestock. The SPFS will be instrumental in improving food security and eradicating poverty, provided appropriate macro-economic and sector policies, credit and input supply, as well as marketing facilities are in place to ensure widespread application of improved technologies and increase in productivity.

® Source: FAO, CFS

Bangladesh: Co-operative dairy development programme

The Co-operative Dairy Development Programme in Bangladesh had been implemented in line with the Governments long-term objective of raising subsidiary agricultural income of small and poor farmers in relatively remote rural areas. Using milk production, collection, processing and distribution as an entry point, the project provided a comprehensive range of technical support ranging from institutional development for establishing cooperatives and credit schemes at community level to organizing appropriate milk distribution and marketing systems in urban centres. The project not only was successful in improving the food security, nutrition and income of the direct beneficiaries - 40 000 landless and marginal milk producers - but also generated employment and income opportunities for a large number of the urban poor.

® Source: FAO, CFS

Zambia: Community-based seed multiplication and distribution

The community-based seeds multiplication and distribution systems in Zambia used the supply of early maturing and drought resistant seeds as an entry point to address low productivity and vulnerability to droughts as well as to tackle food insecurity and poverty. The project demonstrated that, once small farmers attain food self-sufficiency through the introduction of improved technologies such as better seeds, and become surplus producers, the need for marketing facilities, credit and other related institutional and physical infrastructures becomes imperative.

® Source: FAO, CFS

The above case studies, implemented through Special Programme for Food Security(SPFS) of FAO, albeit their differences in scope and approaches, provide a number of useful lessons for using community-based methods to promote the adoption of new technologies.

® Improvement of food security through application of agricultural technologies at community level can lead to peoples enhanced local capacity to engage in development activities in other areas as well.

® Direct involvement of beneficiaries in adapting improved technologies suitable to their conditions has a high payoff in terms of the enthusiasm and interest that they bring to project implementation. Also, in ensuring that the technologies address the priority needs that have been identified by the beneficiaries, have a strong chance of having the desired impact.

® Community-based action can be highly cost-effective.

® When productivity improvements generate additional income for the community members, this reinforces their efforts and encourages them to persevere. Village committees can be an effective mechanism for managing community activities of common interest and for establishing revolving funds to generate credit for community members.

® Community-based actions to increase agricultural productivity through adoption of appropriate technologies and practices also ensure sustainable natural resource management objectives.

® Vulnerability to natural disasters can be substantially reduced through adoption of technologies and practices that a) prevent or mitigate the effects of natural disasters, and b) improve productivity, increase cash incomes and create assets that families can fall back on when disasters occur.

® Without a favorable policy environment allowing surpluses generated by productivity improvements to find market outlets, actions to improve food security and reduce poverty through application of new technologies and practices cannot succeed.


Previous Page Top of Page Next Page