Monday, 26 June 2017

BioDesign/Graham Knight: Compound forest farms


Agro-forestry in the Past - Small compound farms in the future

The papers below were published around 1980 and, it seems, ignored!

They remind me of Malaria research; it has been proven that untreated Artemisia plant cures malaria but, as no-one can say exactly why, it is banned in many countries! And the majority of malaria researchers agree with this as they believe it has not and cannot be '' proven scientifically" unless you can isolate the effective agent! In the case of complex agriculture this sort of science is impossible so universities mostly ignore this area of concern.

Even in 1980 efforts were being made to use agriculture for exports but since then, and especially in recent years, exports have become the only real concern! This has resulted in mono-crop agriculture that has produced sterile soils along with the destruction of forests that are so vital - if only for the rain they produce.

The last extract below shows what is possible in stricken areas but we need guidance towards a compromise; preserving the best we can of 'productive' nature along with ways of producing some income to purchase basic necessities.

I'm hoping that information will be provided by readers, that I can publish here, that will give guidance to those in rural parts of the tropics as how they can move to a more sustainable way of life. All the more important with climate change.

Do you know of such a place where they seem to be trying to get the balance right? It will be few more years before we lose our good soil in northern latitudes!

Graham K


Crop mixtures in traditional systems Akinola A. Agboola
Professor of Soil Fertility and Farming Systems, Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria


The traditional cropping system is stable because it is adapted to the farmers' level of technology and the soils' capability.

It incorporates mixed cropping and bush fallow, and it gives a high total return per unit area of land. Furthermore, growing crops in mixtures is consistent with the farmers' goal of security. Their present systems have evolved naturally as an answer to the challenging environment in which they live.

Researchers have been hesitant to tackle multiple cropping experiments in general, and agro-forestry in particular, because of the infinite combinations possible, lack of knowledge about existing systems, and the traditional separation between agriculture and forestry. Also, multiple cropping is associated with unmechanized farming and low productivity; research in intercropping and multiple cropping should be geared to increasing the productivity and returns in both arable crops and forest products. The peasant farmers' system of agro-forestry should be improved upon, and researchers should evolve a combination of arable crops and fast-growing trees that can be easily adapted by smallholder farmers.

The traditional cropping systems will continue until an alternative is evolved that can fit into present technology, environmental constraints, and at the same time maintain high crop yield.

My feeling is that agro-forestry research has the potential of offering an early and viable alternative

Agricultural tree crops as a no-tillage system

R.D. Bowers
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria


The crisis in tropical agriculture is demonstrated by falling food production and migration to the towns It is argued that this is an inevitable process resulting from the inability of tropical agriculture to compete with the industrialized agriculture of the temperate zones. Industrial agriculture is a high-input agriculture, and success or failure depends on the input:output ratio. In the humid tropics, the input: output ratio is unfavourable, and industrial agriculture therefore impossible; hence the only viable form of production is subsistence farming. The obvious alternative to subsistence farming is mixed tree cropping, in which the characteristics of the natural forest cover are copied as closely as possible. Only in this way can the productive potential of the environment be realized and the fertility of the soil maintained. Crop mixtures may be selected from oil palm, coconut palm, breadfruit, plantains, coffee, cocoa, cola, citrus, and other trees.

A plea is made for a research programme to be devoted to mixed tree cropping as one of the possible ways to improve the agriculture of the region lying between 10�N and 10�S.

Now some good news:
Landscape restoration in Ethiopia brings watershed to life -  2017

The group stood under tall trees, bathed by bird song, with luscious grasses and pools of clean water at its feet. So that it can regenerate, this part of Gergera has long been closed to cattle. “The first thing you notice is the change of vegetation,” said ICRAF’s Director General Dr. Tony Simons, pointing out a Sclerocarya birrea, a tree with a nutritious plum-like fruit with an oil rich kernel.

By consent of the community, only cutting and carrying grass to livestock and beekeeping are permissible in this upper catchment. Indeed, the wooded hillsides are rife with carefully placed hives. Gabions built by members of the community slow the rain water when it courses down the chasm, which, formerly too deep to cross, is gradually filling as earth builds up behind the structures. Critically, this earth now retains rainwater, which seeps into the ground and emerges as groundwater in the valley where 1000 ha of land are now under small scale irrigation. It was not always like this.


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