Global warming and climate change has resulted in numerous negative effects, among them water scarcity loss of arable land and all these contribute to food insecurity. I recently met with a small-scale farmer who is coping and adjusting to these conditions; she has employed simple yet very effective techniques to deal with the situation.
Water is essential to life and has no substitute. Climate change and other factors have placed greater demand on available fresh water supplies. This increased demand, combined with water pollution, emphasizes the critical need to efficiently use portable water and to increase the use of alternative sources for non-portable purposes. Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse on site rather than allowing it to run-off, or the collection of rain water to maximize its environmental and landscape value. It also involves the process of retaining, diverting and processing rainwater for a number of uses which include; water for livestock, gardens, irrigation and domestic use for drinking, cooking and others. Rainwater harvesting and utilization is a decentralized, environmentally sound solution, which can avoid many environmental problems often caused in conventional large-scale projects using centralized approaches. In terms of physical and chemical parameters, collected rainwater tends to exhibit quality levels that are generally comparable to the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline values for drinking water.
She has 3 tanks of 8,000 litres each and this has ensured she has an all year round supply of water both for irrigation and domestic purposes. This, she says has helped her since and she no longer faces water scarcity issues.
rooftop rain water harvesting.
Intercropping means the growth of two or three crops in the same field at the same time (FAO). This she says, helps in increasing the nutrient diversity in soils and hence soil fertility. Healthy soils are also more resistant to soil erosion. She also plants in alternating rows in order to make weeding, fertilizer application and harvesting easier. Other benefits of intercropping, as stated by FAO are;
i. Helps control weeds, pests and diseases since it breaks their life cycle and also prevents them from multiplying.
ii. It produces different types of outputs, since growing a mix of grains, vegetables and fodder results in a more varied diet and a more produce to sell. This also translates to income generation.
iii. It reduces risk; a single crop may fail due to harsh climatic conditions, pest infestation or a drop in market prices. Producing a variety of crops reduces these risks.
inter cropping (both maize and beans on same land)
This is the intentional integration of trees, crops and animal farming in the same plot of land, or simply planting of trees together with crops. This results in economic, social and environmental benefits. Agroforestry works towards land protection and conservation. The benefits the farmer enjoys from this practice include;
i. Soil erosion control, trees, through their roots, leaf litter and canopy reduce water/run-off flow hence encouraging soil retention, water infiltration and organic nutrients retention. This increases soil fertility. The trees also help break winds further preventing soil erosion.
ii. The trees covering also provide shelter for livestock during hot days, allowing them to adapt and conserve energy. This has also contributed to the fact that she rears cross-breed cattle which are more productive.
iii. We also know trees are the most significant carbon sinks and hence are very crucial in climate change control through absorption of greenhouse gases. In the process the trees aid in air purification.
iv. Trees generally contribute to increase in crop yields, and are also of aesthetic value.
Other noted benefits in agroforestry practice include increase in bird and butterfly species around. The different tree species grown in her farm include; blue gum and grevellia species as boundary trees. Other tree species are Pine, Cypress, fruit trees, Red and white bottle trees and Jacaranda.
This is crop and livestock production that does not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. This develops a system that is harmonious with the environment and is sustainable.
She uses organic compost for crops and organic feed for the livestock. This results in healthy produce/output and at the same time minimizes environmental pollution.
In her latest project, she has turned a parcel of her land into a forested area. The parcel of land is rocky during the dry season and water logged during the wet season, hence not suitable for farming. This provoked her to plant eucalyptus blue gum in the area.
eucalyptus blue gum species.