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In this Issue
- Agriculture training in Haiti
- ECHO Ag Conference
- Technical Note Spotlight
- Hands on Training
- Network Events Calendar
EDN Issue 128 2015-07-22
In This Issue:
- Carbon Farming: Building Soils and Stabilizing the Climate
- Farmer Engagement in Agriculture Extension
- Echoes from our Network: Negotiating two seemingly contradictory understandings of cooperatives
- From ECHO’s Seed Bank: Naranjilla
Excerpt: Carbon Farming: Building Soils and Stabilizing the Climate
Excerpted from the forthcoming Carbon Farming: Stabilizing the Climate with Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices by Eric Toensmeier
Carbon sequestration is the act of moving excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into long-lived storage. In agriculture, this means storing it in the soil and in perennial plants like trees (Nair et al. 2010). Carbon farming is a term that describes these carbon-sequestering practices.
Here’s how it works. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into carbohydrates inside their cells. Some of this carbon stays in the biomass of the plant, like the trunks, roots, and branches of trees. About 50% of the dry weight of plants is carbon. Carbon can be stored for decades or even centuries in perennial plants like fruit and nut trees.
In northern Thailand, widespread mono-cropping has led to environmental changes which have affected the natural habitat of bees, resulting in diminishing numbers and reduced honey production.
As ECHO Asia already has a variety of different flower species, trialing honey production seemed like a logical next step. In order to learn more about the challenges of keeping bees, three beehives were purchased from a local farmer in northern Thailand who provides hives to the area.
"Aquaponics is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment." (Wikipedia) By combining these two systems farmers are able to increase their yield, decrease costs and deal sustainably with some of the challenges of hydroculture. In aquaculture the buildup of fish excretion causes toxicity over time, however, nitrates and other products of excrement can be used to feed hydropic growing systems, which in turn clean the water.
The ECHO Global Farm in Florida has a well-established aquaponics demonstration built using the "Use what you have to build what you need" ethos of Appropriate Technology. ECHO staff and interns have been experimenting with the long-term viability of materials that can replace the traditionally used polystyrene as a floating plant support. Polystyrene is not always affordable or readily available, and comes with its own set of concerns about long-term exposure. Rafts have been tried using bamboo, used PVC and drip tape, and waste plastic water bottles to good result.
In January, twenty four farmers gathered in Mkonoo villiage near Arusha Tanzania. They came together in the home of a widow by the name of Kalainey Lobarani to learn more about water harvesting and kitchen gardening techniques. Like so many small-scale farmers around the world their main interest is to improve the nutrition of their families through year round gardens, and to improve their overall food security.
Two exciting methods were presented by representatives from RUCONET (an ECHO/IDIN Picogrant recipient) and ECHO. First, they participated in a theoretical training on water harvesting which concluded with participants digging a hafir, a 10,000 litre plastic lined cistern which costs only about US$90 to build. After establishing the hafir, the group was keen to learn about a novel way to establish kitchen gardens by the keyhole method.
Keyhole gardens are raised round garden beds heavy with compost manure which only needs to be renewed after 3 years of use. These uniquely shaped gardens use waste kitchen water and can produce herbs, greens and vegetables throughout the year by a continuous planting/harvesting method. Water consumption is reduced through mulching, and a compost cylinder in the center filters waste water prior to absorption into the garden. The farmers in attendence committed themselves to helping each other to establish these kinds of gardens so that each should have one near their kitchens.
Fah Mui is a local farmer and member of the ECHO Asia network. Below she shared her story and experience with System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, a tool promoted throughout the ECHO Asia network as a way to increase farmers’ rice yields and reduce their inputs.
Development work in Haiti recovering slowly after disaster, creative solutions keep education moving 2015-05-26
In the midst of many challenges the Episcopal University in Port au Prince, Haiti is continuing to find creative ways to train tomorrow’s agriculture leaders. Since the earthquake the university has had to rearrange the agriculture curriculum due to the fact that student dorms are no longer habitable. In the face of this reality the university has focused its "on farm" curriculum on subjects that lend themselves to 2 day a week visit by the students and professors. The new focus includes subjects like composting, bee keeping and fruit tree grafting.
Mulch is a protective covering of organic material laid over the soil around plants to prevent erosion, retain moisture, and to enrich soil. Paper mulch, made of magazines, boxes and other paper materials, is laid on top of traditional materials such as grass, fruit peels and leaves. This technology is especially appropriate in dry areas where water is not sufficient because it helps to control water loss.
ECHO Development Notes #127 Now Available 2015-05-05
Excerpt: Private Service Providers: Preferred by Smallholders
Like all farmers, smallholder farmers require support services to provide production inputs, to market surplus production and to contribute other services like contract mechanization (for land preparation, post-harvest processing, initial value added), credit, etc. Within smallholder agriculture communities private service providers (PSPs) normally provide these essential support services that, if forced to be undertaken individually, would distract from the primary economic activity of crop and animal husbandry. These PSPs are part of the well-recognized and promoted Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) system. Frequently, they may be more accurately referred to as the Family Enterprise System (FES). Such PSPs are usually indigenous to the communities they serve, and often represent former farmers who have drifted out of farming to become supporting service providers to their neighbors. These businesses are frequently owned and operated by women, and often have such a limited market volume they operate near the poverty level.
YAS Project managers Hermansyah and Anthony, along with Mr. and Mrs. Kusnadi, attended the 2011 ECHO Asia Agriculture and Community Development Conference in Thailand. Their purpose was to network with other individuals and organizations like theirs, and to learn about techniques that could be implemented in their area. During the conference they were particularly impacted by a trip to Maejo University vermicomposting facility, which focuses on using worms to break down organic food waste in order to produce high-quality compost and worm juice. Inspired by what they saw during the field trip, the team went back to Medan and began experimenting with various vermicomposting systems.