Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.
Surviving the long dry season in Konawe Selatan with improved farming systems
Farmers in Indonesia are more optimistic about surviving the increasingly long dry seasons because the World Agroforestry Centre is improving their understanding of agroforestry and drip irrigation.
By Amy Lumban Gaol
Up until recently, for farmers in Konawe Selatan, Kendari District, Southeast Sulawesi Province, Indonesia their understanding of agroforestry was to mix trees and crops together in the home garden with little or no planning or management. The results were not optimal: little or no yields and failed plantings. The farmers were unaware that there were techniques that could be followed in mixing crops, for example, calculating the specific distance between particular species of tree, the suitability of plants for combination and where to plant them in relation to one another.
The situation had been further challenged by a prolonged dry season that caused the failure of many crops, leading farmers to experience difficult times with low incomes and very limited water. With temperatures over 37 degrees and no rain for almost half the year, many crops died. And if the farmers were able to water their crops, the water would evaporate in minutes, leaving the plots as if they hadn’t been watered for months.
To help farmers meet these challenges, the Agroforestry and Forestry in Sulawesi (AgFor) project team has been working to improve farmers’ knowledge of drip irrigation and agroforestry techniques. AgFor is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. After two years of operation in Kolaka Timur and Konawe in Southeast Sulawesi, AgFor started in Konawe Selatan and Kota Kendari in 2014. Konawe Selatan has two sub-districts, Lalembuu and Wolasi, in which seven villages participate actively in AgFor.
Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.
Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs.
The Legume CHOICE project is supplying farmers with their choice of seeds of beans and other legumes, which they grow for home consumption and sale. In addition, the farmers receive advice on how to grow the legumes and on better land management, part of which is growing useful trees and shrubs. In this way, the project aims to fully realise the potential of legumes to improve diets and livelihoods of people practicing mixed crop-livestock farming in East & Central Africa. It is currently active in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
Climbing beans (Vigna sesquipedalis), one of the species being distributed under Legume CHOICE, can grow to a height of 3.5 metres and produce up to 4 tonnes per hectare, which is double the yield of common beans. “This makes climbing beans ideal for farmers with small plots,” explains Maurice Shiluli, a researcher with Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
El objetivo del presente estudio fue evaluar el efecto del Atriplex (Atriplex canescens) y nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) en la alimentación de cabras lactantes y la producción de leche durante la sequía. Durante los meses secos, entre mayo y agosto de 2005 y entre mayo y junio de 2006, se realizaron tres experimentos en la región semiárida de San Luis Potosí, México. En el primero, se probaron dos tratamientos: CO) mantenidas en confinamiento y alimentación controlada (n=10) y AT) mantenidas en pastoreo con Atriplex (n=10). En el segundo se aplicaron dos tratamientos: AT) Atriplex (n=5) y NP) Atriplex más nopal (n=5). En el tercero tres tratamientos: AT) Atriplex (n=5), NP-1,0) Atriplex más 1,0% de nopal (n=4) y NP-1,5) Atriplex más 1,5% de nopal (n=5). En el primer experimento las cabras mantuvieron su peso, pero la producción de leche se redujo al 30% bajo confinamiento y menos del 8,0% en Atriplex al final del experimento. En el segundo, las cabras perdieron peso, a pesar de que la producción inicial de leche fue menor de 300 g/d. Las alimentadas con Atriplex redujeron su producción a casi la mitad de la producción inicial, mientras que la inclusión de nopal mantuvo la producción relativamente estable. En el tercer experimento, las cabras alimentadas con Atriplex mantuvieron el peso corporal, pero después de siete semanas la producción de leche fue del 25% de la producción inicial, a pesar de que esta fue de apenas 300 g diarios. En cambio, en las cabras suplementadas con nopal, la producción sólo se redujo al 45 y 64% de la producción inicial. Estos resultados son importantes para los caprinocultores de la región semiárida de México, donde las cabras podrían mantener una buena condición corporal, además de una producción de 150 a 250 g diarios de leche durante la época crítica utilizando Atriplex y nopal.
The well-known prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a fantastic plant species to combat land degradation (desertification). It grows on almost all the arid and semi-arid soils and can easily propagated by using individual pads as cuttings.
Fruits and pads are used as food and fodder. Several medicinal uses enhance the value of this plant.
However, the spiny prickly pear can become a noxious weed if not trimmed in time, but one should know that the spineless variety (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis) exists on every continent.
In Central-America, Mexico and Brazil the spineless “nopales” are eaten as a delicacy. They are grown in huge plantations on 10.000s of hectares. Its possible introduction in the drylands as a food or fodder crop should be studied. It can be an interesting tool in the combat of malnutrition and hunger, even in the alleviation of poverty.
In every developing country people are suffering from the high food prices. More than billion people are hungry every day. The creation of small-scale kitchen gardens and container gardening are the most efficient tools to provide fresh food to rural farmers and urban people. Growing food in sacks is an interesting variant of container gardening.
Smallholders and rural producers have a vital role to play in overcoming global hunger and poverty, and new and varied partnerships are needed, with particular emphasis on the interests of women, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on February 17th, 2010. He also confirmed that the growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction is helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. Despite the hardships of the global recession, last year saw an upturn in investment in agriculture, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next three years, he said, thereby underscoring that “we need to continue creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, nutritional health and self-reliance. In this respect we must give pre-eminence to the interests of women, who juggle their time between food production, processing, marketing, child care and balancing the household budget”.
In every developing country people are suffering from the high food prices.
Taking into account that most of the rural women in the drylands spend the major part of their daily life with small-scale agricultural activities, it goes without saying that, when creating diverse and innovative partnerships that can help people and communities achieve greater productivity, the best return on investment will come from the creation of small kitchen gardens close to their houses.
There is no need to offer them some financial resources. Funding to start up a family garden can be done as a “micro-credit”, not with a certain sum of money, but in the form of the necessary materials and equipment. Success stories have shown that, in rural areas, offering a family garden to women is the easiest and most efficient way to combat hunger and poverty.
However, in urban areas the situation is quite different. With their extremely low income and having barely a patch of arable land, almost all the urban families are confronted with some form of hunger and malnutrition. In Kibera, Nairobi (Kenya), hundreds of residents of the slums have adopted a new form of intensive gardening: growing vegetables and herbs in sacks.
Previously, women in densely populated cities mostly planted vegetables on small plots of barren land. Nowadays, the novel form of gardening in sacks or all kinds of containers can be introduced in every urban area. Indeed, as finding even small patches of arable land in a city or a town is becoming almost impossible, sacks or other containers, taking up less space than small-scale gardens, are an interesting solution for food production.
With only a small budget, NGOs can easily start up a sacks gardening project with a small number of women and later extend invitations to more women, and even schools, to join the group. This seems to be a fantastic way for almost every urban family or school to have access to affordable vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Wherever needed, a short training in sacks gardening can be planned. Women and children can learn in the shortest time these simple gardening techniques of container gardening, in particular those of water harvesting, soil fertilization and adequate irrigation.
As sacks gardening can provide a sustainable source of vegetables and fruits, one can foresee a growing success of this novel form of gardening both in rural and in urban areas. NGOs and foundations can help women and schools to fence their gardening plots and to store irrigation water (not drinking water).
With a limited number of sacks of vegetables family members or school children do not fear to be hungry. It would be a remarkably easy way of food production in refugee camps, where every family could have a small number of sacks close to the tent.
The success of similar projects in developing countries on all continents should encourage NGOs, foundations, banks and international agencies like FAO, WFP and UNHCR to invest in this efficient way of combating hunger and poverty.
If there is really a growing international recognition of the role of agriculture and rural development in poverty reduction, helping to build the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, along with promises from world leaders of large additional increases over the next three years, like Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said, then it should not be so difficult to set up a programme to promote sacks gardening at a global level.