Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Partner's Partners

Recently, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) friends in Laos informed me that colleagues with the Lao Ministry of Agriculture are currently engaged in a one-month long special studies program at Chiang Mai University. The folks at CRWRC wondered if I might have time to take their friends to see local sustainable upland farming efforts, particularly green manure cover cropping and agroforestry, being carried out by farmers in the nearby Chiang Dao district.
As Sundays are the only free days for the two Lao men, we made plans for a May 16 field trip. Crops are usually in the ground by the first week of May. Unfortunately, since the monsoon rains have yet to materialize this year, field crops such as corn and upland rice are still not planted.

By the time we arrived in Pang Daeng Nai village, mid morning temps were already above 100 degrees F. (37.7 C) and our short hike to the permanent hill fields was not comfortable. Despite the heat and the bareness of the still unplanted farms, we were able to see how local farmers are making use of crop residues to partially cover the soil. By not burning their fields, farmers allow decomposing materials to increase levels of organic matter which enrich their top soil.

We also visited green agroforest plots. These biodiverse patches are helping to extend farm productivity, even during this current drought, while the rest of the land remains unplanted.

Being from this region, the Lao agriculturists had no problem talking to local farmers and understanding their innovations. Obviously, this trip was not wasted on them.

In fact, they plan to come back later in the year after crops have been established and the landscape has been transformed. They would like to bring other Lao colleagues to learn not only from the farmers at Pang Daeng Nai, but others in nearby communities where shade grown Arabica coffee is cultivated and where Thai natural farming techniques are used to boost farm productivity with local inputs.

Basically, partners lead to more partners. And this helps ECHO's network of hunger-fighting allies to grow.

No comments:

Post a Comment