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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition Enhancing dryland agriculture

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.

Table of contents:

  • 3 - 4
    The 'Projet de Recherche sur les Systemes de Production Rurale' (PRSPR) in Sikasso, Republic of Mali is an applied research endeavour of the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands in collaboration with the 'Institut d'Economie Rurale' of the Government of Mali. During the 1970s, it was conceived as a consequence of a renewed interest in a holistic approach to the research of farming methods called 'farming systems research' (FSR). It propagates a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the intricate nature of farmer behaviour. FSR attempts to take into account the whole gamut of environmental, cultural, social, political and economic conditions which determine farmer's decision making. Farming systems research's proposition is respect for the knowledge of small farmers and the potential of traditional agriculture.
  • 5 - 7
    As Jos Kronenburg already indicates, the margins for sustaining and improving agriculture in the semi-arid zone seem to be very small. In fact most reports are rather pessimistic as successful cases are few. General opinion is that the semi-arid zone is, or soon will be, over-exploited and that degradation of the ecosystem is advancing fast, bringing agriculture in this zone further in a downward spiral.
  • 8 - 9
    Many agricultural scientists trained in temperate regions are surprised by the diversity of crops and crop varieties found in tropical farming systems, not yet made uniform by a ‘green revolution’ approach. Understanding the background of this diversity is a prerequisite for a balanced, evolutionary approach to agriculture, based on both traditional farmers' wisdom and modern scientific possibilities.
  • 10 - 11
    During a severe drought in a cassava dependent area in Mozambique many of the advantages and disadvantages of cassava coincided. This case shows the importance of a bitter cassava cultivar as a -drought resistant- famine rescuer and the related problems with toxicity, and indicates possibilities to counteract them.
  • 12 - 13
    Compost protects and nourishes plants and soil. It reduces overall water requirements. The lack of water in the Sahel is the fundamental limitation on production. For the preferred cereal and other crops grown in Africa, compost is the solution of the future in terms of a simultaneous improvement in both crop productivity and soil fertility.
  • 14 - 14
    In July 1987 the World Sub-Saharan Water Harvesting Study was initiated, which started its activities with a comprehensive literature review of water harvesting for plant production and two field missions covering six countries, namely Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The study's focus is those water harvesting systems which collect and concentrate rainfall runoff for the purpose of improving plant production in the arid and semi-arid areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. The study is further confined to systems in which the collected rainfall is stored in the soil profile. Thus full attention will be given to techniques involving simple structures, which can be constructed by resource-poor farmers. The objective of this article is to present some significant observations and findings made under the Sub-Saharan Water Harvesting Study (SSWHS).
  • 15 - 17
    There are two basic types of agriculture, irrigated and rainfed. Irrigated agriculture depends on engineered structures and field layouts to make the best possible economic and technical use of water that has been pumped or stored, usually at considerable cost. Rainfed agriculture, the type of farming to which the world's rural poor are by-and-large tied, depends on, and is virtually a 'victim' of, the whims of the weather. It is important that the requirements of each are not confused.
  • 18 - 19
    Although Zvishavane in Zimbabwe is a semi-arid area, receiving annually around 500 mm of rainfall, conventional development has largely ignored small patches of natural wetland. However, local farmers have identified these resources as critically important. A process of farmer-based research developed within the Zvishavane Water Resources Project (ZWRP), an indigenous NGO, has generated strategies for improving the productivity and sustainability of these wetlands. Community workers work with local farmer groups and village committees to research, plan and implement projects. This article describes how the project evolved and discusses the perspectives.
  • 20 - 21
    Niger, a landlocked Sahelian country, has undergone severe environmental degradation during the last twenty years. Demographic pressures, without substantial changes in traditional agricultural practices, have resulted in widespread erosion of the soil's fertility. The growth of extensive rainfed farming in order to feed the growing population has brought marginal land, traditionally used for pastures, into cultivation. Fallow time has been reduced, or sometimes eliminated. The reduction of vegetal cover has left the land exposed to wind and water erosion, as fields have been cleared of trees, shrubs and grasses for cultivation, wood for fuel and construction and fodder.
  • 22 - 24
    The valleys of Cochabamba face a drought period of eight months. Outside the irrigated central valley the lands are poor and eroded, because of which the yield of food production is very low. Traditionally, grain is cultivated in this area. In addition to this, the national policy causes grain prices to remain lower than the cost of production, because of subsidised import and food aid. Six farmer communities were looking for an alternative and they attached new values to an old cactus.
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