Paper mulberry is native to China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Assam (India), but cultivated extensively elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific. It has also naturalized in parts of southern Europe and the USA (Kew 2016). According to the World Agroforestry Centre, paper mulberry prefers a sub-humid, warm, sub-tropical monsoon climate such as that found in parts of Southeast Asia and Northeast India. In temperate regions such as North America, growth is not as vigorous.
Throughout much of the Asia and Pacific region, paper mulberry is considered an asset offering a wide range of products and services that include: fiber, food, fodder, wood, medicine, and more.
Cory Thede, working on the north coast of Haiti, sent a note about a local chaya plant with a lower branch that mutated to a wild stinging type. He commented, “After I backed up against it, it gave me an itchy rash on my arm for about a week. The upper branch is regular and almost spineless.” He added, “I was going to dispose of it but then decided it may be useful in some living fences.”
Kathy Barrera sent an article about tomatoes from Deutsche Welle news and asked for help in dealing with a tomato problem in Nigeria. She wrote, “The situation with tomatoes is critical and why I am looking to try new types of tomatoes, they are the basis of every soup almost to eat with starch. Though there are tomatoes…, commonly grown as a type of plum tomato, we have not seen [them] in the Abuja market for a couple months. The rich of course buy imported [tomatoes] from South Africa as they do many vegetables and fruits….”
Tim Motis, PhD
While doing legume intercropping research in South Africa (2010-2015), ECHO staff members learned about a system of cereal/cowpea production developed in Nigeria through research by IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture) and national partners (Ajeigbe et al. 2010a, Ajeigbe et al. 2010b). This strip cropping approach involves a repeating sequence of two rows of a cereal crop, such as sorghum or maize, and 4 rows of cowpea.
A survey of cropping systems, conducted from 1992-1993, showed that farmers in the northern Guinea Savanna zone of Nigeria were already intercropping cowpea with cereals (mostly sorghum and millet but some maize) (Henriet et al. 1997). Cowpea was relied upon as a source of food for both human and animal consumption, and as a means to maintain soil fertility. In these traditional systems, however, cowpea was only producing 0 to 132 kg/ha of grain (Van Elk et al. 1997). Noted yield constraints included wide cowpea spacing, lack of fertility inputs, and shading of cowpea by the cereal crops.
Bamboo’s reputation is largely based upon intrinsic peculiarities of certain varieties. The plant can grow a meter a day and is the staple diet for giant pandas; though a grass, it can grow to 30 meters tall with hollow wooden stems which are stronger than steel; and bamboo has a reproductive cycle in which all plants of the same species flower and then die simultaneously…worldwide. These sound like qualities conjured up for a fantasy novel.
Though the aforementioned qualities are true for some varieties, bamboo exists with a wide array of sizes, shapes, and palatability, and with varied growth and reproductive patterns. With diverse characteristics comes diverse functionality; bamboo is commonly used as food, fodder, fiber, fencing, furniture, and construction timber, all without sacrificing the life of the plant! Bamboo has many impressive and amazing characteristics, but its most important quality is the impact that its use can have on the life of a smallholder family.