What smallholders in the drylands should know

 

How to grow fresh food in all kinds of recipients that can hold soil

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

Grow your vegetables and herbs at home in pots, buckets, bottles, cups, barrels, bags, sacks, whatever can hold soil.  See some of my photos below:

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Massive production of vegetables and herbs in a small space. Pots and buckets on pallets to limit infection. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN P1100559.
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Cherry tomatoes all year long, zucchinis and bell peppers in pots and buckets with a drainage hole in the sidewall. Maximal production with a minimum of water and fertilizer (compost or manure). Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100561
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Zucchinis in a bucket, as simple as can be. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100565.
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Tomatoes and zucchinis, not in the field (where they would be infected), but in buckets and pots. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100568.
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Bell peppers in abundance, not in degraded soil, but in a bucket with a mix of local soil and animal manure. That can be done everywhere, even in Inner Mongolia, the Australian bushland, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cabo Verde, Arizona, the pampas and in all the refugee camps on Earth. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100579
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Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis, marigolds (to keep the white flies away). See the drainage hole in the sidewall. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100581 copy.
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Chilli peppers in a bucket. Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100602.

Imagine every family in the drylands, every school, every hospital, every maternity would have a container garden like the one below: wouldn’t you believe that we can alleviate malnutrition and hunger ?  Wouldn’t we have a serious chance to ameliorate the standards of living of all the people living in desertified areas.

Problems ?  What problems ?

Teach the people how to set up a small kitchen garden with some containers and do not forget:

https://containergardening.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/drainage-holes-in-the-sidewall-of-a-container/

They do not have containers ?  Offer them the necessary quantity at the lowest cost, or even for free, because that would be sustainable development in the purest sense.

Let them make their own potting soil by mixing local soil with manure.

Offer them some good quality seeds and teach them how to collect seeds afterwards.

Before rejecting this idea, have a last look at the photo of my experimental garden below and consider the potentialities of this method.

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Photo WVC 2013-07-28 MY NEW EXPERIMENTAL PALLET GARDEN – P1100656, set up to show that production of fresh food with simple and cheap means is so easy that it can be applied all over the world. With some goodwill, of course.

 

Shall we go for the rehabilitation of 2 billion hectares of degraded land in Africa (and how much on the other continents ?), or shall we go for a feasible support of the poorest and hungry people on Earth?

With my warmest wishes for 2017 to you all !

 

 

 

Innovative ways of coping up with climate change

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet: Farm Africa/ Tara Carey

Smallholders team up to confront climate change impacts

by Baraka Rateng’

Farmers in Mwingi, a remote, arid and impoverished region of Kitui County of Kenya have been experiencing unreliable rain patterns and problems associated with droughts.

Smallholder farmers have been losing up to about 80 per cent of their recent harvest, many water sources have dried up and some are having to travel up to 20 kilometres to collect water. Much of the water that is available is of poor quality, with some containing a high salt content, making it unsuitable for drinking or agricultural use.

But thanks to formation of a community-based organisations (CBOs) such as Kitum Community-based Organisation, with 176 members, the farmers are now devising innovative ways of coping up with climate change-related impacts that inflict untold sufferings upon them.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Continued drought in the Horn of Africa

 

Photo credit: FAO

Farmers in the Horn of Africa need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years.

With continued drought, Horn of Africa braces for another hunger season

Agricultural support critical now to protect livestock, equip families to plant in rainy season

Countries in the Horn of Africa are likely to see a rise in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, as farming families struggle with the knock-on effects of multiple droughts that hit the region this year, FAO warned today. Growing numbers of refugees in East Africa, meanwhile, are expected to place even more burden on already strained food and nutrition security.

Currently, close to 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of food assistance, as families in the region face limited access to food and income, together with rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production. Terms of trade are particularly bad for livestock farmers, as food prices are increasing at the same time that market prices for livestock are low.

Farmers in the region need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years. Production outputs in the three countries are grim.

Rapid intervention

“We’re dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. “But we also know from experience that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods,” he stressed.

For this reason, FAO has already begun disbursing emergency funds for rapid interventions in Kenya and Somalia.

Read the full article: FAO

Cultivation of improved legumes and cereals

 

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Farmers and project members inspecting green gram crop. Photo: Egerton University

INCREASING FARM PRODUCTIVITY IN KENYA THROUGH CULTIVATION OF IMPROVED LEGUMES AND CEREALS

In a span of one year, 300 farmers in Kerio valley in Kenya earned over KES 4.8 million (USD 46,978) by cultivating 44.5 ha of green grams and over KES 4.2 million (USD 41,106) through cultivation of 161.8 ha of groundnuts.

These farmers were trained in increasing productivity of dense legumes (groundnuts, green grams) and cereals (millets and sorghum). High quality seeds of green grams and groundnuts mainly KS20 variety, CG 7, and ICGV 90704 that are well adapted to hot dry areas of Kerio valley were released to farmers. Farmers were trained on improved planting practices. Prior to this, farmers used to plant less seed (4 kgs per 0.4 ha instead of 8 kgs per 0.4 ha) which reduced their yield to 3-4 bags per 0.4 ha instead of 7-8 bags per 0.4 ha.

Due to the combination of providing high yielding improved seeds and training on better agronomic practices farmers in four areas (Kapkayo, Biretwo, Kabulwo and Arror) tripled their acreage to 364 ha for groundnuts and increased monetary gains from KES 4 million (USD 39,149) in 2015 to KES 25 million (USD 244,682) in 2016. Green gram production also increased significantly from an area of less than 48 ha to over 116 ha with total incomes increasing from KES 2.8 million (USD 27,404) in 2015 to 5.6 million (USD 54,808) in 2016.

As harvest improved, farmers were briefed on the benefits of collective marketing of produce through aggregation centers at Arror, Kabulwo, Biretwo, Kapkayo and Cheplambus for better price negotiation. Due to aggregation, market access became easier for farmers. For example the Greenforest Company Ltd. based in Nairobi is currently buying the unshelled groundnut at KES 70 (USD 0.68) and green gram at KES 125 (USD 1.22) per kilo.

In addition farmers were trained on correct spacing, timely planting, importance of earthing-up for groundnut to facilitate better pod formation, pest (pod borers, cutworms, aphids) and disease (mainly early blight, cerspora leaf spots and Groundnut Rossette virus) control.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Illegal logging and forestry reforms

 

Photo credit: Forests News

A Kiwcha couple walk in the jungle to cut timber, Coca, Ecuador. CIFOR Photo/Tomas Munita

Why does illegal logging continue after forestry reforms?

Researchers take a closer look at the connections between regulations and local needs in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia

 

The western Amazonian countries of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia have implemented significant forest reforms over the last two decades to help smallholders and communities better manage and benefit from their forests.

Despite the changes, however, many continue to manage their forests in ways that result in illegal logging.

Why does illegal logging persist among smallholders and communities? In search of an answer, scientists from the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) traveled to community forests, agroforestry plots, sawmills, government offices and other sites in the three countries. They interviewed policy makers, government officials and people who work in different areas of the timber industry.

“We set out to answer three questions,” says CIFOR scientist Pablo Pacheco. “How do the tenure rights granted to smallholders and communities affect their decisions to use their forests? What are the main barriers that keep smallholders from adopting sustainable forest management practices? And why, after all these reforms, do many smallholders and communities continue to harvest timber without authorization?”

Read the full article: Forests News

 

Livestock grass, a weapon against poverty and drought

 

Photo credit: CIATCIAT

An unlikely weapon against poverty and drought

Silas Mdoe has a weapon against poverty and drought. It’s so unassuming that most farmers completely overlook it: livestock grass.

As this recent study shows, keeping livestock can help farmers like Silas earn more money and put more food on the table, especially during unpredictable weather. In Tanzania, drought has decimated many farmers’ harvests, including Silas’ maize, which he relies on for an income.

In his village of Mbuzii in Lushoto, in the east of the country, one-fifth of farmers generate around 40 percent of their income from milk. “Cows give manure for crops and provide milk all year, which we can sell to buy sugar or pay school fees. Banks will lend money if you have a cow,” explained Mdoe.

But investing in higher quality varieties of grass for livestock like Napier or Brachiaria hybrids like Mulato II, which improve livestock health and the amount of milk produced by up to two liters per cow a day, is not that simple for many farmers.

Long drought, no feed

That’s because it’s not a priority for most farmers in Tanzania or across East Africa to grow feed for animals when crops for their families naturally come first. This is compounded by the fact that with population growth, grazing land disappears and farm plots become smaller. Forages – quality grasses grown specifically to feed animals – are therefore in short supply.

Read the full story: CIAT

Why we need to listen to farmers

 

Photo credit: CIAT

An ecosystems approach to the SDGs in Africa: why we need to listen to farmers

To address all the SDG’s, we’re going to need to think like farmers. That means taking a systems approach that includes all kinds of agro-ecological farm systems. This mantra echoed through all the sessions at the Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference: Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa. Goals, 2, 5, 6, and 15 were in the spotlight, and to meet them, we have to think broadly and holistically.

That might not be what you expected to read, but CIAT research shows that farmers are the ultimate, great systems thinkers, and we need to tap into and build upon their vast network of knowledge to tackle the problems that face the ecosystems we are trying to protect and livelihoods we are aiming to support.

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.

Read the full story: CIAT