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Smallholder systems exist under a broad range of climatic conditions. There are some basic considerations, however, that apply in nearly every set of conditions.

Soil and water conservation

Productivity of both crops and animals depends on the availability of water and fertile soil. Where there is no possibility of irrigation, look for ways to harvest/collect rainwater, keeping it on the fields where it can infiltrate the soil instead of eroding valuable topsoil. Pursue any available options to improve access to water for irrigating small farms and gardens, using water resources as efficiently as possible. In terms of soil fertility, adapt practices that conserve topsoil, build soil organic matter, and maximize the efficiency of fertility inputs.

Diversification for resilience

Together with practices that guard water and soil resources, diversify crop selection and animals for resilience. Select crops and livestock breeds that are best suited to prevailing conditions. In deciding which crops are appropriate for an area, observe the annual and perennial plant species already present. Annuals are an indicator of recent weather patterns while the perennial species provide clues as to the prevailing climate. If the landscape, for instance, features a lot of acacias or palms, the chances are that the area does not receive a great deal of rainfall.

Use of alternative energy sources

Increasing food production is important, but it is also wise to consider other aspects of small-farm systems. How is the food stored and cooked? What fuels are used for cooking? These questions lead to considerations of alternate energy sources. There are ways, for example, to greatly reduce the volume of wood or charcoal needed for food preparation.

--- BPN #2

Resources reviewed and revised by ECHO Interns Emily Kinzer and Emma Buchanan, 2020



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