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Striving for sustainability

By Tanner Roark, 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow

Posted Mar. 6, 2016

 

A sustainable agriculture is one which depletes neither the people nor the land.

— Wendell Berry

Things have been very busy at Lubbe Crop Farm this week. As we finish the final harvesting of the maize crop, we are prepping the fields for the next crop. Farming takes a lot of knowledge to know what, when, where and how to plant crops. We are choosing to plant soybeans and common beans in the plots where the maize was just harvested. We are choosing to plant beans because they play an important role in the fixation of nitrogen. The previous maize crop was a heavy nutrient feeder, so the decision to follow the plot with beans is a wise decision to revitalize and maintain healthy soil.

In addition to harvesting, we are continuing a project all of the past interns have worked on before me and will continue long after I leave. Throughout the week we have grafted more than 1,000 mango trees. A consultant from the National Agricultural Research Organisation came to teach farm workers how to graft the mango trees. In addition to disease, a failure of adequate watering has resulted in fewer trees to be grafted than desired. The consultant reprimanded us for the dead plants in a way reminiscent of your dentist warning you to floss more often.

We grafted 1,000 mango trees this week.We grafted 1,000 mango trees this week.

In general terms, Watoto's agriculture projects function as a way of sustaining the rest of the organization apart from donors. While it is important for this sustainability project to work efficiently and cost effectively, it is equally important that the agriculture project run its operations in the most ecologically sustainable way possible.

Soils cannot be easily manipulated, but they can be destroyed relatively easy. Short-term fixes of heavy doses of fungicides, insecticides and other chemicals are not only costly but unsustainable. Considering Lubbe is a new farm with some fantastic soil characteristics, it will be important for the organization to continually be good stewards of their land or they will face degradation of both soils and profit.

Negotiating a price to be paid to workers based on how many acres of maize they harvested.Negotiating a price to be paid to workers based on how many acres of maize they harvested.

By taking these things into account I think that Lubbe Crop Farm could make more efficient use of their resources by incorporating ideas like composting, building soil organic matter, crop rotations, integrated crop and pest management techniques, and other agroecological principles. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to farming. For this reason Lubbe Crop Farm should take a hard look at the complex ecosystems that it has and make best use of them by working in conjunction with nature instead of against it.

One of my favorite areas of the farm. Intercropping of pumpkins and pawpaws is a great use of space and an example of agroecological farming.One of my favorite areas of the farm. Intercropping of pumpkins and pawpaws is a great use of space and an example of agroecological farming.

In light of the continually changing climate, agroecological farming practices will not only protect dwindling natural resources but will create a more resilient framework against unpredictable weather patterns, and in turn, protect the bottom line of the entire sustainability project. I have mentioned in previous posts that we often lack physical resources; this fact should solidify the importance of safe guarding our biological resources in the event of future drought, flood or other extreme weather events. Sustainability is all about planning for the future, and by creating a base on which to stand before disaster rears its ugly head, Watoto will be taking a step toward true sustainability.

I like what Watoto Agriculture stands for, and I want it to be successful. By continuing practices like crop rotation and intercropping and adding more resource-responsible practices, the Lubbe farm will see continued growth in their fields and their pocketbook. The practices that the project employs now will set the tone for the future viability of the project. Enough writing for now, there is work to be done in the field.

I ripped my pants this week and got them sewn at a friend's local shop.I ripped my pants this week and got them sewn at a friend's local shop.

P.S. How is the Oklahoma City Thunder team doing?

I dictate and #Bluecow types my blogs.I dictate and #Bluecow types my blogs.

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