Farming Matters magazine
Farming Matters informs readers about sustainable, small-scale farming. It offers discussions, background to the news, opinions, research findings, and practical examples of how sustainable, small-scale farming contributes to providing food security, social justice, a healthy environment and development. Farming Matters is for policy makers, researchers, practitioners, educators, farmers, and everybody else interested in agriculture and development.
SRI - much more than more rice
However we look at it, the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, is a major success story. While researchers are still debating its relevance, more and more people and getting to know about it, and more and more farmers are harvesting the results.
From desertification to vibrant communities
Sustainable agriculture in dry and degraded areas is about the resilience of farmers and ecosystems. With examples from different parts of the world, issue 28.4 of Farming Matters shows the importance of local knowledge and appropriate policies.
From farmers’ fields to Rio+20: Agro-ecology works!
This special issue of Farming Matters provides an overview of the importance of small-scale farming and of an agro-ecological approach to agriculture, looking in detail at four key areas: food security, poverty alleviation, energy and climate change.
Securing the right to land
The latest issue of Farming Matters on a topic that is central to all small-scale farmers: land. Competition for land and power, and particularly the global increase of large scale land acquisitions, cause contestations about which land is rightfully owned and used by whom.
Youth: "We take the lead"
Did you know that we are in the International Year of Youth? We are, since 12 August 2010. This issue of Farming Matters shows that young people are, and have, the future in agriculture worldwide. It considers the roles, priorities and responsibilities of young generations. Read how they can contribute to the improvement of sustainable small-scale agriculture.
Partnerships for learning
This issue of the global edition of the magazine is focused on partnerships for learning. All "stakeholders" in agriculture have personal but also joint interests. What and in what way do they learn from each other? And how do they learn to work together to create more sustainable agriculture?
Special edition - 25 years of family farming
The AgriCultures Network informs farmers, farmers' organisations, research institutions and policymakers about local practices of family farmers around the world. Linking these experiences to global discussions about food and agriculture makes it clear that family farmers have a lot to offer to the world.
Negotiating the waters
Water is a scarce resource, and it will be even scarcer in the future. We drink it, use it to process and cook food, or to cool things down. It is essential in terms of sanitation and hygiene, and even has cultural and ceremonial uses. But agriculture is the biggest user of water, and modern technology has made agriculture even thirstier.
Money for farming
Over the past decade, microcredit facilities have mushroomed and many groups of small farmers and landless people, notably women have benefited. Microcredit however is often not enough to help farmers build viable and sustainable farms.
Going for more animals
Animals play an important role in rural life: besides milk, meat, eggs and wool, they provide manure for growing crops, and they also serve as a savings account for people. In this issue we were interested in showing how small-scale farmers manage their animals in their farming systems and how they link it with other economic activities. What advantages does such an integrated approach bring in terms of food availability, productivity, efficiency or sustainability?
Scaling up and sustaining the gains
This issue looks at how sustainable agriculture practices have developed and spread over time. We show initiatives that have been taken to scale up successful methods and approaches. Equally, the articles in this issue look at the factors that have hindered the spreading of sustainable agricultural practices.
Women and food sovereignty
Women and food are inseparably linked. We cannot write about food sovereignty without addressing women's role in food production. In many situations women take the main responsibility for food production, processing, storage and cooking. Often they play a key role in its marketing as well.
Small-scale family farmers live in environments ranging from mountainous, dry areas to lush, tropical forests. Together, they engage in many kinds of small-scale farming systems. All these systems combined harbour and nurture biodiversity.
Dealing with climate change
Everybody is talking about climate change. It is truly a global concern. It is in the newspapers, on the radio, and many books have already been published. You can read some key findings from recent reports on agriculture and climate change in this issue of LEISA Magazine.
Respect through farming
For people sidelined by society, small scale farming can provide opportunities in life. In this issue, we present experiences which show how people facing social stigma, or living with physical disability can grow crops or rear livestock and gain “Respect through farming”.
A fundamental concept running through the discussions on global food prices, whether it is about increasing food production, raising soil fertility levels or rehabilitating degraded land, is the need for healthy soils. This issue of the LEISA Magazine revisits the importance of healthy and living soils as the basis for sustainable agriculture, healthy people and healthy economies.
Towards fairer trade
As markets for fair and green trade products are expanding, we look here at some of the issues faced by LEISA farmers. The articles in this issue of the LEISA Magazine were chosen to show current practical experiences with fair and green trade, reflecting the variety of initiatives that have taken shape in recent years. By presenting some of the current debates around this topic, we hope to provoke further discussion.
Ecological pest management
As our magazine has regularly shown, there have been many positive pest management experiences during these last 20 years. As a result of a comprehensive IPM approach, farmers have been able to increase their yields and incomes.
Healthier farmers, better products
In recent years there has been a growing interest in the links between food, food production and health. In this issue we present examples of how such links between health issues and agriculture have been addressed in practical ways.
Securing seed supply
A secure supply of quality planting material is essential in small scale agriculture. In this issue of the LEISA Magazine we present articles from around the world, in which communities describe how they have used various methods to secure their own seed supply.
Changing farming practices
The conversion process from present practices to more sustainable farming systems can be rather complex. It is not a simple task for small-scale farmers. Efforts to improve farming practices, therefore, need careful planning and implementation.
Practice and policy
Agricultural policies have considerable influence on farming practices as well as on possibilities for change. They influence not only farmers and the way they farm, but also agricultural research and training institutions and commercial companies. At present most agricultural policies are supportive of conventional, export-oriented and large-scale agricultural production, and provide little support to small-scale family farming and LEISA practices.
Small animals in focus
For most small scale farmers, for whom it is important to make optimal use of available resources, livestock still has an essential role to play. In this issue of the LEISA Magazine, we take a closer look at how livestock can be integrated into diverse farming systems and in particular at the importance of smaller livestock for poorer households.
More than money
Agriculture has a fundamental role to play in supporting and shaping our present-day societies. It has far greater value to humans than the market price for the final produce: Agriculture could potentially form the basis for strong rural communities and their economic activities, provide healthy food and maintain ecosystem services such as clean air and water, recycling of nutrients, and the maintenance of biodiversity and attractive landscapes.
Farming with nature
This issue of LEISA Magazine looks at the contribution farming can make to the sustainability of life on earth on a broader scale – and the importance of wild biodiversity for the maintenance of the healthy landscapes and watersheds we all need to survive.
From field to market
Often the initial gains from improved production are negated by losses that occur during or after harvest. Currently, worldwide post-harvest losses of agricultural produce are estimated at 30 percent.
A new generation of farmers
Each new generation of farmers faces the challenge of trying to create a livelihood from the resources available to them. These resources are the result of the physical and social legacies of the past, as well as the opportunities of the present.
Valuing crop diversity
Over time we have identified and learned to use nearly 8000 species for our food and well-being. Today, however, only about 30 crops form the basis of world’s agriculture. Over 50% of our energy requirements are now met by just three crops: rice, wheat and maize. The continuously narrowing base for global food security limits the options available to farmers, and reduces the agricultural biodiversity necessary to provide security in resource-poor environments.
Land degradation is a broad term and refers to the way in which the quality and productive capacity of the soil can be temporally or permanently undermined. It includes such processes of physical, chemical and biological deterioration as the loss of organic matter, the reduction of vegetative cover and biodiversity as well as a general decline in soil life and fertility.
Rights and resources
Access and control over land and other natural resources is regulated through many different systems and arrangements. Whether these systems are formal or informal, statutory or customary, restrictive or open, they all play a major role in rural livelihood security.
Using every drop of water
Water is a precious resource that is essential to the life and health of farmers, animals and crops - and it is becoming steadily scarcer. Many see a global water crisis looming on the horizon, and as competition increases for water from households, industries etc., the huge proportion of water used for agriculture, although essential for food production, is increasingly challenged.
Learning with Farmer Field Schools
IPM Farmer Field Schools for rice farmers in Asia have been immensely successful. This success has attracted the attention of development workers around the world. As with every successful approach, there is a strong movement to copy and adapt it to other situations. This issue of LEISA looks at the development of the FFS concept beyond rice and into a seemingly limitless realm of possibilities for assisting and educating farmers.
Women managing change
The majority of the world’s agricultural producers are women. They produce over 50% of the food that is grown worldwide – more in most developing countries. But despite these recognised facts and a considerable amount of development rhetoric about gender issues, women are still restricted in their role as farmers by unequal rights and unequal access to land and control over resources.
Recreating living soil
Thirty years ago it all started with herbicide-based Zero Tillage (ZT) for grain crops like maize and soybean. Gradually, a much broader and ecologically sound approach evolved, which is being now called Conservation Agriculture (CA).
Changing information flows
Information, and access to it, is one of the most valuable resources in agricultural development. The demand for information is as great today as ever. However, support for agricultural extension is decreasing, while many new ways of delivering information are becoming available. The mesage is that all available means, from ICTs, to the spoken and written word should be made use of to enable communities to access, share and exchange experiences in sustainable agriculture.
Ecosystem disruption and human health (supplement)
Summary report of a consultation hosted by IDRC and UNEP
Livestock: which way?
Livestock production is important for the majority of farmers in developing countries, especially for small farmers in more marginal conditions where land cannot be used for other purposes.
GE - not the only option
Who benefits from genetic engineering and who loses? What are the risks and who will bear them? What are the alternatives to genetic engineering? This issue of LEISA Magazine attempt to explore these questions.
Lessons in scaling up
How do the benefits of innovation in agriculture and natural resource management spread to more people? What type of innovations do people prefer – when, where and why? How and when does spontaneous diffusion take place? What conditions can be created and what methodologies can be used to enhanced or plan going to scale? What are the obstacles of going to scale? Can they be overcome and how?
Go global or stay local?
Many small farmers are negatively affected by globalization of the world economy and expansion of the consumer culture. To them this is one step further on the road of economic and cultural marginalization.
Coping with disaster
Besides more normal fluctuations in production conditions, many farmers have to cope with high impact hazards like droughts, floods, storms, earthquakes, epidemic diseases, war or economic crisis. There are also hazards such as HIV/AIDS, Global Warming, and globalization that build up more gradually leading, eventually, to disasters with no less serious impacts.
Monocultures towards sustainability
The productivity and sustainability of annual food crops is of extreme importance for feeding an ever-growing world population. In this issue, we look at the negative impact of monocultures, especially of annual food crops, and the alternatives that are being developed. How can monocropping systems and monolivestock systems be made more sustainable? Can they be transformed into integrated systems? How can the quality of the production chain be improved?
Farming in the forest
Shifting cultivation using ‘slash and burn’ practices is often seen as unproductive and outmoded, destroying forest resources, and causing air pollution, soil erosion and floods. It is clear, forests are being destroyed at a terrifying rate.
Farmers adapt their farming systems as conditions and needs change. They try out new ideas they have seen or heard about from other farmers, visitors or extension agents, put their own ideas into practice and sometimes work on innovations that have arisen “by accident”.
Desertification is of major and continuing concern to communities living in dry regions. It is the cause as well as the effect of poverty and endangers the welfare and livelihoods of future generations.
Several controversial issues have emerged in the current public debate on the management of genetic resources in agriculture. These include genetic modification, patenting and the loss of agrobiodiversity. This Newsletter focuses primarily on biodiversity in crop production but not without looking at the other two issues as well.
Finding common ground
In this issue of the Ileia Newsletter we present the full story of the ILEIA Collaborative Research Programme. The Reports on Activities in The Philippines, Ghana, Peru, and India provide detailed information on the process and the results of the participatory research undertaken by our partners in the national LEISA Working Groups.
Growing green and trading fair
There has always been agricultural trade. Trade remains a necessity whether it is barter between neighbours or long-distance trade facilitated by money. Trade expansion has brought benefits o many agricultural producers and consumers, However, it has also been responsible for an uncontrolled concentration of power and wealth in the hand of a few.
LEISA in perspective: 15 years ILEIA
This Jubilee publication sums up the 15 years of ILEIA's experience with LEISA in practice.
Challenging water scarcity
Water means life in agriculture. When there is a water shortage plants become stunted, yields drop, animals become weak and men and women have to struggle to find the water they need.
Fighting back with IPM
This issue is about substituting external inputs for labour, management skills and knowledge. It is about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and men and women farmers participating in Farmer Field Schools, experiential learning and non-formal education.
Rebuilding lost soil fertility
Soil fertility management (SFM) is the basis for sustainability in every agricultural production system. Creating favourable conditions for soil life and plant growth, nutrient application and soil conservation are important aspects of soil fertility management.
Rejuvenate local knowledge
Although this issue does not have a particular theme, there is, nevertheless, a continuous thread running through most of the articles: 'Rejuvenate local knowledge'.
What works for developing sustainable agricultural practices? This was the question that guided the analysis of nine collaborative agricultural projects from Asia, Africa, Latin and North America that focused on integrated pest management.
Understanding and documenting the conditions which enhance as well as those which limit the expansion of LEISA is a major theme for ILEIA. This requires an understanding of the impact of many conditions which are themselves in constant evolution. Moreover, these conditions are seen differently by different stakeholders.
More than rice
Integrated farming in the humid lowlands brings to mind the image of small, intensive and diversified agricultural production systems. In this issue, we refer to humid lowland tropics as rainfed or irrigated farm lands that are flat or gently undulating, usually at an altitude near sea level (Durno et al, 1992).
Mountains in balance
After living and working for more than 15 years in mountainous regions in Kenya, Peru, Ecuador and Nepal, guest editor Hans Carlier was asked to give his view on sustainable development of mountain agriculture.
Farmers facing change
In this Newsletter issue, the ILEIA Learning Process is presented. Together with learning partners and other groups and individuals with relevant experiences and skills, ILEIA will try to assess the feasibility of ecologically sound agriculture in three contrasting environments, in Northern Ghana (dryland savannahs), Peru (mountain valleys) and the Philippines (humid lowlands).
We love weeds
This Newsletter makes clear that weeds are not just bothersome and have to be eradicated with all possible means, an impression one gets from the bulk of agricultural research on weed management. As many articles in this issue demonstrate, lots of farmers benefit from weeds. These can, in fact, be so valuable that they are "loved and protected"!
Research and reality
The quest for sustainable agriculture brings about a search for new approaches to and methods for research and development. Especially the complexity and diversity of sustainable agriculture challenges professionals. In this editorial, key issues raised in the articles of this issue are placed in a wider perspective.
Room for farmers
This issue of the Newsletter does not deal with a specific theme. Nevertheless this collection of encouraging articles seems to contain a common message: 'give room to innovating farmers'.
Farming at close quarters
A common saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. Lack of space creates creativity. This is shown in the myriad of forms in which people with little or no land produce food, fuel and other raw materials. Gardens on roofs, fast-growing trees as fences, plants inside old tyres, rabbits in abandoned garages, even a fish hatchery in the home. People in cities and other densely-populated areas have developed highly intensive forms of farming.
This issue of the ILEIA Newsletter focuses on recycling of organic waste, at urban as well as farm level. To what extent is organic waste used and brought back to the land? What are the major constraints to bend the linear flows of the organic matter and nutrients? What are promising experiences to make recycling of organic waste more efficient and profitable?
Caring for our land
Until now, ILEIA has looked mainly at questions of agricultural sustainability at the level of plots or farms. However, to maintain such sustainability and for their survival in general, many farmers depend on resources beyond their farm.
A new look at information
Ever hears about “secretes expert information”, Tei-kei or puppets for sustainable agriculture? Is agriculture in need of a different system of communication, as it is largely based on local resources?
A strong case for diversity
This issue of ILEIA Magazine addresses opportunities and constrains in developing LEISA. Articles analyze experiences in Kenya, Brazil Thailand Philippines, Ghana, India China and Cuba.
After the harvest
The harvest is the final stage in the process of gaining crop and animal yields. But it is only the beginning of the processes of making these useful in the home and wider economy. In this Newsletter, various authors give insight into what happens after the harvest: how small holders handle, process and store farm products for home consumption and sale and preserve seed for coming seasons.
Cutting back on chemicals
This ILEIA Newsletter focuses on experiences in areas where the ‘Green Revolution’ is being challenged and transformed to sustainable form of agriculture. Can agriculture, in the long run, do without mineral fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, even in the GR areas?
This is issue features a colorful collection of all kinds of people from all over the world, eager to share their experiences with you and eager to hear your opinion.
Here you’ll find a collection of articles and information on human energy and bio-energy. In many countries without sufficient sources of oil, the affordability of fossil-energy-based agricultural inputs becomes more and more a problem.
Livestock sustaining livelihoods
Up to now, discussions of sustainable agriculture have focused mainly on soil-plant-water relations. If animal are mentioned, then often with reference to negative impact on vegetation.
Lets work together
This issue of the Newsletter is a special one in the sense that it is based on the input and output of an international workshop organized by ILEIA. The articles report on experiences with networking by farmer groups, NGOs and researchers. Moreover, this Newsletter presents the proceedings of the workshop, which include general conclusions and recommendations.
Creating a healthy environment
For this Newsletter, we have deliberately set a theme which goes beyond the sectoral boundaries of agriculture. We are concerned here with farmers’ motivation to take action in the face of environmental changes which have negative impact on their quality of life.
Searching for synergy
In this issue we concentrate on integrated agriculture. The articles pay special attention to synergetic interaction and ways to enhance this king of interaction in agricultural development.
Learning for sustainable agriculture
In both developing and industrialised countries, the need is being recognised for more sustainable forms of agriculture. But this, in turn, demands a different kind of agricultural training to prepare us for continuous training.
Assessing farmer techniques
To respond to the need for evidence on the sustainability of low-external-input farming techniques, ILEIA organized a workshop on ways to assess this. Critical reflexion on context and the criteria applied are seen as a precondition for assessing technology.
Networking towards LEISA
Register of members of the ILEIA Network. ILEIA is frequently requested to supply interested people with addresses and further information on individuals or groups who are working towards LEISA.
Complementary use of external inputs
Most farmers use external inputs and try to fit them to their local context. With this issue we explore how external inputs – from out-side the farm or region – can be most effectively combined with local inputs and natural processes. Farmers have always sought the best mix of local resources and external inputs.
Trees and farmers
In the last years many books and reports were published on agroforestry, community forestry and social forestry. The editors of this Newsletter looked at several of these publications in order to present some main conclusions.
Local knowledge endures and grows
In this issue we give practical examples of local knowledge and how it continues to grow as it comes into contact with knowledge from elsewhere. Special attention is given by some of our contributor to the roots of agricultural knowledge in its socio-cultural setting, and the right to use this knowledge
Local varieties are our source of health and strength
Genetic diversity is necessary for sustainable agriculture to keep future agricultural option open. Farmers need genetic diversity to be able to adjust their crops to altered circumstances: pests and diseases evolve new strains and overcome resistance, soil condition change, climate alter.
Farmers' hands on: alternatives to local pesticides
The problems related to the use of pesticides are obvious. The widely accepted necessity for sustainable development will meet one of its greatest challenges in developing ecologically sound crop protection measures.
Intensifying agriculture in humid areas
This Newsletter will concentrate on the technical aspects of the discussion about the destruction tropical rainforests. In particular, it will be considered the question of ‘how farming in the tropics can be made more productive and sustainable to lessen the pressure on tropical forests?’.
Discussion on sustaining agriculture
This issue of Ileia Newsletter does not have a special theme. We return to themes of earlier issues, particularly technology development by farmers. Several other articles are included on for example participatory rural development, livestock and water management.
Enhancing dryland agriculture
In this Newsletter you will find a collection of articles and information on dryland agriculture in semid-arid zone. We tried to find some important clues for this difficult zone. This issue includes articles on composting, moisture conservation and water harvesting.
Participative Technology Development
This ILEIA edition discuss about the technology development and the approach which farmers can play an active role. And it should integrate the complimentary domains of knowledge, indigenous and formal knowledge.
Mountainous regions are among the parts in the world that are ecologically most endangered. This area mostly isolated and relatively poor. Little attention was given to solve the economic development in this regions untill late 70's.
Livestock as part of the agro-ecosystem
In this issue, we are trying to present some articles on livestock development such as improved fodder production, indigenous livestock system and animal health care based on ependence on veterinary services and partcipatory approach.
In many countries, the microclimates are rapidly worsening due to deforestation and a big scalle of chemical agriculture use. Farmes traditionally are very well aware of how important it is to influence the microclimate in favorable way for agriculture production. But in such aspect, it needs to be incorporated in improved and validated with small farmers at on-farm trial.
Traditional agroecosystem is generally diverse and contain of variable population. The genetic diversity deliberate partical resistance to diseases that are spesific to particular cropand its allow famers to exploit different micoclimate and other uses within spesific genetic variation.
Integrated nutrient supply
In many regions of the Third World the decline of soil fertility is alarming. In our opinion a drastic change in the approach to nutrient supply is urgently needed to increase the production of food for a growing population and to stop the rapid increase in soil degradation and destruction of natural ecosystems. Nutrient supply should be seen as an integrated part of the farming system.
The sixth ILEIA focuses on pest management. We would like to discuss the idea of emphasize plant protection methods as one of the replacement of pesticides usage and how to develop the alternative of Integrated Pest management (IPM) methods at the small farmers level to have a better chance in farming system.
Dry land management
There are traditional techniques and traditional forms of social organization, which have kept their value and proven their use in sustaining the livelihood of farmers and nomads in dry areas. Local populations have lived for many generations in these dry areas and have thereby accumulated a deep knowledge of local resources and how they can be used for survival.
This fourth issue of our ILEIA-Newsletter is assigned to methodological aspects of rural development. Being editors of a Newsletter on low-external-input agriculture, we feel that we should also discuss different approaches to rural development, especially on how to cooperate with farming households.
The possible role of trees in farming systems of the tropics
This third Newsletter is especially focused on intercropping and the importance of trees. The main article is a review of the possible role of trees in the farming system of the humid and subhumid tropics.
In this Newsletter you will find articles concerning: possibilities for maintenance of soil fertility in low external input farming, intensive agricultural use of the humid tropical forests, how to reform shifting cultivation into sustainable agriculture, and the “in-situ” rainwater harvesting technique of CPATSA/EMBRAPA
May we introduce to you....ILEIA
How all started. This is the first issue of the ILEIA Newsletter. To understand this abbreviation you have to know what and who are behind it. Briefly, ILEIA stands for Information centre for Low External Input Agriculture.