Joy in Nigeria grows different types of crops using sustainable agricultural techniques taught by Tearfund partner Rurcon.

From: Farming for the future – Footsteps 110

Strategies farmers can use to maintain healthy ecosystems and productive farms

In 2013, the fields around Meghawakhurd village in northern India were dry and unproductive. Several years of drought had resulted in a severe lack of water and many families were abandoning their farms and moving to the city to look for work.

Those who remained in the village were struggling to survive. They spent most of their time cutting and selling firewood 25 kilometres away. 

A farmer-owned, long-term approach was needed to properly manage the water catchment area and allow the farmers to make their land productive again.  

Local solutions 

Steep slopes and deforestation meant that rainwater was quickly running off the fields and out of the area. This was causing the soil to erode and dry out. The farmers needed to slow the water down, create some water stores and encourage more water to soak into the soil. After discussions facilitated by Tearfund’s partner EFICOR, they decided to do the following: 

With the help of a government farm adviser, the farmers developed a trial plot. This allowed them to test several different water-saving technologies including a rice intensification system and intercropping. 

Once dry and barren, Meghawakhurd village is now green and the fields are productive. Photo: EFICOR

Once dry and barren, Meghawakhurd village is now green and the fields are productive. Photo: EFICOR

System of Rice Intensification. Illustration: Wingfinger

System of Rice Intensification. Illustration: Wingfinger

System of rice intensification 

This is a low-input way of growing rice which results in better yields and more profit for families. The technique uses 25–50 per cent less water than standard rice cultivation methods.

Below are the main steps. 

Ten million small-scale farmers in more than 55 countries are now experiencing improved yields by using this system.

Intercropping 

For centuries, farmers have grown crops in combination with each other. Compared to the more modern approach of growing one crop in large fields (monocropping), this technique has many advantages and is often used in conservation farming. 

There are several intercropping methods: 

Row: more than one crop grown at the same time, with at least one of the crops planted in a row. 

Strip: different crops in alternate strips, with rows big enough to allow harvesting with machinery. 

Relay: a second crop planted on the same piece of land after the first crop has reached a certain stage of growth. 

Intercropping using a combination of millet and leguminous cow peas

Intercropping using a combination of millet and leguminous cow peas. Illustration: Wingfinger

Hub for learning

Over the last few years Meghawakhurd has been transformed. Better water management combined with new farming techniques has encouraged many people to return to their farms. Groundwater level has increased by more than one metre and most of the farmers are able to grow two crops each year. 

The trial plot in the village has become a hub for learning, attracting many visitors from neighbouring villages. 


Definitions

Water catchment area
An area of land with a common set of streams and rivers that flow into a larger body of water, such as a lake or ocean. 

Legume
Leguminous plants and trees improve soil fertility by capturing nitrogen from the air and adding it to the soil in a form that can be used by other plants. Examples include Acacia, Leucaena and Moringa species.

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