Blogs tagged as agriculture

  • 5 Simple solutions that llama farmers love


    August 5th, 2016

    Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.

    Martin Queso's prize winning llama

    Martin Queso’s prize winning llama

    At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.

    Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.

    But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.

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    Queso family standing in front of their Practical Action llama shelter.

    1. Covered shelters:

    The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:

    “Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”

    With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.

    2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:

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    Photovoltaic water pump and trough for livestock

    With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing.  In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.

    “We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”

    3. Breeding pens:

    We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:

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    Rainwater harvesting and irrigation system and stone-wall breeding pens

    Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.

    4. Market access and product diversification:

    In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price.  Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.

     

    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    5. Training and knowledge:

    Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.

    It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.

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  • Determination leads to success


    August 1st, 2016

    Sushil Chaudhary, a 22 years old young farmer, is a model farmer for the youth who are migrating towards the cities and Gulf countries in search of jobs and better earnings, instead of generating self-employment using own resources.

    Sushil lives along with his seven-member family in Hikmatpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kailali district in Far-Western Nepal with a small land holding, i.e. 0.1 ha (10914.60 square feet). The family source of income was only wage labouring and subsistence farming that only partly fulfilled family needs. Sushil was forced to seek employment in the Gulf. But his family was unable to sponsor him for the cost required for employment in the Gulf.

    Sushil Chaudhary and his poultry and pig farms.

    Sushil Chaudhary in front of his poultry and pig farms.

    Because of this, he had no option other than wage labouring until he heard about the community library in his locality, which was helping community people improve their earnings and livelihoods.

    In 2015, he visited Tikapur Community Library to seek information for self-employment and a better livelihood. Sushil was advised on an integrated farming system for sustainable income which was suitable for people with small land holdings.

    With the guidance of a community worker and information from the library, Sushil began vegetable and pig farming. He participated in vegetable farming and animal husbandry training provided by the library. In the first year itself he was able to earn Nepali Rupees (NPR) 43,000 by selling vegetables and NPR 39,050 by selling two pigs (1 USD = 100 NPR). He expects more income this year as one of his piga gave birth to 10 piglets and all of them are healthy. Besides farming, Sushil is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree and is in his second year of college.

    Sushil says,

    “Until I visited the library, I was unable to decide what to do for better earnings… The guidance and technical information in the library helped me make up my mind…”

    He adds, “On account of what I learned, I have adopted commercial pig farming along with vegetable farming as a method of income generation. I initiated with four pigs in the pigpen constructed by myself. Two of the pigs I had been raising were recently sold for meat at the rate of NPR 170- NPR 200 per kg for the net price of NPR. 39,050. Furthermore, one of my pigs recently gave birth to ten piglets. Not very long ago, I used to be unemployed but now I have a reliable source of income. Tikapur Community Library’s Technical Knowledge Service section has not only helped me but also a number of other villagers who didn’t use to have much knowledge about agriculture or animal husbandry.”

    Embolden by his success he is planning to expand his farming by leasing more land and rearing more pigs. With a smile on his face, he says,

    “I am helping other youths in the community by advising them that one can achieve a goal if he has determination and zest to seek the right help.”

    Practical Answers Service in Tikapur Community Library, Kailali, is supported by Nepal Flood Resilient Project (NFRP) funded by Zurich Foundation.

     

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  • Learnings from a food security project in far-western Nepal


    May 17th, 2016

    When I look back, it still gives me a reason to visit the place again and again. The trip to far-western Nepal, our project sites, was a whirlwind – with all sorts of emotions jumbled up – getting me excited at each turn of the road.

    Though harsh life in the rugged terrain is a daily affair for people living in abject penury, it is a moment of revelation if you are a first-time traveller to those areas.

    The Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security (POSAN-FS) project is being implemented in four remote districts of far-western Nepal – Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Doti with an overall objective to contribute to enhance regional food and nutritional security.

    Out of the four, we visited three districts and had chance to hear the real stories from the horse’s mouth.

    Here are few nuggets of knowledge I gleaned from the tour.

    If people find opportunities at home, they would never migrate.

    Achham and other neighouring districts in the Far-Western Nepal suffer from a chronic disease of seasonal migration. No wonder, the district has the highest number of HIV cases in Nepal. People, from here, leave for India to earn a living every year.

    Man Bahadur BK recently returned from Gujarat, India after spending 35 years there. Along with him was his wife, Chandra Devi BK, who had been with him in India for the last 10 years. Man Bahadur worked in a Bajaj motorcycles showroom for many years and later started a small business of his own.

    Rearing chicken provides extra income to road-side shopkeepers.

    Raising chickens provides extra income to rural shopkeepers.

    After returning to his home in Achham, Man Bahadur has opened a shop – a mom and pop store selling items of daily need. To augment his earnings, he has kept three goats along with chickens provided by the POSAN-FS project. The project has also provided corrugated galvanised iron sheets for roofing the coop.

    Man Bahadur also showed us a small patch of tomato farm by the side of his shop. The couple is affiliated with the Punyagiri group of farmers who cultivate vegetables and spices and use kitchen waste water for irrigation.

    Though traditional crops are neglected, they are nutritious.

    Talking with local people, we came to know that they had left cultivating traditional crops that are nutritious. With the awareness raised by the project and its support, they have been encouraged to grow neglected crops like yams, millet and buck-wheat among others.

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Climbing down a hillock, we could see newly grown yam saplings on the erstwhile barren slopes. When asked, Project Manager Puspa Poudel explained, “Yams have been introduced as nutritious but neglected crops.”

    Kitchen gardens are essential for food security.

    Among the piles of problems, water scarcity is another ubiquitous problem here. People need to walk miles to fetch a pail of water. In these conditions, thinking of growing vegetables in kitchen garden is a far-fetched idea.

    Reaching the Janalikot Village, we met with Saraswati Karmi, a young farmer in her early twenties working in her vegetable plot.

    Saraswati proudly showed us the brinjals and chillies in her kitchen garden. Standing next to the vegetables was a healthy crop of turmeric. Nearby was a small ditch for waste-water collection from the kitchen. Though the area is parched with water scarcity, the small puddle stored enough water to grow vegetables, enough to eat and sell in the market.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Introduced to kitchen garden concept few months ago, Saraswati is self-sufficient, at least for vegetables. She doesn’t need to buy them from market any more. She now saves nearly NRs 1200 (around USD 12) per month, which else, would be used in buying vegetables.

    Besides kitchen gardening, she has been raising chickens provided by the project. Out of the 19 chickens given to her by the project,10 were ready to be sold in the market. They looked like local chickens and would sell at least at NRs 800 per chicken.

    The kitchen garden produce and chickens are taking care of the family’s food security. Now, instead of spending, they are saving!

    Know more about the POSAN-FS project.

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  • Impact of low cost irrigation technologies on livelihoods and women’s empowerment


    March 28th, 2016

    ICIMOD held an international workshop on water, livelihood and gender nexus recently in Kathmandu. We were also invited to share our experience.  The following is the full script of the presentation I made on the impact of low cost irrigation technologies (micro irrigation technologies) on livelihood and women empowerment.


     

    The impact of irrigation on livelihoods is obvious. However, the impact of conventional irrigation schemes on the livelihoods of poor and marginalised households is not that obvious.  Marginalised households often live at the edges of the settlements, mostly in small numbers, making it difficult for the conventional schemes to reach them.

    Google map

    This Google map shows a typical village in western Nepal. The main settlement constitutes about 60 houses. Five houses are below the main settlement, at about 20 minutes’ walking distance. These houses belong to the poor, most likely to Dalits. Conventional irrigation would target the main settlement as there is often  pressure to reach the larger population as better value for money.

    Extending the reach of the irrigation scheme to marginalized households is costly. The per unit cost would be very high and economically unjustifiable. Even if economic viability is discounted and the budget is not a constraint, the water is less likely to reach them, because there is not enough water, even for the main settlement.  Hence, some households will be left out.

    There are thousands of similar villages across the country. You won’t find any village, even in the remotest part of the country, where there is no irrigation scheme of some sort; however, you will find such left out households in almost every village. Hence, large numbers of marginalised households are deprived of irrigation facilities. We promote the low cost irrigation technologies to cater the irrigation needs of such marginalised households.

    The following are some of the  low cost irrigation technologies we have been promoting:


    So, how do the micro irrigation technologies improve the access of poor and marginalised households to irrigation?

    1. Low cost irrigation technologies fill the void left out by conventional schemes.
    2. They increase water efficiency. Our mountains and hills are dry.  Limited resources we have are also shrinking gradually.  Hence, it is very important that we use our water resources wisely and efficiently. These low cost technologies help achieve this.
    3. Studies and our own experience have shown that low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability.
    4. Low cost technologies are affordable and simple to operate and maintain. This improves access of marginalized households to the technology.
    5. Low cost irrigation technologies also help in women empowerment.

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    This is Tula Devi Saud from Bajura. She literally had to beg to her husband to let her to grow vegetables on some of their land. In the rural areas, women rarely own land. Hence, they have little say in deciding how to use the land.  After much pleading, however, her husband agreed to let her cultivate vegetable in 0.5 Ropani (1 Ropani = 508.72 sq. m) of their land. But, there was no irrigation facility in their village.
    She had to fetch water from a well about 20 minutes walking distance from the village. It would cost her 2-3 hours daily. Hence, she would produce only about 50-60 Kg of vegetable in a season which would earn her merely about five thousand rupees in a year. Thus, she was solely dependent on her husband for all kind of expenses.

    Two year ago, they constructed an irrigation pond in the village. She actively participated in the construction. Now, she grows vegetables on 2.5 ropani of land. It takes her only about an hour to irrigate her plots. Now she sells 1200 kgs of vegetables a year. Last year, she made Rs 45000 from selling vegetable. Now, she supports her husband financially.  In fact, she gets her husband to porter the vegetable to the market whenever he needs pocket money.  This story pretty much explains the significance of micro-irrigation to women’s empowerment.

    We can summarize as follows:

    • While the conventional irrigation schemes are more concerned with cereal crops, the low cost technologies are often used for cash crops, mainly vegetable farming. Often, vegetable farming is the only prospect for rural women, who are mostly illiterate, to earn money. So, the low cost irrigation technologies help.
    • Rural households have multiple water needs. And women are responsible for meeting the needs. Statistics tells us that 80% of the water needed in rural Nepal are met by women. The micro-irrigation technologies help to meet the multiple water needs. For example,  water in the jar or the irrigation pond can be used for irrigation, for cattle and maintaining household sanitation.
    • The low cost irrigation technologies bring the water closer to the house, which reduce their drudgery and save time and energy. It also allows them to attend other household chores alongside irrigating their plot.
    • Finally, the technologies are affordable and simple to operate. Hence, women can own and operate them on their own.

    The 21st century is defined by technological revolution. However, its benefit is lopsided. The rich have greater access to technologies. The technological innovations are inclined to meet the desires of the rich than the needs of poor. However, it is invariably the poor who bear brunt of the negative consequences of indiscriminate use of technologies. In Practical Action we call this technology injustice, and seek to reduce it by promoting the low cost appropriate technologies. Micro-irrigation technologies are among the technologies which hold much promise for improving the livelihoods of the poor and supporting women’s empowerment.

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  • Local innovation in agriculture in North Darfur


    February 22nd, 2016

    Over the past few years Ibrahim Hamid Mohamedain, a farmer from Magdoub A in North Darfur, has been selectively breeding his millet crop, the region’s foremost staple grain. Like farmers across the region, Ibrahim has struggled with increasingly low yields of millet year on year. Whereas twenty years ago one mukhamas (equivalent of 1.25 acres) used to produce 6-8 sacks of millet, it now rarely produces more than half a sack. The reasons for the falling fertility of the sandy soils on which the crop is grown are many, chief among them is widespread deforestation across the region.

     

     

    Ibrahim realised that one of the (albeit lesser) causes of this deforestation was the practice of local farmers cutting down trees on their farm land, and uprooting tree seedlings, as a preventative measure to reduce the number of birds, seen as one of the main pests of the millet crop.

    As an environmentally conscious farmer, he sought a biological and natural form of bird control. One day, his wife Aisha Adam observed that a few of the millet plants grown by her sister were covered in small hairs and were thus resistant to birds and grasshoppers. He took some of these seeds back to his farm, so beginning his three-year endeavor to selectively breed a bird-resistant millet variety which would also have high tolerance to drought (essential in an arid area increasingly prone to rain shortages) and a high yield.

    In this attempt, he drew on his experience accumulated as a Practical Action trained agricultural extension agent (from 2004). In 2005 he participated in an exchange visit to neighbouring North Kordofan state with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Corporation, where he was taught how to select and propagate seeds. More recently, he participated in a refreshment training course in agricultural production techniques for village extension agents, organised as part of the Wadi El-Ku catchment management project for peace and livelihoods.

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    Close-up of Abu Suf (hairy) millet

    In the 2014 agricultural season he tied a strip of cloth around the first millet stalk to flower, considering this as an early maturing variety and resistant to drought. He also observed that as it grew, the millet head was the biggest, a sign of high production. Most importantly, he also he observed that the same millet head was covered in long hairs which made it difficult for the birds to eat. He observed a second millet variety with a compacted seed head with large seeds that made it hard for locusts and bird to dislodge and eat.

    He selected these millet heads and stored them as seeds for the coming year. This second crop was harvested in October/November 2015 with stunning results. Despite being one of the worst rainy seasons in many years, he produced a surplus of millet beyond his annual household’s needs, the only farmer Magdoub A to do so in 2015. The crop was virtually untouched by birds.

    Scaling up use of new millet variety

    Ibrahim invited Practical Action to attend the harvest, with the aim of seeking support to scale-up the propagation of this new millet variety. Practical Action, accompanied by a team from the State Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), visited the farm to assess the seeds and to discuss with Ibrahim how his millet variety could best be expanded to the benefit of other farmers in the state.

    This scale-up began with Ibrahim training 250 other farmers in Magdoub, and from neighbouring satellite villages, in identifying, selecting and breeding seeds. The next step in the scale-up plan is still being discussed but the provisional plan entails distributing the seeds to 50 farmers in the state who will then grown the seeds; keeping half the crop and passing the other half on to a further 50 farmers. Practical Action also hopes to use these seeds to encourage farmers to adopt agro-forestry. As they no longer need to fear birds damaging their crops, planting Acacia trees on their sandy soils after 4 or 5 years will significantly improve soil fertility. At this point they can also benefit from the trees as Arabic gum gardens supplying reliable source of additional income, through the sale of gum Arabic.

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    Aisha Adam harvesting her Abu Suf millet

    While this variety of millet is not new to Sudan as a whole, with other pioneer farmers developing similar locally propagated improved seeds in several states, his efforts show how with limited training and outside support, farmers can find locally appropriate solutions to their livelihood challenges.

    This is in line with Practical Action’s vision of promoting local knowledge that contributes to improving the livelihoods of poor communities. By connecting farmers with governmental institutions such as MOA and ARC, we encourage sustainable development.

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  • Will COP21 deliver a Paris Protocol?


    November 25th, 2015

    Have the global negotiations for a new climate agreement switched from a marathon to an egg and spoon race?

    We are now in the final leg of the marathon negotiations for a new climate agreement. At the last meeting in Bonn, the negotiators were expected to intensify their pace, but by the end of the meeting it was clear no one had sped up, if anything the pace had slowed. We are now entering the final sprint to the line. In 5 days the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Paris. Without a sprint finish it is unlikely that an effective Paris Protocol will be signed.

    Great Climate RaceThe Great Climate Race is just one example of what communities around the world are doing to tackle climate change. A fund raising run/walk to raise money for community solar power, because climate change is a race against time!

    So what are the core stumbling blocks in the way of delivering a Paris Protocol?

    The first barrier is a long standing one around whether developed and developing nations should be treated differently. The issue known as “differentiation” remains a significant hurdle. To be effective the new agreement must build on the original convention text around common but differentiated responsibilities. But it must update the text to match today’s reality and be dynamic to evolve as the world changes. Historical emissions must not be ignored, but the changing dynamics of global emissions means that the text must be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances.

    The second barrier is around finance. For poor and developing nations allocating sufficient resources will be vital to deliver the agreement. At the Copenhagen COP in 2009 developed countries committed to mobilise jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. A lack of clarity around these contributions, double counting of existing development assistance and the role of the private sector all continue to hinder progress in this respect.

    Egg-and-spoon raceThirdly, Loss and Damage continues to divide parties. Some countries hope to see it embedded within the heart of the agreement, while others suggested it should be removed. Lack of action to reduce emissions will lead to a greater need for adaptation. Lack of finance for adaptation will lead to accelerating Loss and Damage. The logic is clear, but still Loss and Damage fails to receive the recognition and importance it deserves.

    The Paris COP is supposed to light the way for governments to finally deliver an effective global response to the threat of climate change. However, to avoid another failed UN sponsored global conference it will be vital for politicians to put in the additional legwork to make the Paris Protocol a reality.

    We don’t just want an agreement, we need a robust agreement that delivers. Human rights, gender equality and the issue of a just transition must be central to the agreement. A human rights centred agreement offers a holistic approach that makes the connections between the economic, social, cultural, ecological and political dimensions, and links what we are doing to tackle climate change with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction.  Is this too much for our children to ask for?

    Further information

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  • As GMO patents expire, will they be used more by smallholder farmers in LDCs?


    October 16th, 2015

    Today 16th October is World Food Day, a day to highlight the hunger and suffering millions of people face throughout the world. One of the responses to hunger in recent years has been to turn to science and technology to help boost yields of ‘staple crops’. One such method has been the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the use of such seeds is controlled by the companies who ‘make’ them. Recently however, the patents protections on some of the earlier generations of GMOs are starting to expire. (more…)

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  • World Food Day and the SDGs: The challenge – no! the opportunity – for agriculture to leave no one behind

    Today, 16th October, is World Food Day. A day when we are reminded of the vital importance of agriculture in providing our basic need – food. More importantly, the vital role agriculture plays in providing food security and livelihoods for the majority in developing countries. For me it is a reminder of how, to date, agriculturalists and the international community are still failing to enable the many millions of small-scale farmers to use their efforts, and their resources – the natural environment for which they are in fact our custodians – to develop their agriculture so it is productive, resilient and sustainable. Our understanding of ecology and agricultural systems tells us that sustainable agriculture is possible, but this is not reflected in our research and development efforts to pursue that approach. This injustice is evident from the fact that the 2014, Global Hunger Index concluded that levels of hunger remain “alarming” or “extremely alarming” in 16 countries, and this year’s FAO report on the State Of Food and Agriculture (SOFA, 2015) show that most of the extreme poor and hungry live in rural areas.

    Great Goals

    ward no.7 07.03.2010Whilst alarming this is not news, and it was therefore with good reason that last month, through the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), the international community properly recognised the vital role of agriculture in combating poverty. Unlike their predecessor, the Millenium Development Goals (the MDGs) in which agriculture was omitted, the SDGs have a specific goal to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030 (Goal 2). And, to achieve that, specific targets to double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, whilst maintaining the genetic diversity of our food crops and livestock, and delivering a sustainable food system.

    With the SDGs the global community has done well to agree meaningful goals and targets for agriculture. However, this is not enough because agriculture is complex, it provides different things to different people, there are many strategies for growth and intensification and there are many interests at stake. For example, at the household level agriculture is important for food security, incomes, identity and jobs. For many it is a safety net – a base from which to rise. As a sector it is important financially and economically – for trade, adding value (processing), technology (inputs and machinery), raw materials for industry (fibres, fuels, oils), investment and growth. Agriculture is also one of the most significant of human activities that impact on the environment. Expanding and polluting agriculture is causing the loss of forests, wetland and marine ecosystems, which is having a negative knock on effect on our climate. There is a tension between food and incomes now, and maintaining our natural resources for future generations.

    The Role of Technology

    Many people and governments look to science and new technologies for the solution. The green revolution multiplied the yields of major staple crops, but yields are plateauing, soil fertility is declining and land degradation threatens the sustainability of the gains achieved. Despite the dramatic, even transformational, effect of that science, poverty and hunger remain.

    Certainly science and technology has a vital role to play but it needs to create accessible, innovative and sustainable solutions. To do this requires research, capacity building and policies that enable farmers to make the most of the assets and knowledge they already have, and to use science to complement and improve their efforts. Agroecology provides an agricultural development pathway to do that. To be relevant, and bring forward, the many millions of smallholder farmers, in particular women, indigenous people, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, so that indeed many fewer are left behind.

    Implementation & Measuring Success

    Coming back to the SDGs, and the challenge of implementation, the important issue now is to have realistic indicators for monitoring and measuring success, and most importantly, guiding the strategies that governments choose to promoting transformation in agriculture.

    There will be a tendency, the sake of easy implementation, measurement and reporting, to simplify the issues. For example, to measure yields and the closing of the so called ‘yield gap’, use of fertiliser or new seeds. As we have seen from the green revolution and the environmental pressures on agriculture in developed countries, such measures do not ensure access, innovation or sustainability. The SGD indicators should rather measure the ability of farmers to adapt and cope with change, and our ability to refocus research and development to improve their capacity, knowledge and skill so they can so they can improve and manage the natural resources they have.

    In conclusion, the food insecurity of millions of extreme poor people could be alleviated with agroecological technologies to improve the productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers, rather than investments in technologies for industrial farming.

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  • Rice duck farming in Nepal in pictures


    September 1st, 2015

    Authors: Jack Spoor, Menila Kharel, Dr. Sujan Piya

    Women in innovation

    Rice is a staple food crop in Nepal, accounting for about 67% of cereal consumption.[1] Ensuring maximum yield and minimising loss is a vital in ensuring food security. Here, women farmers are transplanting rice seedlings that have been grown in a nursery with specific spacing into a flooded paddy field. A project like rice-duck farming which helps to empower smallholders will have a great effect on gender equality, as many smallholders are women who are often excluded from innovation due to a lack of access to funds, information or connections.


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     Ducklings as input support

    Rice farmers are given ducklings as part of a project. Additionally, they are given intensive training on rice-duck farming technology and duck raising.

    Picture 2- A day old ducklings support to farmers

     

    Ducks in rice: win- win

    Rice-duck farming is a perfect example of agro-ecological farming, in which both the environment and productivity benefit. The rice-duck farming technique increases yield and decreases reliance on external inputs such as inorganic fertilizer which is costly and can damage the environment.

    The ducklings are introduced to the paddy after 15-20 days of tra nsplanting, where they feed off the small weeds that would compete with the rice for space and nutrients, and also the pests. The relationship between rice and duck is symbiotic, with each benefiting from the relationship. Not only do the ducks eat weeds and pests, but their droppings also provide an organic source of nutrition for the rice plants, reducing the need for the farmer to buy inorganic fertilizer.

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    Best use of local resources

    A farmer uses locally available materials to make a fence. The ducks are vulnerable to predators like any other livestock, and care must be taken to ensure the rice paddies are adequately protected.

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    Duck housing

    While the ducks can help increase crop yields, some agricultural land must also be given up to house the ducks, as they cannot remain constantly on the water.

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    Ducks for nutrition and income

    Not only do the ducks benefit the rice crop, but they can also be sold for extra income. Some are kept for next year’s crop while others are either consumed or sold for the high value meat.

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    Private sector business extension

    The most prominent private sector Bilas Haas from Janakpur District, has been supplying ducklings across the country and is connected with rice farmers for supplying the Hong Kong and Pekin cross ducklings, most suitable for paddy. The firm also buys back the ducks from farmers and sell to local and national markets.

    A new depot is opened up in Chitwan District by Bilas Haas  to provide farmers with a source of young ducks for the project, as the existing supply was not able t o meet the increased demand. Initiatives driven through market demand enable the project and its benefits to be scaled up. Private sector involvement provides the necessary capital and entrepreneurship to spread rice-duck farming across the country. The supply and demand effect on the private sector also ensures that gaps in the system (such as a lack of young ducks) are filled efficiently as possible.

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    A new business start up

    Two new duck meat outlets are opened up, one in each project district. Previously, there was no system of selling duck meat from meat outlets. Hotels and restaurants used to collect ducks from individual farmers. Now, consumers have easy access to duck meat.

    Picture 3- Meat outlet in Project district

    Linking with urban market

    The ducks from the project districts are also sold for meat in the capital, Kathmandu. The meat is considered healthier and more nutritious than locally produced fowl and also has improved taste.

    Picture 4- Meat outlet in Kathmandu

    Working together for influencing

    The project worked closely with the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) in Chitwan and engaged them in planning and implementation of the project. Now, they have owned and included the technology in their annual plan with a commitment to disseminate it more widely.

    DADO visit

    The success of the rice-duck farming project shows that sometimes simplicity is the key to success. It is just one example of agro-ecological techniques being combined with private sector innovation to provide a positive outcome for those marginalised the most in society. Hopefully, the success fo this project can be replicated in other areas in order to achieve Practical Action’s Change Agenda.

    [1] World Bank, Food Price Increases in South Asia, p109, 2010, Washington

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  • The 9th Community-Based Adaptation Conference: ensuring adaptation works for smallholder farmers


    April 17th, 2015

    The 9th Community-Based Adaptation conference (CBA9) will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from 24-30 April, 2015. Organized by the International Institute of Environment and Development, and co-sponsored by Practical Action, the conference will bring together development practitioners to discuss current challenges and opportunities facing community-based adaptation to climate change.

    The challenge of climate change adaptation

    Climate change will exacerbate the global challenges we face: delivery of basic services, providing enough food for a growing and urbanizing population, and responding to increasing natural disasters. The impacts of climate change will be difficult to predict; however, it is clear they will be unequally distributed. The poor and the marginalized, particularly women and girls, will bear the greatest burdens.

    Women smallholder farmers community-based adaptation

    Women and girls are often more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and will bear the greatest burdens from climate change. Credit: Samuel Rendon/ Manuel Seoane

    It is vital that adaptation funding is targeted to benefit those who will find it hardest to respond. Adaptation must move beyond vulnerability reduction to building long-term adaptive capacity, empowering communities to make livelihood decisions in the face of unpredictable climate change.

    To take adaptation to scale, we must re-vision the role of the private sector. Development practitioners must facilitate equitable market access for those living in poverty, and inclusive, pro-poor technological innovation that benefits both smallholders and private investors.

    Technology choices affect communities’ adaptive capacity

    Technology choices made by farmers, planners, policy makers, research and the private sector to enable or promote agricultural adaptation to climate change are not neutral. Choices between different technologies and systems of governing these technologies have consequences for access (inclusivity), sustainable use (choices available for future generations), and resilience.

    As a sector, agriculture is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and climatic change, and in developing countries it employs over 50% of the population. Therefore, agricultural technology choices will have a huge impact on food security and economic development. If agricultural adaptation is to be beneficial for smallholder farmers in developing countries, technology choices must improve adaptive capacity and maintain the natural resource base upon which livelihoods depend.

    Key messages for CBA9

    • All actors – government, civil society, private sector – must recognise that technology choices are not neutral and have consequences for adaptive capacity, inclusivity, and sustainability
    • Communities must be re-engaged in analysis, planning and innovation in response to climate change
    • If community-based adaptation is to be effective, it must utilise both indigenous knowledge and experience and climate information and forecasts, with acknowledgement of what we do not know about the future
    • The gendered impacts of climate change and the additional burdens it will place on women and girls must be placed centre stage
    • We need to re-vision private sector involvement in community-based adaptation to take it to scale – this will require access to markets for products and inputs, and mutually beneficial relationships
    Market Bangladesh private sector community-based adaptation

    Taking community-based adaptation to scale will require access to markets for products and services. Credit: Mehrab ul Goni

    Practical Action at CBA9

    Practical Action will be sending representatives from Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, the UK, Sudan and Zimbabwe to CBA9, who will present  a selection of Practical Action’s community-based adaptation projects from around the world (posters here, under ‘Key Publications‘). They will also facilitate several interactive learning sessions on a range of key issues, including the use of climatic information, the role of the private sector, and Climate Smart Agriculture.

    Find Practical Action at CBA9 here, and remember to follow us on Twitter! #cba9 @Jodi_Sugden @Chris_P_Hen @ColinMcQuistan

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