ECHO Tech Notes are subject-specific publications about topics important to those working in the tropics and subtropics. Our material is authored by ECHO staff and outside writers, all with experience and knowledge of their subject. These documents are free for your use and will hopefully serve a valuable role in your working library of resources in agricultural development!

92 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 74 - 65) |

TN #74 Agriculture Components for Small Institutions - 2013-01-01

The ECHO Asia Regional Office receives frequent inquiries from small organizations seeking input and other assistance related to their agricultural initiatives, including questions such as the following:

  • How many acres would it take to grow enough food (other than rice) to feed 38 people year round?
  • What crops are most likely to be grown for that purpose?
  • How would you quantify the amount of labor that such an endeavor would require?

Essentially, many inquirers are asking, “How realistic is it to combine agricultural components into small institutions, and are there any examples of effective efforts?”

This technical document goes through how to approach answers, proposes some potential benificial practice and shares lessons learned.

What’s Inside:

  • An Effective Farm for Children
  • Realistic Expectations at Suan Aden
  • Good Management – Clear Priorities
  • Lessons Learned
  • Agricultural Options for Institutions with Land Constraints
  • Outreach Potential

TN #73 Lablab (Lablab purpureus) New Staple Crop for the Sudano Sahel - 2013-01-20

About 98% of agricultural production in the Sudano Sahelian region of West and Central Africa is based on rainfed crops. With a mean annual rainfall of 300 to 800 mm/year, the number of staple crops is very limited. It includes two grain crops: pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) for sandy soils and grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) for heavier soils. (Corn is grown in high rainfall regions.) Two pulses are also produced: cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) and groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea).

All five crop species are sown at the beginning of the rainy season and harvested three to four months later. Average yields of these crops are only 20% of potential for three main reasons:

  1. The very low fertility of Sudano Sahelian soils combined with the fact that farmers do not add chemical fertilizers
  2. Sporadic rainfall and frequent droughts
  3. Diseases and pests that attack these crops

In the Sudano Sahel, an agro-pastoral system is practiced. The relative importance of the livestock component increases as we advance to regions of lower rainfall. Animal feed production is a very important component of the production system. It is provided by the hay produced from cowpeas and groundnut stems, and by sorghum and millet straw.

TN #72 Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) - 2012-01-01

Asia makes up less than one third (30%) of the world’s land area and yet carries over half (56%) of the world’s
population. Moreover, the average population density of Asia becomes a significant long-term problem when food production is considered. Some countries in Asia have a population density of up to eight people per hectare. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations predicts that the world have to double its food production by the year 2030 to feed its exploding population. However, Asia, when compared to the rest of the world, has very little land that is suitable for cultivation that has not already been exploited.

To compound the problem, much of the land now under cultivation in Asia has been classified as degraded or as having undergone moderate-to-severe erosion. According to FAO, many Asian countries now have 20% or more of their lands considered “degraded,” with some countries approaching 50%.

What’s Inside:

  • The Problem: Deforestation
  • leading to soil erosion
  • Introduction to SALT
  • The Ten Steps of SALT
  • Advantages of SALT Farming
  • Conclusion

TN #71 Foundations for Farming (FFF) - 2012-01-01

Dawn Berkelaar, working with Dr. Martin Price and Danny Blank, featured this farming system in EDN 98. At that time, the technique was known as “Farming God’s Way” (FGW). Subsequently, the name was changed to “Foundations for Farming” (FFF); however, it continues to also be promoted as FGW. FGW and FFF Internet URL’s, links to much more detail, are given at the conclusion of this section. The article from EDN 98 is summarized here using the name, FFF.

What’s Inside:

  • History and Background
  • Principles
  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Success Stories
  • Conclusion

TN #70 Water Harvesting through Sand Dams - 2011-01-01

A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across a seasonal river to hold underground water in sand (see above photo of Nzaaya Muisyo sand dam, Eastern province, Kenya). It is initially built one meter high and up to 90 meters across. During the heavy and erratic seasonal rains, the water and silt flow over the dam while the heavier sand settles to the bottom. Over one to three seasons of rain, the dam fills up with sand which acts as a storage tank for water. In good quality sand, the sand dam volume is approximately 35% water (Beimers et al., 2001). Most of this water does not evaporate as it is protected by the sand. Evaporation decreases by 90% at 60 cm below the surface (Borst et al., 2006). 

The sand dam is always built on bed rock. A natural aquifer is formed under the sand as water accumulates. Often there is already an aquifer present and the sand dam simply increases the water in it. Over time, the aquifer increases in size and the water table of the surrounding area rises. 

What’s Inside: 

  • What is a Sand Dam? 
  • Where Does the Water Come From? 
  • Where and When is it Best to Build? 
  • What Permits do I Need? 
  • How is a Sand Dam Designed, Constructed, and Maintained? 
  • Terracing around Sand Dams 

TN #69 Tree Gardening - 2011-01-01

Lack of food security is one of the biggest challenges that Central Africans face each day as they toil in their gardens, trying to produce enough food to simply feed their families and afford other expenses in life such as health care or schooling for their children. 

Main factors limiting production include trees, and the lack of means to renew farming supplies. But the fact of the matter is this: how well Central Africans’ gardens do determines how well they will survive.  In order to combat this form of poverty, we have found one major principle Central Africans can practice that we believe will improve their chances of survival—and that is simply to practice “diversity,” both in what they eat and in what they grow.  

Diversity in the diet helps to guarantee enough nutrients from each of the three major food groups of protein, fat and carbohydrate (energy), as well as the vitamins and minerals that are necessary to achieve healthy bodies and strong minds.  

A diverse agricultural system must be established to ensure that the proper foods are available for a family to eat.  Over the decades that we have served here in Central Africa, we have found that a type of agroforestry system known as “tree gardening” has been the most successful way to promote this kind of diversity. Education, via seminars, has been the method for sharing information on this kind of system, along with demonstrations and visits to Gamboula’s Garden of Eden where we have planted over 500 different kinds of fruit and other useful trees and vines.  Eden is also the hub of the agroforestry part of our ministry; the agroforestry staff go out to villages (over 100 villages were visited over a 10 year period prior to the writing of this document in 2011) to train local farmers interested in establishing agroforestry cooperatives and in planting tree gardens.  Our ministries here in Africa have been based on learning new ways to raise nutritious foods from both annual crops and tree crops, and then teaching others about them. 

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • What is Tree Gardening?
  • Establishing a Tree Garden
     

TN #68 Introducing A New Fruit Crop - 2011-01-20

Over the past 30 plus years that we have been working with small-scale farmers in Central Africa, we have enjoyed the wonderful lushness of its forests, savannahs, and rivers. In addition, we have been privileged to get to know some of the many people groups, with their different cultures and languages, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and Cameroon.

But, despite the appearance of a tropical paradise, life in Central Africa is harsh. Most Central Africans are dependent on their own fields and gardens for survival. Though they are very good farmers and work hard to make ends meet, farming for survival has always been a difficult and time-consuming task. Any change in their farming method that requires extra finances or time is virtually impossible.

Regardless of the fact that food security is the main preoccupation of nearly all Central Africans, they are not quite able to achieve it. Malnutrition and poor health are therefore an inevitable result. A study by Doctors Without Borders, at our hospital in Gamboula, CAR, confirmed this situation. Results showed that 8%-12% of children under the age of five in this area are severely malnourished. This crisis situation deserves the attention of the local as well as the international community. By working together, appropriate solutions to the problem can be found. The introduction of new crops provides potential to facilitate such solutions.

What's Inside

  • The Importance of Fruits and Nuts
  • Introducing Fruit Trees
  • The Village Survey
  • Plant Research and Training Center
  • Where to Search for Fruit Trees
  • Shipping Seeds and Seedlings Overseas
  • The Nursery

TN #67 Farmers' Seed Fairs - 2011-01-01

Often farmers asked for seed, but we weren’t quite sure what to expect when we suggested—to the farmers’ union in Nampula, Mozambique—that they organize a fair in which the members could come together and exchange seed. They might only be interested in “improved” varieties.

However, when we arrived at the place the fair was to be held, it was clear that the farmers had picked up the idea. They had constructed temporary shades with grass roofing and the scene was bustling with activity. Songs, dances and other activities were performed. Many seeds were on display on the reed mats—many more than what farmers usually say they produce when asked what they grow (maize, cassava, cowpeas, peanuts and rice). Virtually all material was exchanged.

TN #66 Vermiculture Basics & Vermicompost - 2010-08-01

Worm or vermiculture is a useful technique for recycling kitchen and livestock wastes into a rich organic fertilizer, for producing high-protein feed for poultry and initiating a lucrative business selling worms and worm castings for the small farm. Worms are invaluable partners in building the soil in your garden, be it a kitchen or dooryard garden or a large market garden.

In the garden, healthy soil is essential for the production of healthy crops, and healthy soil requires a good quantity of organic matter. Organic matter can be added to the soil from a number of sources (See ECHO Tech Notes, Compost and Mulch for Healthy Soil, Green Manure Cover Crops and Soil Fertility) It is essentially comprised of decomposed plant and animal wastes, and these wastes are ideal for feeding and maintaining the “living” or biological portion of the soil and giving it good “health.”

TN #65 Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration - 2010-01-01

For many years, conventional Western forestry methods have been applied, and exotic tree species promoted in Sahelian countries in order to combat desertification. Large and small projects were commissioned to curtail the assumed southward movement of the Sahara desert, but few made any lasting impression. 

Little thought was given to the appropriateness of these methods. Indigenous species were generally dismissed as “useless scrub.” In misguided efforts to establish forests, many projects even cleared the “useless scrub” to make way for exotics. Often exotic species were simply planted in fields containing living and sprouting stumps of indigenous vegetation, the presence of which was barely acknowledged, let alone seen as important. 

This was an enormous oversight. In fact, these living stumps constitute a vast “underground forest,” just waiting for a little encouragement to grow and provide multiple benefits at little or no cost. These live stumps may produce between 10 and 50 stems each. During the process of traditional land preparation, farmers treated these stems as weeds, slashing and burning them before sowing their food crops. Under this management system, the stems rarely grow beyond 1.5 m tall before being slashed again. The net result is a barren landscape for much of the year with few mature trees remaining. To the casual observer, the land appears to be turning into desert and most would conclude that tree planting is required to restore it.  

Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is the systematic regeneration of this “underground forest.”  Tentative steps to introduce FMNR began in 1983, in the Maradi Region of Niger. Twenty-seven years later, the results have been amazing, with FMNR being practiced in one form or another across Niger and beyond. 

What’s Inside:

  • Background
  • FMNR: What It Is and How 
  • It Evolved
  • Steps in FMNR
  • Benefits of FMNR
  • Possible Constraints in 
  • Adopting FMNR
  • Reasons for the Successful Spread of FMNR in Niger