Posts Tagged natural resource management
Assessing Utilization of Low-input Agriculture Technologies (liats) in Malawi: Adoption and Challenges for the Malawian Subsistence Farmer
There is growing concern about agricultural activities leading to environmental degradation and health risks associated with intensively produced foodstuffs. As a result interest in organic agriculture is increasing. This growing interest in sustainable and organic natural resource management and healthy eating, coupled with the increasing number of resource-poor farmers who cannot afford agrichemicals, has led to the potential for organic farming in addressing the issue of sustainable food production and livelihoods of resource-poor people in sub-Saharan Africa.
Low in-put agriculture applies to systems that rely less on external, purchased inputs and more on internal resources. However, low-inout agriculture technolgy (LIAT) has conveyed a negative impression in various agriculture circles and this is cited as a major barrier to wider adoption of low-input agriculture technologies (LIATs) in Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
Increasingly, it has been recognized that environmental deterioration in Africa is a central factor holding back agriculture. The disappearance of forest areas accelerates land degradation. Even on gently sloping cropland, topsoil losses have been reported to range from 25 tonnes to 250 tonnes per hectare, across the region. One study has estimated that soil degradation and erosion in Africa reduces the productivity of land about 1 per cent a year (Daberkow and Reichederfer, 1988).
According to World Bank figures (1982), some 2.9 million hectares of forest were lost each year in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1980s, mainly due to clearing by farmers and loggers. The Soil Reference and Information Centre (2007) in the Netherlands estimates that 321 million hectares of African land are moderately to extremely degraded. Since 1950, the amount of water available per person in Africa has fallen by more than half, and may plummet further to half its current level within the next 25 years.
While African governments have become more aware of the relationship between the environment and agricultural productivity, much of the impetus for concrete and more integrated action has come from the grassroots. Confronted with deteriorating environmental conditions, villagers across the continent, often with support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have taken the initiative to set up woodlots, terrace hillsides, conserve threatened water sources and adopt more environmentally sustainable farming methods.
Malawi is a landlocked country about 117,068 km2, with a population of about 12 million people. It is situated in southeastern Africa, where the Great Rift Valley traverses the country from north to south. In this deep trough lies Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa, comprising about 20% of Malawi’s land area. The Shire River flows from the south end of the lake and joins the Zambezi River 400 kilometers farther south in Mozambique. East and west of the Rift Valley, the land forms high plateaus, generally between 900 and 1,200 meters above sea level.
Malawi is a densely populated country with an economy heavily dependent on agriculture. The country has few exploitable mineral resources. Its two most important export crops are tobacco and tea. Traditionally Malawi has been self-sufficient in its staple food, maize, and during the 1980s exported substantial quantities to its drought-stricken neighbors. Agriculture represents 38.6% of the GDP, accounts for over 80% of the labour force, and represents about 80% of all exports. Nearly 90% of the population engages in subsistence farming. Smallholder farmers produce a variety of crops, including maize, beans, rice, cassava, tobacco, and groundnuts (peanuts). The agricultural sector contributes about 63.7% of total income for the rural population, 65% of manufacturing sector’s raw materials, and approximately 87% of total employment. Financial wealth is generally concentrated in the hands of a small elite.
Many Malawian subsistence farmers have unconsciously practiced LIATs since time immemorial until the advent of advanced technology and conventional farming systems aimed at producing more to food the ever-increasing population. Conventional farming system has by and by overtaken traditional low-input agriculture. However, LIATs system of farming is not receiving much attention for various reasons. There is thus need to revisit the system and identify the needs and gaps that impede adoption of LIAT system of farming. The primary objective of the research was to identify the challenges of adoption of organic agriculture that exist in the development of LIATs in Malawi and to recommend the formulation of policies that will improve sustainability in agriculture.
There are varied definitions of organic farming but the basic principles of this type of farming apply to all. The principles of organic farming as expressed in the standards document of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) are:
• To produce food of high nutritional quality in sufficient quantity
• To work with natural systems rather seeking to dominate them
• To encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system, involving microorganisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals
• To maintain and increase the long-term fertility of soils
• To use as far as possible renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems
• To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural activities
• To maintain the genetic diversity of the agricultural system and its surroundings
• To allow agricultural producers an adequate return and satisfaction from their work including a safe working environment
These principles provide the basis for day-to-day farming practice. They directly give rise to the techniques of organic farming, such as composting, the use of rotations, the avoidance of soluble fertilizers, the prohibition of intensive livestock operations, the avoidance of antibiotics and hormone stimulants, the use of mechanical methods of weed control, etc.
Organic farming has also been defined as “a farming system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives”. To the maximum extent possible, organic farming systems rely on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes, and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests.
The definitions and principles of organic farming underlie the notion of low input agriculture, which emphasizes use of internal inputs and not external inputs. Internal inputs are generally much cheaper and affordable compared to external inputs.
Low In-put Agriculture Technology (LIAT)
This is a production activity that uses synthetic fertilizers or pesticides below rates commonly recommended. It does not mean elimination of these materials or inputs. Yields are maintained through greater emphasis on cultural practices, integrated pest management (IPM), and utilization of on-farm resources and management. LIAT has also been termed “low input and sustainable agriculture, LISA)” by other schools of agriculture. The term in both cases applies to those systems that rely less on external, purchased inputs and more on internal resources, while sustaining the natural resources.
Sustainable agriculture is an important element of the overall effort to make human activities compatible with the demands of the earth’s eco-system. Thus, an understanding of the different approaches to ecological agriculture is necessary if we want to utilise the planet’s resources wisely.
While sustainable agriculture is based on long-term goals and not a specific set of farming practices, it is usually accompanied by a reduction of purchased inputs in favor of managing on-farm resources. A good example is reliance on biologically-fixed nitrogen from legumes as versus manufactured nitrogen fertilizers. Low-input agriculture is one of several alternative farming systems whose methods are adaptable to sustainable agriculture.
The research on organic farming and LIAT was done using interviews of key-informants from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and those who practice organic farming as a strategy of LIAT. Four visits to fifteen different key-informants were made. The farmers (key-informants) were purposefully selected on the merit of known cases of LIA and organic farming in Malawi. An interview questionnaire was administered at each visit to solicit information related to the research questions “what are the challenges of adoption of organic farming faced by farmers in Malawi?” and “what LIATs are currently practiced in Malawi?” Internet search was also used to get more literature on organic farming and LIAT in sub-Sahara Africa and Malawi. The search words used were low-input agricultute, organic farming, Malawi, sub-Sahara Africa, subsistence agriculture.
Views of Malawi Organic Growers Association (MOGA)
Africa is the only continent in which food production has failed to keep up with the growth in population. In Malawi, where there is a shortage of the staple food, maize, hunger and malnutrition result in high infant mortality. Here, some farmers are experimenting with organic farming systems – which do not rely on man-made chemicals – and their techniques are being observed by farmer groups from other countries. The methods being used involve a combination of irrigation, companion planting, composting and soil conservation. Currently there are 2,400 smallholder farmers in fourteen farmer clubs that practice organic farming in Malawi. These are closely supervised by the Malawi Organic Growers Association (MOGA), whose objective is to promote organic farming on a national level so that it contributes to poverty reduction, food security and natural resources management through training of its members. The objective of MOGA will be achieved through the following activities;
• Promoting and protecting the interests of organic producers
• Selecting suitable crops and coordinating and monitoring production among members
• Setting rules for standardization and certification of organic products which are accepted nationally and internationally
• Assisting farmer members increase their production levels, crop diversification and food security
• Establishing contacts for marketing at national, regional and international levels
• Informing and training members in post-harvest processing to add value to products
MOGA has also established a demonstration and training centre for organic farming in Dzalanyama, Lilongwe. It is also promoting a project (permaculture) to protect ecosysytems where farmers used to cut down trees for shifting cultivation. Permaculture is largely promoted at one of the farmers who practice organic farming. His farm is called “Freedom Gardens” and it acts as a demonstration garden for other potential farmers who go to learn permaculture and other strategies of organic farming
Interview with Agriculture Expert (key-informant)
Experts from the MOGA gave their views on LIA and organic agriculture. The discussion with the researcher (RS) and Agriculture Expert (AE) went as follows;
RS. What are the advantages of turning to organic agriculture?
AE: It’s difficult to generalize, because examples of successful organic farming systems can be found in many different conditions. A major advantage of course is that it stops environmental degradation. Organic techniques are used to regenerate degraded areas. A second advantage is that, because of diversification, it offers farmers a much more secure income than when they rely on only one or two outputs. The consumption of byproducts improves the health of the farm family.
Thirdly, farmers maintain nutrient balances in the soil through locally available organic materials or recycled farm wastes. Soil nutritional status is thus better maintained in areas where access to synthetic inputs is limited or where they are too expensive.
Finally, health hazards posed by pesticides and herbicides fall are significantly reduced through organic farming.
RS: Exactly what is low-external-input agriculture; what are its principles?
AE: Low-external-input farming reduces as much as possible the use of external inputs like pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers and replaces them with internal inputs. The basic principle is that farming is seen as both agro- and ecosystem management. The farmer is managing a farm with coherent diversity. The important concepts are diversification of crops and animals, crop rotation, and organic matter cycles. Low-external-input agriculture does not prohibit synthetic inputs. It’s just that when the principles are applied, the need for synthetics disappears. Mixed cropping, green manuring, composting, use of local organic materials, reduced tillage and biodynamic preparations are also included. These things are little more than common sense. Developing these skills with the farmer is the biggest problem.
RS: How accepted is organic agriculture today?
AE: Organic farming isn’t exactly new. Many so-called traditional systems have worked for a long time without external inputs and chemicals – and are still working. The best proof that organic farming can work is that it has worked for a long time. This doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. It certainly has to be. But to improve it, it’s not necessary to use external inputs. There are other ways. Here I feel FAO is weak. The Organization feels that agricultural improvement means putting in chemicals. That’s a one-sided view. In some cases, that approach is viable, but in others it’s not. And I feel we have a role to play in developing traditional systems that are still low-external-input without chemicals. The means to do this involves the concept of nutrient balances including organic matter. Science today has a lot more information about what is happening with soil resources, and with these data many traditional systems can be improved without chemicals.
RS: Most districts in Malawi have very high population densities, how can low-external-input agriculture work in places like these?
AE: The fact is that very often systems are being degraded because the external inputs are not properly used. In organic farming, the need for external inputs is reduced through nutrient cycling and an input like labour. When other external inputs are necessary, they are organic materials. You can make biologically intensive production systems with above average yields, employing more people, using renewable, organic resources.
Admittedly, you have to balance population pressures to some degree as well. If you have degraded soils, you need to build up soil fertility, and when the fertility is there you have to try to maintain it. The problem at the moment is that people have tried for too long to use the soil as something to extract from, without trying to recycle things back into it.
The intensification of an agricultural system need not mean automatically putting in more chemicals. There are different ways – intercropping, green manuring, recycling of manure, and planting crops at different times, so as to maximize the potential of a piece of land. You can use cropping systems so that you have a diversity of crop species that complement each other. You can plant crop combinations that are less susceptible to pest attacks, so that you don’t have to keep relying on the pesticides used with monocultures.
RS. Can you give an overview of organic farming in Malawi?
AE. Compared to the population of Malawi (about 12 million people), those practicing organic farming in Malawi are few although there is an untapped demand for organic produce within and outside Malawi. The question is therefore how to go into this market by encouraging farmers to grow organic produce and forming links between potential farmers and the market. This is because marketing is the major impediment in the adoption of organic farming.
There are currently no standards for organic farming in the country which control the production of organic goods and there is also little awareness by the potential farmers of the benefits of organic farming.
RS. What are the low-input technologies that are currently used in Malawi?
AE. Many subsistence farmers in Malawi practice LIA albeit unconsciously. Due to unaffordability of external agriculture inputs farmers have always produced crops using on-farm inputs. Some of the strategies which are currently practiced by subsistence farmers are;
There are many different irrigation systems available to suit particular conditions. The one commonly used in Malawi is that which is traditionally used in many parts of the world – the irrigation water is carried to the fields along channels at the highest edge of the land and then along smaller channels made between the rows of plants. The water then soaks into the ground around the plants.
A technique used by the farmers interviewed to help to control pests is to plant together different kinds of crop which help each other to survive and grow successfully. One of the reasons “companion plants” help each other is because one may deter the pest of its neighbour. For example, many pests avoid garlic so this can be used very effectively for companion planting with many crops.
In some cases, it is possible to use a plant which is more attractive to the pest than the crop plant itself. This idea is used in parts of Africa where farmers have found that milkweed planted among vegetables reduces the number of aphids on their crops – simply because the aphids prefer the milkweed to the vegetables.
In a similar way to companion planting, plants can be used to attract predators which will then eat the pests. Bushes and trees left around crop fields provide cover for many useful insects and birds. There are many plants whose flowers will attract predators and encourage them to lay more eggs, so increasing the number of insects which will attack the pests.
If the soil is to continue to provide the nourishment needed by crop plants, it must be kept in good condition and its natural nutrients replaced. Artificial, chemical fertizers can not do this because they only supply the short-term needs of the plant but do not feed the soil itself – so feeding of the next crop with more, expensive chemicals becomes necessary. By returning natural wastes and animal manure to the soil, as well as feeding the plants, the farmer can also improve the structure of the soil so that it retains water more effectively.
A very effective way of using vegetable wastes in this way is by making it into compost. This is made up of plant and animal residues which have been broken down by bacteria. Since this is a natural process, compost is very easy and inexpensive to make and is an effective and long-lasting way of improving soil and crop quality. If the process is well managed, the heat produced as the materials rot will often be enough to kill weed seeds and plant diseases.
Freedom Gardens uses the trench composting system but there are many different ways of making compost, all of which have been devised to suit various waste materials and the climates in which they are used. It is essential in all methods, however, to have a mixture of different kinds of materials – some young, living material and some older, dead material – so that the final product has a good balance of natural carbon and nitrogen which the crop plants will need.
In order to retain the soil and avoid its loss through erosion by the wind or rain, it helps to grow plants which bind it together. Banana plants and vetiver grass are used for this at farmers’ gardens. Both of these have the additional benefit of providing either a food crop (banana) or a useful farm material in the form of mulch or animal feed (vetiver). Vetiver grass has been used very successfully in more than 50 countries for soil and water conservation. When fully established, a vetiver hedge will hold back surface water and trap any soil which is already being carried in the water.
Other methods of retaining soil include building terraces on steep slopes or using the gentler contours of the land to make flat areas in which rain water will rest until it has soaked naturally into the ground instead of running swiftly down the slope, carrying away the surface soil.
Due to land pressure farmers maximize production by planting two or more crops in a single field. This has the added advantage of reducing pests’ attack through reduced apparency of crops in a mixed stand. Intercropping with legumes is also beneficial in soil nitrogen enrichment by the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the root nodules of legume crops.
This technology has great potential for soil fertility improvement, fruit tree domestication, sustainable tree seed systems and fodder for livestock production. Various leguminous tree species are used in agroforestry in Malawi. An example is Gliricidia sepium which is a preferred species of tree used in this technology. Its leaves are rich in nitrogen (N), sometimes up to 4% of the leaf biomass. A second quality is that the leaves provide organic matter, which help to improve the soil’s fertility and structure. Research at Makoka and application of the technology at nearby farms has shown that Gliricidia intercropping helps to rejuvenate the soil and to improve soil fertility, without the use of fertiliser.
Results indicate a definite increase in the maize crop yield using the simultaneous intercropping with Gliricidia. The farmer can obtain yields of up to 3-4 tonnes.
Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, climate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities.
A central theme in permaculture is the design of ecological landscapes that produce food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants, cultural practices such as sheet mulching and trellising, and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds.
Permaculture can be applied to create productive ecosystems from the human- use standpoint or to help degraded ecosystems recover health and wildness. Permaculture can be applied in any ecosystem, no matter how degraded it may be.
Permaculture demonstration sites in Malawi have short-term objectives all of which are aimed at demonstrating to local subsistence farmers the achievements of organic agriculture. Some of the activities which are aimed at food production and income generating are;
• Vegetable growing for: money, food, chicken food, compost manure, fish ponds;
• Poultry farming for: money, food, manure for vegetables, manure for fish ponds;
• Fish farming for: money, food, fish pond manure for vegetable growing;
• Woodlot for: money, timber, fuel;
• Cattle farming for: food, money (to fatten and sell), manure for vegetables and fish ponds;
• Crops (intercropping), one ridge having maize, beans and potatoes which are companion plants. This method is used for a number of reasons:
o It increases long lasting fertility;
o It is a cheaper way of farming;
o It avoids soil and water chemical contamination.
Water infiltration depends on there being sufficient porosity in the surface soil for rainfall to infiltrate, and in the subsoil and parent material (if shallow) for rainwater to percolate. The overriding approach should be to instill in society, and in farmers, extensionists and researchers in particular, the will to create and sustain soil conditions that encourage the infiltration of rainfall where it falls, and to counteract the causes of runoff. This implies that the porosity of the soil must be at least maintained, or increased.
Low-input agriculture has emerged as an important issue as its popularity is motivated and supported by growing evidence of environmental and health risks from agrichemicals. The drop in commodity prices and farm equity value which occurred in 1981-87 has rekindled interest in developing cost-reducing technologies.
Sub-Saharan Africa agricultural production is currently challenged by many constraints faced by farmers across Africa. While some areas offer high productivity and have been intensively cultivated, others are plagued by low soil fertility, poor access to resources such as water, infrastructure and markets. Organic farming offers potential for smallholder farmers to improve their livelihood both through increased yield and access to markets. However, it is not as easy to embark on organic farming and new levels of organization and investment are required from government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and households.
In Malawi over 90% of the population is engaged in Agricultural production which contributes 38.6% of the national gross domestic product, 80% of the export earnings and employs 80% of the labour force (A Guide to Agricultural Production and Natural Resources Management, 2005). According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the main Agriculture sub-sectors include crops contributing about 80%, livestock contributing 13% and fisheries contributing about 6%. Over 95% of the farmers are smallholders with landholdings ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 acres. The majority of these smallholder farmers have rich indigenous knowledge that has sustained their livelihoods, food security as well as land productivity for hundreds of years with very little or no use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary drugs. However they have limited capital.
Malawi is among the least users of artificial fertilizers and other agrichemicals in Africa with less than 14% or 1 kg of fertilizer per hectare compared to sub-Sahara average of 9kg/ha . Malawi therefore has a high comparative advantage for organic agriculture production in Africa.
Developments in the organic agriculture sub-sector have been driven by developments in international markets and trade. The world market for organic products is now estimated to be above 30 billion US dollars. Average global growth in demand and market of organic products is currently estimated to be 25% per year (Grolink 2004). The growing consumer interest triggered off rapid growth in international trade in organic products. The trading environment is witnessing changes due to;
• Increased consumer concerns for the health and safety.
• Increased consumer consciousness regarding the environment and social issues
of production and marketing.
The demand for Malawi Organic products in the international markets is growing, unfortunately is not yet marched by the supply. This is demonstrated by the number of business contracts being received by MOGA and the government.
The Agriculture sector in general faces some challenges broadly categorized as lack of capital, low production and productivity, poor marketing system, human resource constraints and reliance on unpredictable weather conditions. The African farmer is further constrained by increase in migration to urban settlements and HIV and AIDs. However, the specific challenges in the Organic Sub-sector are:-
• Low investment in organic agriculture production leading to failure in fulfilling existing market opportunities/orders
• Limited research in organic agriculture.
• Limited extension services delivery in organic agriculture.
• High costs of international inspection and certification.
• Lack of internationally recognized local organic certification body.
• Inadequate documentation on organic agriculture.
• Demand outpaces supply
• Lack of organized smallholders groups to consistently raise volumes to meet market orders.
• Absence of an explicit policy on Organic Agriculture.
Several factors have come together in recent years which highlight the necessity for a fundamental review of agricultural activities. The traditional goal of maximizing output is being countered by widespread concern of the environment, and by the growing realization that finite natural resources need to be more carefully managed. Organic farming has a positive contribution to make as it is dependent upon maintaining ecological balance and developing biological processes to their maximum. The preservation of soil structure, earthworms, microorganisms and insects is essential to the working of an organic system. Therefore the protection of the soil and environment is fundamental for the organic farmer.
A Guide to Agricultural Production and Natural Resources Management. 2005. Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Altieri, M. 1987. Agro ecology-the scientific basis for alternative agriculture. Intermediate Technology Publications, London.
Balfour, E. 1975. The Living Soil and the Haughley Experiment. Universe Books, New York.
Daberkow, S.G. and K.H. Reichelderfer. 1988. Low-Input Agriculture: Trends, Goals, and Prospects for Input Use. American Journal of Agriculture Economics. 70 (5). Pp 1159-1166.
Grolink . 2004
Howard, A. 1948. An Agriculture Testament. Oxford University Press, London.
Knorr, D. 1982. Sustainable Food Systems. AVI Publishing, Westport. Conn.
Lampkin, N. 1990. Organic Farming. Farming Press, UK.
Lindenbach-Gibson, R and Gray, R. Low-Input Agriculture Gap Analysis. Centre for Agriculture Studies, University of Saskatchewan.
Promotion of Organic Products from Africa http://www.sourcewatch.org/index. 2006.
The Soil Reference and Information Centre. 2007. Netherlands
World Bank. 1982. Ninth Annual Review of Project Performance Audit Results. World Bank Group.Tags: environmental deterioration, natural resource management, soil degradation, subsistence farmer, sustainable food production
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Ashok Kumar Panigrahi & Dr. Nirakar Jena,
Department of Zoology, F.M.Autonomous College, Balasore, Orissa, India.
Sustainable development is defined as the process of development that meets the need of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their need.
The idea of sustainable development emerged from the Brundtland report of 1987 titled “Our Common Future”, through which it was recognized that the natural resources are exhaustible. Consequently there was a global change in approach towards the developmental processes. The shift in the developmental paradigm led to a paradigm shift in ecological science. Human beings which thus far were not included in the ecosystem functioning were seen as an important constituent and the process of impact assessment was initiated. There was broad consensus for living in harmony with the nature because the traditional societies living close to nature and natural resources were found to be better integrated than the industrialized societies. The role of biodiversity as a natural resource was realised. This was more so in ecological point of view. The paradigm shift in ecological studies emphasizing the role of biodiversity led to the concept of sustainable development. Thus, ecology and development became synonymous and together they led to formulation of strategies for natural resource management whereby ecology was linked up with social processes.
The Brundtland Report or the report of the world commission on Environment and Development emphasized the following three points, which according Kofi Annan, are pillars of sustainable development. They are-
i. Economic growth
ii. Social progress
iii. Protection of the Environment together with the natural resources.
The report was time appropriate in view of the global change which includes the following facts.
i. Climate change- arising out of material development and without impact assessment, climate change is directly responsible for enhanced global disasters like polar ice cap melting, magnitude of sea born disasters etc.
ii. Biological invasions- technologies directed at altering the basics of biodiversity and nullifying the species barriers through the transgenic which fail the desired results.
iii. Biodiversity loss- owing to lack of understanding the importance of biodiversity, from food through health and ecological consequences to biological inter-relationships are very often forgotten.
iv. Land use- owing to lack of proper vision and far sight there is nothing called land use plan consequent up on which the quantum of arable land is diminishing when the population and hunger is rising.
Consequent to the above facts the following impacts were recognized.-
i. Scarcity of water, fresh water and especially drinking water true to its definition.
ii. Land and soil- especially arable land at a time of increasing urbanization and decreasing agricultural land owing to population explosion; over exploited soil due to green revolution practices.
iii. Energy- depleting energy resources like fossil fuels of petroleum crude and coal and limited availability from alternative sources like solar and wind etc.
iv. Pollutions- due to non sustainable industrialization, green revolution and implementation of non sustainable developmental practices, all habitats of life like air, water, land and food today stand highly polluted.
v. Population explosion- unchecked and unplanned population growth is taking place which by itself exerting tremendous pressure on planets life support systems.
vi. Poverty- more than 70% of the population in the developing countries today are living below the poverty line; a great majority of them do not own a house and a source of regular income, no land of their own to grow food and feed themselves.
Poverty is rampant in the slums of the cities and towns and far away villages in the country sides in all developing countries. These are the pockets where the population is growing at faster rates. In addition to this, high human activities which do not conform to the basic ecological necessities have been found to be the causes of various types of avoidable environmental pollutions. Besides, uncontrolled and unregulated human activities in search of employments to earn their daily breads, through the society in disarray and disorder. As a consequence, the original master plans drawn for all cities and towns in most developing countries like India are either undergoing frequent changes or are n ever really implemented.
The various types of human activities may be identified as-
Land clearing, grazing, urbanization, agriculture, forestry, fishery, aquaculture, water diversion, fuel consumption, industrialization and recreation.
The intentions are, however, aimed at improving the quality of life such as-
Shelter generation, food and fiber production, water supply and irrigation, consumer goods production, knowledge and enjoyment.
But the actual and unintended results together with the environmental costs thus achieved are enormous and they may be summed up as under-
Deforestation and habitat destruction, soil degradation and desertification, acid prepitation, eutrophication, ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity and climate change.
Thus, the current trends of development without assessing the consequential environmental impacts may be labeled as ‘non sustainable’. Consequential to such types of development the stocks of vital important and limiting resources like fresh water, fuel, timber, fodder, biodiversity and healthy food are fast depleting in most developing countries like India. It is, therefore of paramount necessity that these basic amenities of life must be sustainably harvested without further delay through sustainable development using indigenous technology where ever available.
The ways of sustainable development, some examples
1. Water harvest and aquifer recharge.
There was a news flash in the ToI,. 6 March 2003 that India stood at the
bottom of the heap on water quality and availability. Taking excerpts from then just published world water development report of United Nations, the paper reported that India ranked a poor 120 in a list of 122 countries for its water quality and in terms of water availability India ranked 133 in a list of 180 countries where the survey was undertaken. As compared to India, its neighbours like Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal and Pakistan stood at 40, 64, 78 and 80 respectively in the same list. The top five water rich countries of world were identified to be Greenland, Alaska, French Guyana, Iceland and Guyana in that order. Similarly the top seven countries identified in terms of water quality were Finland, Canada, New Zealand, U.K., Japan, Norway and Russian Federation.
It is an established fact that global weather patterns and precipitation rates are highly influenced by ENSO ( EL Nino- La Nina Southern Oscillation) in the pacific besides other episodic events as forest fire and a few other independent factors such as microclimatic changes and mean temperatures etc. With references to India it is known that states like Tamilnadu received much less rainfall consequitively for last several years where as states like Kerala and Karnataka were identified to be the wettest regions
As regards to water precipitation, it is widely known that India receives much more rainfall than Europe. But compared to India, Europe never faces water scarcity. It may be because; the 80% of the total amount of rainfall that India receives annually comes in just about 100 hours. In such a situation, harvestation of rain water is of paramount importance in India. However, there are no organized governmental efforts to this aspect yet anywhere in India.
In Delhi, the capital city of India, the under ground water table has been in decline, going deeper and deeper with increase in population. In some regions of Delhi, the water table has crossed 200 feet. To meet the ever increasing water need of Delhi, dams like the one in Tehri has been constructed with a huge capital investment. But Tehri being in the seismic zone is unsafe. Therefore, the problem has to be solved locally. Few retired persons in different areas of Delhi went on a mission of water harvesting and aquifer recharge in the last couple of years and achieved encouraging results which as summed up in the survey report of th Centre for Science and Environment and published in the ToI sometime back employing simpler technology as shown below-
Execution Under ground water availability depth
Area Before After
1. Panchsheel park > 92 feet 87 feet
2. Jamia Hamdard University. >148 feet 132 feet
3. Rajinder Nagar 118 feet 73 feet
4. Vasant Vihar 119 feet 115 feet
5. Tughlaqabad defence colony drawing drawing 10,000 liters 20,000 liters
Similar methods can be successfully employed in all water stress areas in India including Chennai taking examples from countries like Germany where by law it is mandatory for every household to harvest rain water. In Germany, the government levies a tax on those who do not harvest rain water in order to raise funds to build and maintain structures to harvest the same, especially storm water.
Besides, rain water harvesting has achieved tremendous results in Rajasthan which led to Rajinder Singh being awarded with the prestigious Magasasay Awaards and revived native vegetation in Asola-Bhatti, a large patch of barren land near Delhi scarred with pits from which red sand had been dugout over a long period.
2. Sustainable agriculture and real green revolution:
Scars left by the imported technology used during the so called green revolution in India in the late sixties are difficult to fill up. By the impact of that green revolution, the soil now stands degraded with reference to plant nutrition availability
and water retaining capacity. The food today contains excess of hazardous chemicals like nitrate, pesticides residues and lacks important constituents like carotene and vitamin C and is deficient in food mineral contents like copper and zinc. Besides, by volatilization, nitrogenous fertilizers contribute to acid precipitation and ozone depletion. Free use and applications of pesticides increased the resistance in the
desired species like the crop pests, eliminated beneficial insects like honey bees, an array birds like the scavenging vultures and pest feeding insectivorous birds and ended up in appearing in bottled waters and soft drinks in dangerous proportions.
Pests are creations of the nature. Nature has its own methods to contain them. We have a huge biodiversity at our disposal to keep the pests in check, like the Azadirachtin of Neem and other such botanicals; the predators like the Spiders, Mantis, Dragon flies, the parasitoids like the Bracon and Trichogramma. In such a situation why apply the pesticides and put the human lives in danger? Pearson (1985) has opined that pesticides related deaths in developing countries account for about 10 thousand per year and many more suffer.
Earthworms have been known to be friends of farmers even to school children but there has been no comprehensive effort to employ these creatures to agricultural advantage in a large way except for some NGOS like the Navdanya Trust of New Delhi which are doing exemplary work in that line to change non sustainable chemical agriculture to sustainable organic agriculture.
Awareness creation through facts and figures:
Results obtained from the just concluded UGC funded Major Research Project on Organic farming conducted by the authors are glaring examples to show that only organic farming is sustainable. Growing HYV paddy (Lalat) in Rabi with Azolla culture and Pongam oilcake for providing plant nutrition and using pheromone traps and Trichocards to keep the pests in check, yielded 1.5 quintals of paddy per acre over and above the quantity produced using agrochemicals and that too with less cost.
As far as NPK parameters of the soil to provide nutrition to crop plants are concerned, the following data were obtained through organic applications which may seriously be viewed.
Soil fertility status in transplanted HYV kharif paddy
Sesbania + Pongam oil cake (@ 375kg/ha)
worm cast in lateritic soil
Worm cast in saline soil
Compost + Earthworm
1 month after worm inoculation
Compost + Earthworm with vegetable plants in fruiting state
Worm cast of a geophagous
Contribution of Earthworms to Soil fertility in form of Worm casts (in kg./ ha.)
General soil sample
Worm cast of Metaphire posthuma
(Giant tropical earth worms of Orissa)
Initial soil sample
Worm casts of mixed species of native worms
-do- Perionyx excavatus
-do- Eisenia foetida
Contributions of Biodiversity to soil fertility under 20 % soil incorporations (kg./ha)
Biodiversity N % P2O5 % K2O%
Casuarinas leaf ash trace 1.4% 14.0%
Pongam (dry leaves) 3.7% 2.41% 2.42%
Bone and blood meal 10-12% 3-3.5% 0.5-0.7%
Poultry litter (fresh) 3% 2-6% 14%
Cow urine (fresh) 0.083 ppm 9.73 ppm 387.5ppm
Neem oil seed cake 5.2 % 1% 1.4%
Til (sesamum) oil cake 6.25% 2.05% 1.25%
Sesbania (whole plant) 3% 1.2% 2.2%
Eucalyptus leaf ash trace 5.9% 24.0%
Major Nutrient Removal by different crops:
Unit – kg. per quintal of product
Crops Crop parts Nitrogen Phosphorus Potash
Paddy grain/straw 1.34/0.61 0.54/0.37 0.27/3.70
Groundnut Pod/calm 3.02/0.4 074/0.14 0.52/0.7
Potato Tuber 0.74 0.28 1.4
Gram Grain 5.25 1.65 4
3. Reclaiming waste arid land through biodiversity service:-
Land degradation is a threat being faced World Wide. There are several factors responsible but open cast mining is the chief is the principle cause. Presently about 2 billion hectares of land world wide lie degraded. Of this about 3.5 consists of dead ecosystems that can not be revived and restored back to normally. Sustained efforts and planned executions can reactivate the rest 96.5 percent of degraded land.
Asola Bhatti near Delhi was one such degraded land which bore the precious red sand that was exploited since the Moghul era and through the British period for constructions of monuments in and around Delhi. Centuries of exploitation left Asola Bhatti a dead ecosystem. There was not a single blade of grass growing any where in the vast expanse of Asola Bhatti until 1994. Delhi University scientists led by Professor CR Babu established the Centre of Management of Degraded Ecosystems and worked overtime using simple cost effective technology in an area of 1.5 hectares of Asola Bhatti. Encapsulated seeds of some local varieties of plants in microbial gel blocks were released in the dry and hot environment of Asola Bhatti. Microbe diversity used was direct and associated nitrogen fixers, phosphate solublisers (both bacterial and fungal) and plant growth promoters. The seeds used belonged to plant diversity such as Acacia (a leguminous plant) and various grass species in line with those found in the Aravalis in the first phase. Miraculously, these encapsulated seeds germinated with the scanty rainfall that the region received during the monsoon. Encouraged by this development, Delhi forest department constructed several check dams in the area for harvesting rain water. In the second phase, seeds of other plant diversities like the ‘dhak’ and ‘junglee jalebee’ were released. Over a period of six years, the topography of the degraded Asola Bhatti ecosystem changed dramatically with many native flora and flora reappearing of their own. Today there is a forest in the region of Asola Bhatti which once lay barren for centuries.
4. Saline Land Reclamation through Agnihotra
Dr. Ramashray Mishra, Professor of Plant Genetics at Chandrashekhar Azad Agriculture University in Kanpur has been experimenting with Agnihotra farming for the past 25 years, both under laboratory and field conditions. Among his many achievements the successful reclamation of saline waste land in Kanpur within 10 years through Agnihotra is a unique achievement. After reclamation of the said land, a residential colony that came up on a part of it was named Agnihotra Nagar. The rest of the reclaimed land is lush greenery and is covered by luxuriant vegetation. The topography of the area changed dramatically within a period of 10 years. Similarly the Homa Therapy Association of North America reclaimed a 17 acre patch waste land and turned it to its own farm in Alabama (USA) through Agnihotra in a short period of 2 years, whereas left to the mercy of nature, the said land would have taken about 100 years to rebuild its top soil. It is for this and other agriculturally advantageous reasons that many developed and developing countries like USA, Germany, Japan, Peru and Chile have officially accepted Agnihotra as the principal method of organic farming. The Latin America states like Peru and Chile have accepted Agnihotra as their State agricultural policies principally due to its cost effectiveness, superior crop yields and simultaneous conservation of top productivity soil and water resources.
5. Reclamation of Indian waste (usar) land
India has landmass of approximately 329 millions hectares; out of which more than half i.e., 175 millions hectares is categorized as waste land. These lands are on the steep slopes, saline affected, alkaline affected and subjected to excessive erosion, soil toxicity and lack of soil fertility. These soils are often referred to as ‘problem soil’. Saline and alkaline soils cover nearly 7 millions hectares land in our country. These soils are inhospitable for crop production due to high pH, high concentration of soluble salts and exchangeable sodium. These are called usar land or degraded land. The soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous and do not support any plant growth. There are vast tracts of usar land in and around the ancient historical townships like Ayodhya, Mathura, Varanasi and Delhi etc.The banks of river Yamuna has only degraded land. In addition to the usar land, vast stretches of water logged land have added to the total degraded land in India and such land are in the increase in every passing year. Special planning strategies and systematic executions are essential in reclaiming such degraded land for agricultural purposes if we are to increase our food production.
The resources and the environment are getting depleted and degraded mainly due to human interference under the disguise of development. It is time appropriate to have a fresh look to the entire process of development globally without which life will not sustain for long in this planet. Approach to other resources like the wet lands, forests and above all, the biodiversity must be made globally and in a sustainable manner by which they become substantially productive and support the life system of the planet, Earth. This is of paramount importance now.
P.S. The authors invite innovative ideas on this issue from the readers of this article.
Tags: ashok kumar, developmental paradigm, dr ashok kumar, natural resource management, orissa india
Livestock and Natural Resource Management in Sustainable Agriculture.
Livestock have been associated with humankind since time immemorial. Domestic Animals plays different role in human life due to its complex interaction among man, animal and surrounding environment.Livestock in developing countries is considered as the most economically important sub-sector of agriculture which contributes up to 25% of agricultural GDP in our own context it contributes about 31% in national agricultural GDP excluding its contribution of animal drought power. Rural livelihood greatly depends on accessibility of natural resources. The livestock sector holds promises for significant improvement in rural income through efficient utilization of natural resources like land, water, grasslands and women work forces in rural level. Livestock provides nutritious food in the form of milk, meat, and eggs where as other products like hides, skin, wool, feathers, dung and urine etc for the well being of mankind. Livestock also makes a significant contribution as animal power for transportation and agricultural operation particularly in rural areas.
Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control and mechanical cultivation. Organic farming maintains organic matter at an optimal level in soil and it sustains reasonable productivity. Livestock plays an important role in relation to the general principle s of organic agriculture and supports biological cycles like carbon cycle, water cycle, oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, within the farming system and diversifying production. Sustainable agriculture is considered as a salubrious relation among soil, plant, livestock man and environment. In organic farming farmers uses natural processes to enhance productivity, maintain the nutritive status of the soil to be less dependent on external resources to keep cost down. Organic farming uses natural materials which are by products of the farm and these include the production of compost which is key elements of organic farming. Organic matters improves water holding capacity of light textured soils and enhances supply of nutrients particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, sulpher and at the same times makes theme less susceptible to leaching. In other hand organic matter makes heavy soils more porous, permits better aeration and also reduces crusting. The iron-organic complexes such as Fe-humate make iron more available to plant. Organic matter protects the boron against leaching which is required for maintaining the structure of plants. It is also essential for embryonic development and organogenesis in plants.Polysaccride, lignin and protein are major constitutes of organic matters. The benefits to soil from organic matter is ceaseless decomposition of plant and animal residue into simple inorganic compounds like carbon dioxide, water, nitrate, phosphate and sulphate which can be easily recycled by plants. The organic methods can help small farm family to survive, increase in farm productivity repair of decades of environmental damage, knit communities in to smaller more sustainable distribution networks all leading to improve food security around the world.
Several waste products of animal origin are used in organic farming can be listed below.
Composting is an aerobic decomposition technique of biodegradable organic matter. The decomposition is performed primarily by facultative and obligate aerobic bacteria; yeast in the cooler initial phase and in the end phase decomposition is performed by a number of larger organisms like oligochaete worms, springtails, ants and nematodes. Composition is a well established process in ecological agriculture followed in this part of globe since ancient time. It is environmentally safe and it enhances the nutritive value of the soil. It nurtures the organism in the soil which is generally destroyed by the use of the chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Compost significantly reduces cost of production. The making of compost means that farmer have to raise large number of cattle and has grass to feed theme. Cattle not only supply dung and urine for making of compost. The nutrient content of in compost varies greatly. It depends not only on different species but also between manure from different housing system with different storage system and farm. The quality of fodder strongly influences the amount of nutrient in the compost as 70-90% of the ingested nitrogen and phosphorous are excreted in manure. Well composted farmyard manure is easy to spread on the fields. Compost is almost free of toxic substances. As when well composting is done most of the pathogen and weed seeds are being destroyed. Use of compost improves the soil fertility. Application of compost may have reducing effect on attack of useful soil pathogens.
Vermicomposting is process of breakdown of organic matter by the joint action of earthworms and microorganism which does not involve the generation of high heat as in case of composting. It is the process of transforming farmyard manure into the compost with the help of earthworm. In Nepal both in rural and urban and peri urban area million of tons of livestock excreta are produced every year causing concern due to odour and pollution problems. Cattle shed manure supplies nearly 10 times as much nitrogen and phosphoric acid to the soil as other manures and fertilizers. Vermicomposting results in bioconversion of the waste streams into two useful products the earthworm biomass and the vermicompost.During Vermicomposting important plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus ,potassium and calcium present in feed material are converted into form that are much more soluble and easily available to plants.
Slurry is the mixture of faeces and urine it contains approximately 60% of faeces and 40% of urine. The main component in urine is urea. Some salts are also present with vitamins, hormones and enzymes. Phosphorus is absent in urine and potassium is found in mineral form which is easily available to the plants. Slurry should be stored at least for two month especially under cold conditions to reduce the parasitic load.
It is being considered as a natural disinfectant and pest repellent. Since very long time universally being used in combination with various plants or dung to manufacture plant growth promoting products. Cow dung and urine are two bio-matters which can be used methodically to get better result in controlling several plant pathogenic fungi. It can be also substituted for phenyl. If 10 liters of cow urine mixed with one kg of neem and 100g of garlic and boiled till its volume comes to half filter this mixture can be used for controlling insect in vegetable, legumes in cotton at the rate of 50ml liquid in per liter of water.
Biogas refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Biogas originates from biogenic materials and is types of biofuel.The biogas plant have become a boon to the rural farmers in Nepal. The two main product of it are enriched compost manure and methane. Biogas is used for cooking, lighting purpose and in case of large plants as motive power for driving small engines. The wide scale utilization of biogas and compost making technology offers the most appropriate answer to solve three national interconnected major problems which the countries are facing today called three F’s food, fertilizer and fuel. Biogas system have immense potential for waste recycling, improves public health and hygien,pollution control, environmental management which is important for developing countries now a days. The biogas is an ideal inexhaustible source of energy that could serve the rural area very well. Utilization of biogas reduces the consumption of commercial energy sources like coal, kerosene which results in reduction of family fuel budget. Forest wealth of nation is also saved. Valuable organic fertilizers can be obtained thus reducing the dependences on chemical fertilizers.
Thus livestock by utilizing the natural resources produces high value nutritious food to human kind which helps to earn the profit for farming communities and also help in food security. As the livestock byproducts if utilized properly it not only provides organic manure for agriculture production but also contributes the fuel energy .Which maintains the soil fertility and increases the productivity. Also by utilizing the livestock byproduct the environmental protection, safeguarding the public health reduction in environmental pollution can be achieved for this we only need the awareness activities to be carried out in rural farming communities if it is being so we need no worried about uncertain shortage of commercial chemical fertilizer now and then.
Tags: agriculture livestock, green manure, livestock sector, manure compost, natural resource management