In such a semi-arid location, the livelihood successes of the Sona Malot community are obviously hard won. Our group of visitors were able to see the value of integrated farming that included traditional crops such as pigeon pea, pearl millet, mustard (oil crop) and cowpea as well as recent innovations such as the expansion of rice paddy land.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
An agriculture workshop sponsored by ECHO, EFICOR and World Relief Canada was held in Sahibganj, Jharkhand in eastern India during March 19-22, 2012. The event was attended by 26 persons representing five relief and development organizations from India’s east and northeastern regions.
In addition to technical presentations provided by local agricultural officials related to agroforestry, secondary agriculture and aquaculture, ECHO Asia Impact Center Director, Rick Burnette and ECHO Asia Research Consultant, Dr. Ricky Bates (professor of Horticulture at Penn State University), offered sessions related to moringa, green manure/cover crops, sustainable upland farming, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and urban/backyard agriculture. EFICOR staff and local community-based partners also shared case studies related to their agriculture livelihood work in the project’s Sahibganj focus area.
Besides an introduction to seed exchange in which crop seeds from northeast India and ECHO Asia were distributed, a following networking session enabled representatives from each organization to share experiences related to agriculture and community development. Each group gave examples of efforts that have succeeded or have proven difficult to carry out.
On the final day, participants traveled to ethnic Malto communities outside of Sahibganj to learn about EFICOR’s food security partnership with local families to promote small kitchen gardens, community forestry, conservation farming and improved livestock production. After returning to Sahibganj that evening, the workshop closed with the distribution of certificates and a brief worship service.
ECHO Asia would like to express its gratitude to EFICOR for hosting the workshop as well as to World Relief Canada and the Canadian Food Grains Bank for their support towards the event.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Having just returned from a quick trip up to the ECHO Asia Seed Bank in Mae Ai, I was impressed to see the latest technologies being employed by our low-input, grow-out, packaging, and distribution hub (aka- the Seed Bank). The first of the gadgetry was a new commercial grade vacuum sealer, used to vacuum-seal quantities of seeds that we then send out to our network partners. We have found that vacuum sealing dried seeds helps to reduce and stabilize ambient moisture, which is detrimental to stored seed viability. Vacuum-sealed seeds can maintain their longevity without the need for costly and space prohibitive refrigeration (although vacuum sealing with refrigeration can provide the best storage conditions). Also included at the seed bank was a backup sealer, of the type and grade you can get at many bakery supply stores. We will use this when the commercial vacuum sealer needs repairs.
Figure 1: New, commercial-grad vacuum sealer with examples of vacuum sealed seed packages
Figure 2: Vacuum sealed seed packages in new vacuum sealer
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The ECHO Asia Seed Bank has had a successful year evaluating two chickpea (Cicer arietinum) varieties that were recently obtained from Myanmar. Chickpea, also known as garbanzo in Spanish and chana in Hindi is an edible legume.
Dr. Tim Motis, Agricultural Technical and Research Director at ECHO, wrote an article about the crop, Chickpea seeds from ICARDA, in ECHO Development Notes 108 (July 2010) that can be accessed via this link http://www.echocommunity.org/resource/collection/CAFC0D87-129B-4DDA-B363-9B9733AAB8F1/Issue108.pdf
According to the article, chickpea production requires an annual rainfall of 26-39 in. (650-1000 mm), typical of semi-arid regions. Chickpea prefers temperatures from 64-79°F (18-26°C), although more established plants can tolerate higher temperatures. The soil temperature should be above 59°F (15°C) for proper seed germination. Though drought resistant, chickpea is intolerant of heavy rainfall. Seed setting is optimal at a relative humidity of 20-40%. When planting chickpea, seed in rows 25-30 cm apart or broadcast the seeds at a rate of 25-35 kg seed/ha.
The varieties planted at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank were seeded in early November at the beginning of the cool dry season. The crop was occasionally watered to keep the top soil suitably moist. No major pests or disease was observed over the 2011-2012 growing season.
Dr. Motis' article explains that green pods and young shoots of chickpea can be consumed as a vegetable, whereas sprouted seeds can be eaten as a vegetable or added to salads. More commonly, the dry seeds are used to make flour or dahl. The article includes a useful link to an on-line ICARDA publication that contains chickpea recipes; http://www.icarda.org/Publications/Cook/Cook%20Book.htm
The seeds are high in protein (20%) and are a good source of potassium. Chickpea seeds can also be milled for use as animal feed. Additionally, livestock can eat the green or dried leaves and stems. As an animal feed, chickpeas have been shown to have similar nutrition as soya cake.
The article also mentions that varieties of chickpea differ in pod size and seed color. Most varieties are classified as “Desi” or “Kabuli” types. Desi chickpea seeds are smaller, darker-colored and not as smooth as the cream-colored, mild-flavored seeds of the Kabuli varieties. The ECHO Asia Seed Bank is evaluating both types. Following the early November planting, the Desi type was ready for harvest in early February with the Kabuli type mature in early March.
ECHO Asia expects to have limited amounts of both types of chickpea seed ready for partners to evaluate soon. However, it would be best to wait until the early cool season to plant.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Hands-on learning-producing indigneous microorganisms for natural farming
Following a farm tour that included Jumpah's pig and quail production facilities as well as solar power and biogas generated from the pig waste, the workshop participants engaged in sessions led by Boonsong Thansritong (Partners Thailand) related to raising pigs on natural bedding as well as the production and use of fermented livestock feed made from banana stalk.
Production and use of fermented livestock feed made from banana stalk
And additional session was offered by Cambodia Global Actiona related to the production and use of indigenous microorganisms in natural farming, especially for rehabilitating degraded farm soils.
The workshop concluded with the presentation of certificates.
Making a pig pen with natural bedding
ECHO Asia is grateful to the Wholistic Development Organization for local coordination of the workshop as well as the Peri-Urban Agriculture and Jumpah Centers for hosting the workshop.
|Drip irrigation learning huddle|
|PUAC's organic vegetable packing facility|
One session, presented by International Development Enterprises (IDE) Cambodia, introduced participants to the basics of drip irrigation systems for small farms, including a hands-on component for setting up such systems.
Another session, led by the workshop host, PUAC, dealt with post-harvest handling and marketing of organic vegetables, offering exposure to sorting, grading and packing seasonal vegetables for the local market.
|Sharing seeds from ECHO Asia|
Day three of the workshop will be held at the Jumpah Center.
|Learning about PUAC's organic vegetable production work|
The program included a tour of PUAC organic vegetable production facilities and an introductory seed exchange activity. Three of the workshop participants brought crop seeds to share, including tamarind, jack bean and creeping cowpea. ECHO Asia also introduced seeds of several crop varieties from its seed bank.
|Sharing experiences about growing jackbean|
The afternoon was devoted to networking, with representatives from the various participating organizations sharing about their work and areas of expertise.