SMALLHOLDER PRODUCTIVITY
SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION

DOCUMENTATION, RESEARCH, AND FIELD REPORTS

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Madagascar is typical of most tropical countries where rainfall is high and erosion is a major problem. In addition Madagascar is subject to frequent cyclones that create huge slips on unprotected slopes. In this instance the land slides not only negatively effected the rural poor but also created severe economic loss to a whole sub-region because of damage to the railway line. Through an ingenious system of "crop - vetiver modules", good community involvement and education, and a properly funded and managed program (KB276), the results were impressive. Soil erosion and land slippage was halted, farmer income improved substantially and the recommissioned railroad continued to operate even under the harshest climatic conditions. Vetiver System technology was the "glue" that enabled the program to work. It stopped the land slides, prevented erosion and improved crop productivity (both annual and perennial tree crops). The farmers were delighted and started spreading the technology to adjacent farmers
Erosion problems occur not only on steep slopes, but also on fairly flat land (<1%) as well. The black cotton soils of the Darling Downs of Queensland, Australia are subject to occasional flooding that causes major erosion problems. As a result a method of strip cropping has been devised that takes about 33% of the land out of cultivation. Under Australia's Land Care Program farmers planted vetiver hedgerows across the slope. Erosion was effectively minimized, flood damage became insignificant and the hedgerows stayed where they were planted - even after 7 years as shown on the image to the bottom right. Note the good crop of cotton and maize on either side of the vetiver hedgerow. Better still more than 90% of the land can be cultivated, and excess fertilizers and agrochemicals are trapped by the vetiver hedgerows.
The East Bali Poverty Project (KB106) was planned and managed by an NGO - the Ekoturin Foundation. It is located in the mountainous area of Bali, it is dry and the soils are eroding rapidly. The communities in the area are the poorest of the poor, illiterate, undernourished, and most adults suffered from goiter. The project provides education to children and improvements to agriculture through educating the children. The Vetiver System is the enabling "glue" that has been used to stabilize the improved roads and to conserve the steep hillsides. As a result the farmers are now able to grow decent crops of potatoes for subsistence and for sale; incomes and nutrition are improving all through children being taught about vetiver, improved farm methods and better nutrition.
The Dabie Mountains is host to some of China's poorest people. This mountainous area in Anhui Province is heavily eroded and the soils are each year becoming more infertile. The China Vetiver Network, the Salvation Army, and local governments programmed and funded a project (KB347) to provide improved services and technologies to farmers in a pilot area. The project was based on many years of investigation, scientific trials and on the local social and economic situation, local government and farmers warmly welcomed it. The project used Vetiver System as a key component for erosion control. At the same time emphasis was put on economic tree production and water conservation so that farmers could better their profits. Currently the China Vetiver Network is seeking additional benefits for farmers through vetiver handcraft making, by providing vetiver pruning or crude process materials to the handcraft factories that have close cooperation with export agencies.
Farmers in Central Coastal Vietnam are regularly confronted with flood or storm related damage, and have to spend much of their time and money to restore badly damaged structures. The measures they have used include stabilization of dykes by local grass, which are easily uprooted by flood, or small waves, hence are not effective, or short-term measures such as blocking sand dune flow by sand dykes, which themselves are poorly stabilized due to lack of vegetation cover. Technical support, when available, has its own problems. Local civil engineers are used to more expensive hard solutions such as rocks and cement, even these solutions are not always effective or durable. Agro-forestry projects focus on tree planting but it is expensive to implement and slow in growth. Trees are effective for wind erosion control but they give little protection against neither water erosion nor trapping sand eroded by heavy rainfall. With a small grant from the Netherlands Embassy, a vetiver trial and demonstration project was initiated in 2001 (KB812). The results were outstanding and both local farmers and engineers now adopted VS as their preferred option for sand dune and road batter stabilization, stream bank erosion control and fishpond stabilization
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is the third most important food crop in southeast Asia. Most farmers realize, that cassava production on slopes can cause severe erosion, while production without fertilizers will lead to a gradual decline in soil productivity. Research has shown that cassava yields can be maintained for many years with adequate application of fertilizers and/or manures, and that there are various ways to reduce erosion. In order to enhance the adoption of soil conserving practices and improve the sustainability of cassava production under a wide range of socio-economic and bio-physical conditions, a farmer participatory research (FPR) approach was used to develop not only the best soil conservation practices, but also to test new cassava varieties, fertilization practices and cropping systems that tend to produce greater short-term benefits. The farmer participatory approach to technology development and farmer-to-farmer extension has been further developed and the total number of sites has rapidly expanded to about 32 sites in Thailand, 35 in Vietnam and 23 in southern China (KB63).In Thailand, farmers in almost all sites selected the planting of contour hedgerows of vetiver grass as the most effective and most suitable practice to control erosion. In 2002 nearly 900 farmers in 18 sites in eight provinces in Thailand had planted a total of 130 km of vetiver grass hedgerows in close to 950 ha of cassava fields. Through the use of a farmer participatory extension approach, including cross visits, farmers’ field days, training courses and the establishing of community-based self-help groups, the number of farmers planting vetiver grass is growing day by day. In the long-term, this will result in less erosion and the conservation of soil and water resources to the benefit of farmers as well as the community as a whole.