Natural Resource Management Practices
The search for, documentation, and dissemination of, successful technologies and practices is one of the core activities of the FARM Programme .There are successful cases of sustainable agriculture practises and technologies in the region, developed by farm women and men and researchers. The FARM Programme has been active in the field sites to promote the identification, adoption, and replication of successful farming practices. Men and women farmers, through exchange visits, tours and training received from extension officers, research institutes, key farmers and progressive communities had the opportunity of accessing such technologies and practices.
Since the retuning of the Programme, FARM has intensified work at the field site level. This in turn has motivated farm communities to rehabilitate their natural resource base and develop technologies, approaches and practices to ensure continued use of such resources without damage and depletion.
The Participatory Assessment and Planning (PAP) exercise, used at the community level to assess the natural resource base, identify problems of farm households, needs and options, has resulted in community action plans for development. Out of this endeavour six broad areas have been identified for resource management action.
As the focus of the FARM Programme is in rainfed areas, almost all field site communities have identified the need for water as their top priority. Water harvesting, use and conservation techniques and approaches are being identified, developed, and information exchanges made.
Almost all field sites have one or more natural resource rehabilitation programmes to regenerate resources, protect them from erosion and improve the viability of the watersheds. In Nepal where the field sites are in high mountain areas, communities are demonstrating their capability to manage and conserve the land from slides and erosion. In Indonesia, in the village of Pinggan a very successful terracing activity has rehabilitated more than two hectares of productive land. This is in addition to preventing soil erosion and degradation. Many of the field sites are planting trees and shrubs to regenerate the land, prevent soil erosion, and increase fodder for animals and biomass for organic fertiliser.
All field sites are actively improving their indigenous practises in organic fertiliser which is now becoming popular. In addition, in the Philippines, Vietnam, and China farmer field schools have been established in soil management.
In the FARM field sites in Vietnam, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines, farmers have begun using improved seed varieties of maize, rice, and soybean. In Nepal improved varieties of potatoes and ginger have increased production. Improved fruit trees, seedlings and nursery techniques are now in use in almost all the field sites. In addition to crops and trees, livestock development for integrated farming and income generation is also being practised. Properly managed, these integrated approaches not only increase production and income but also support improved biodiversity to regenerate and sustain resources.
The field site communities have intensified efforts in pest and disease control on fruit trees, rice and vegetables. In the Philippines there is a growing awareness particularly among the women farmers of the benefits from biological pest control and organic farming. The communities recognise that chemical pesticides and herbicides are not only becoming more costly but are polluting the waterways and underground water, and posing hazards to the health of farmers and their households.
The doing and learning process initiated in field sites not only helps farmers to generate new knowledge but builds their productive capacity. For example in the Haigad field site in Almora, India, farmers have utilised the Poly Pit and Poly House techniques to improve organic composting and vegetable cultivation.
Poly Pit and Poly House techniques
Almost four months cultivation time previously lost in winter can now be utilised for vegetable cultivation and seedling preparation for planting in spring. This is made possible by "Poly Pit Technology". This consists of digging an oblong pit in the ground. The pit is partially filled with cow dung, pine leaves and other composting materials. Above that small poly bags planted with vegetable are arranged for growth. The top of the pit is covered by poly sheet. The heat generated by composting helps the vegetables in poly bags to grow. The temperature in the pit is warm and is proving adequate to cultivate leafy vegetables, mustard, cabbage and radish. During the day when there is adequate warmth the poly sheet is partially opened, to allow sunlight into the pit for the requirements of the plants. The sheets are securely closed during the night or when the day time temperature is low.
This pit method is also proving very useful as a nursery. Almost two to four months planting time can now be gained through such a method. The fully grown plants or seedlings that can stand a bit more cold are then transferred into the poly houses. The "Poly House Technology" complements the poly pit technology and helps increase agricultural production. The poly houses are constructed with locally available materials such as bamboo. The size of the house varies according to the needs and resources of the farmer. The frame of the house is covered securely by polythene to keep the cold out. The plants grow in this poly house and their growth can be staggered to avoid the peak season when vegetables are very cheap. The Poly Pit and Poly House technology make it possible for farmers in such areas to have a more regular supply of vegetables for their families and also achieve better prices during the off season.
One of the FARM field sites is the Haigad Watershed, located in the Central Himalaya, in the district of Almora. The FARM Biotechnology Node, one of the components of the Regional Multi-disciplinary Support Facility (RMDSF) is coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India. The Department has developed a partnership with the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development to build the capacity of the field site community.
Courtesy Department of BioTechnology