Innovation in agriculture is the key to progress, yet new ideas need to be carefully examined. This is particularly true for âif onlyâ crops, where wondrous benefits could be realised, so we are told, if only more were produced for eager markets. It rarely turns out to be so simple.
From the 1960s onwards the neem tree received a lot of attention from pest scientists who promoted the pesticide properties of naturally occurring compounds. Neemâs properties had been known across India for centuries, but were a source of wonderment to Western scientists, intrigued by the possibilities of natural alternatives to the highly toxic pesticides damned in Rachel Carsonâs Silent Spring.
âIf onlyâ crops often promise increased incomes for farmers, with other benefits such as reduced pest management costs and health risks in the case of neem. Neem was promoted widely in West Africa as part of IPM (integrated pest management), though the most notable success I am aware of was an agroforestry scheme in Niger, where neem was used as windbreaks for annual crops. Neem was also promoted widely as a botanical insecticide in Central America in the 1990s, but the most lasting result of plantings seems to be attractiveÂ trees in public parks.
I did hear of a commercial scheme to harvest neem oil from neem plantations in Indonesia, driven by a reported US market price of US$50 per litre. But, like many other wonder crops, the hype didnât match the reality. Neem products are sold widely in India, often with heavy government subsidies, but wider, international trade has yet to happen.
Promoting any new plant-based product for profit requires a complex series of coordinated steps, from getting farmers to grow enough plants to guarantee a steady supply of raw material, to having processing facilities that can produce the quality product needed by traders that are ready and willing to pay a fair price.
Add to this: trading regulations, alternative suppliers and fluctuating demand, and the barriers to success become daunting. The promotion of neem products has been a qualified success where farmers were already familiar with the plant. Creating enterprises based on a first-time crop is much more challenging, as I learnt last week in Rwanda. Patchouli is a small herbaceous plant whose leaves produce a pungent oil used in perfumery. Patchouli oil is also used in making incense and anyone who has visited India or passed byÂ Hindu temples elsewhere is likely to have smelled its particularly intense and persistent aroma.
About 10 years ago an entrepreneur from Haiti, Pierre LÃ©ger, visited Rwanda and convinced the government to support a scheme to plant patchouli, a previously unknown crop. This was the wonder plant, according to the spiel, that would transform the lives of many poor farmers in Rwanda. Patchouli is well-suited to conditions in Rwanda, where aid agencies and the government were keen to support new enterprises, particularly those that promised high financial rewards. Add to this a global patchouli oil shortage and skyrocketing price at the time, and itâs easy to understand why a proposal to establish a patchouli industry in Rwanda received a sympathetic welcome. Rwanda already grew geraniums for essential oils, so this type of business was already familiar to some farmers.
Today, however, patchouli still languishes as an âif onlyâ crop for Rwanda: if only more farmers had planted it; if only distilling facilities had been successfully established; if only investment from the government had been realised; and if only the original promoter had stayed the course necessary to establish a patchouli oil business. There are wonder crops that have succeeded, but usually because they were already grown by farmers and there was a semblance of a local industry that could be expanded when market conditions became favourable. It also helps to have committed private investors.
Quinoa is not an overnight success for Bolivia or Peru. Many people have worked for years to promote its nutritional benefits, efforts that are now being rewarded by sustained exports to North America and Europe. The quinoa was also supported for years at the exporting end in the Andes by researchers and entrepreneurs in Bolivia.
The overall picture of wonder crops is, however, of patchy success. Leucaena, a woody legume, was widely promoted by projects as a reliable solution to fodder shortages, yet it was plagued by a psyllid (a sucking insect) that followed the expansion of planting aroundthe world. Goji berries, a super-food grown mainly in north-west China, is a wonder crop that continues to do well. But success also encourages competitors, with increased quinoa and goji production in the US, for example.
The main lesson from the fates of many crops promoted as âthe next big thingâ for development is to exercise caution. It is tricky linking production to markets and finding reliable investors who will keep working on processing and marketing after donor dollars have disappeared. A committed community of researchers, processors, exporters, producers and policy-makers is essential. There is undoubtedly a place for wonder crops in creating new enterprises, but only if the assumptions and claims of the promoters are thoroughly scrutinised before taking the plunge.
Related blog stories
The quinoa boom in Bolivia has been years in the making: Quinoa, lost and found
Persistence helped to establish cardamom in Guatemala, as explained in A troubled crop.
A wonder crop can also be an insect, as we read in Kiss of death in the cactus garden
Vea la versiÃ³n en espaÃ±ol a continuaciÃ³n.
Scientific knowledge is universal, but experienced agricultural scientists also bring their own, personal experience to bear on local problems.
Every year our guava tree loses all its fruit to fruit flies. A few weeks ago in Cochabamba my wife, Ana, sent me down to the agro-supply shop to get a special device, a pheromone trap, which lures fruit flies to their death using the scent of a sexual attractant. Insects use chemicals called pheromones to communicate with members of their own species. Some pheromones are emitted by a female fly that is ready to mate, but there are also alarm pheromones and aggregation pheromones (which you have seen in play, if you have ever noticed a large cluster of ladybird beetles clinging to a branch).
Ana was inspired to use the pheromone trap after having watched some training videos from Africa on the Access Agriculture website.
At the shop, the vendor said that âyou get those traps at Proinpa.â I was a little surprised that she even knew of pheromone traps, but even more so that she knew of Proinpa: not everyone is aware of nearby agricultural research institutes.
At Proinpa, Luis Crespo, an entomologist, asked us why we wanted a pheromone trap. When Ana said for guava, Luis gave us a sad, knowing smile, as if to say âlost cause.â
âBut the trap also works for fruit flies attacking peaches?â Ana added.
Luis said yes, but fruit flies prefer guava so much that he advises peach growers to cut down any guava trees, or the peaches will be ruined by flies emerging from the guavas.
Luis took us to his lab, where he piqued our interest in the food bait trap, as an alternative to the pheromone trap. He took a plastic soda-pop bottle and cut three small doors in it, to let in the fruit flies. âFill the bottom of the bottle with a sweet liquid. The best one is fermented chicha.â Luis smiled at the thought that fruit flies liked the traditional maize beer. The flies are attracted to the liquid bait in the bottom of the bottle and drown.
The Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) is native to Europe, but it is now widespread in South America. There are also fruit flies that are native to the Americas (Anastrepha spp.).
Unlike the pheromone trap, the food bait trap would catch both species of fruit fly, males and females, as well as houseflies, âand even wasps and bees,â Luis added with a touch of sadness. Entomologists like wasps, because they kill insect pests.
On the other hand, Luis explained, when the food bait trap is full of dead insects, donât pour it on the ground or the sugary liquid will attract fruit flies, and you will feed them instead of killing them.
Luis went on to explain that when wormy fruit falls to the ground, the fruit fly larvae pupate in the soil. So you have to gather up the fallen fruits immediately.
Even though Luis prefers food bait traps, which can be made entirely from local materials, he was kind enough to sell us a wax plug of imported pheromone bait as well. Luis took a wire and a pair of pliers and with a practiced hand, poked the wire through the bait and fashioned the wire into a little hook, so we could hang it inside the pheromone trap. Then he gave us the little triangular (delta) trap; the male, Mediterranean fruit flies will fly to the little plug of sex bait, but will be captured and die on the sticky floor of the trap.
Ana and I left pleased. We had three ideas: two kinds of traps and a renewed determination to clean up the fallen fruit. And if that didnât work, we could always cut down our guava tree and plant an avocado tree in its place.
I remembered from earlier visits that Luis knew everything there was to know about potato pests, like weevils and moths. I was delighted to see that he was also an expert on fruit flies. Local knowledge and scientific knowledge are often seen as opposites, but at their best they are complimentary. A good agricultural scientist combines textbook knowledge with local experience to unravel the ties between peach trees and guava, the various species of flies, and the advantages of different traps for fruit flies.
Watch the videos
EL MEJOR CONOCIMIENTO ES LOCAL Y CIENTÃFICO
por Jeff Bentley, 2 de abril del 2017
El conocimiento cientÃfico es universal, pero los experimentados cientÃficos agrÃcolas tambiÃ©n usan su propia experiencia para solucionar los problemas locales.
Cada aÃ±o nuestro guayabero pierde toda su fruta a las moscas de la fruta. Hace unas semanas en Cochabamba mi esposa Ana me mandÃ³ a la tienda agropecuaria para comprar un aparato especial, una trampa de feromonas que llama a las moscas de fruta a su muerte, usando un atrayente sexual. Los insectos usan quÃmicos llamados feromonas para comunicarse con miembros de su propia especie. Algunas feromonas son emitidas por una mosca hembra que estÃ¡ lista para la cÃ³pula, pero hay tambiÃ©n feromonas de alarma y de agregaciÃ³n (las cuales usted tal vez ha visto en acciÃ³n, si alguna vez se ha fijado en un gran grupo de mariquitas aferrÃ¡ndose a una rama).
Ana se inspirÃ³ a usar la trampa de feromonas despuÃ©s de ver algunos videos didÃ¡cticos de Africa en el sitio web de Access Agriculture.
En la tienda, la vendedora dijo âse consiguen esas trampas en Proinpa.â Me sorprendiÃ³ que ella supiera de las trampas de feromona, y mÃ¡s todavÃa que ella conocÃa a Proinpa: no todos se dan cuenta de los institutos de investigaciÃ³n agrÃcola en su zona.
En Proinpa, el Ing. Luis Crespo, entomÃ³logo, nos preguntÃ³ por quÃ© querÃamos una trampa de feromona. Cuando Ana dijo para el guayabero, Luis nos dio una sonrisa triste, como decir âcausa perdida.â
âÂ¿Pero la trampa tambiÃ©n funciona para moscas de la fruta que atacan a los durazneros?â Ana agregÃ³.
Luis dijo que sÃ, pero que las moscas de la fruta prefieren tanto a la guayaba que Ã©l asesora a los productores de durazno a quitar todos sus guayaberos, caso contrario los duraznos serÃ¡n arruinados por las moscas que emergen de las guayabas.
Luis nos llevÃ³ a su laboratorio, donde nos interesÃ³ en la trampa con atrayente alimenticio, como alternativa a la trampa de feromona. TomÃ³ un envase plÃ¡stico de refresco y cortÃ³ tres pequeÃ±as puertas, para dejar entrar las moscas de la fruta. âHay que llenar el fondo con cualquier lÃquido dulce. Lo mejor es la chicha fermentada.â Luis sonriÃ³ al pensar que a las moscas de la fruta les gusta la tradicional cerveza de maÃz. Las moscas se atraen al anzuelo lÃquido al fondo de la botella y allÃ se ahogan.
La mosca mediterrÃ¡nea (Ceratitis capitata) es nativa a Europa, pero hoy en dÃa estÃ¡ difundida por SudamÃ©rica. Hay tambiÃ©n moscas de la fruta nativas a las AmÃ©ricas (Anastrepha spp.).
A diferencia de la trampa de feromonas, la trampa alimenticia atraparÃa a ambas especies de mosca de la fruta, tanto machos como hembras, y moscas domÃ©sticas, ây hasta avispas y abejas,â Luis agregÃ³ con un toque de tristeza. A los entomÃ³logos les gustan las avispas porque matan a las plagas insectiles.
Por otro lado, explicÃ³ Luis, cuando la trampa alimenticia estÃ¡ llena de insectos muertos, no botes el contenido al suelo porque el lÃquido dulce atraerÃ¡ a las moscas de la fruta, y las alimentarÃ¡s en vez de matarlas.
Luis siguiÃ³ explicando que cuando la fruta agusanada cae, las moscas de la fruta se empupan en el suelo. Hay que eliminar toda la fruta caÃda inmediatamente.
A pesar de que Luis prefiere las trampas alimenticias, que se pueden hacer de materiales locales, amablemente nos vendiÃ³ un tapÃ³n de cera, con feromonas. Luis tomÃ³ un alambre y alicate y con una mano experta, pasÃ³ el alambre a travÃ©s del tapÃ³n y formÃ³ el alambre como ganchito, para que lo pudiÃ©ramos colgar dentro de la trampa de feromona. Luego nos dio una trampita triangular (trampa delta); los machos de la mosca mediterrÃ¡nea irÃ¡n volando al corcho impregnado de olor a sexo, pero serÃ¡n capturados y morirÃ¡n en el piso pegajoso de la trampa.
Ana y yo nos fuimos contentos. TenÃamos tres ideas: dos clases de trampas y una determinaciÃ³n renovada de limpiar la fruta caÃda. Y si eso no funcionaba, siempre podrÃamos despachar nuestra guayabera y plantar un palto (aguacate) en su lugar.
Me acordÃ© de mis anteriores visitas que Luis lo sabÃa todo de las plagas de la papa, como gorgojos y polillas. Me encantÃ³ ver que tambiÃ©n era experto en las moscas de la futa. El conocimiento local y el cientÃfico a menudo se ven como opuestos, pero en el mejor de los casos se complementan. Un buen cientÃfico agrÃcola combina el conocimiento de los textos con la experiencia local para entender la relaciÃ³n entre los durazneros y los guayaberos, las diferentes especies de moscas, y las ventajas de las diferentes trampas para las moscas de la fruta.
Vea los videos
Agricultural extension can work deep changes in farmersâ attitudes. Ironically, the extensionists themselves often think that a change in heart is difficult to achieve, so it was good to meet some inspired farmers last week in Tamil Nadu, India, while teaching a course with Paul Van Mele to agricultural researchers and extension agents.
We wrote four fact sheets with advice for farmers and we wanted to show the papers to real farmers, as a kind of peer review. One of the participants, Mrs. P. Tamilselvi, took us to the village of Seethapappi, where she works as an extensionist. The course participants, mostly agricultural researchers, formed small groups and found farmers to talk to.
We approached a farmhouse, where entomologist K. Bharathidasan called out, asking if anyone was home. When a surprised couple emerged, Bharathidasan introduced himself and soon had the farmers reading a fact sheet in Tamil on groundnut stem rot.
After Mr. C. Sekar read the fact sheet he talked about an organic agricultural concoction he used as a fertilizer and insecticide. He called it pancha kaviya, alluding to five ingredients it contained. Bharathidasan wrote down the recipe:
Mix 1) cow dung, 2) cow urine, 3) ghee, milk and curd, 4) coconut water and 5) jiggery (a candy) or sugarcane juice. Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Keep for 45 days. Filter the liquid directly into a sprayer and spray the crop.
This was only the first of many natural agro-chemicals farmers in this village described to us. Sekar also makes an organic pesticide with eight types of local plants. He adds them to cow urine and keeps them for 20 days. Then he filters the liquid and sprays it on his crops.
When Mrs. Sekar read the fact sheet she mentioned another organic pesticide. Two more farmers had their own recipe for a home brew to spray on plants.
Farmer Prakash Kanna showed us a batch of pancha kaviya heâd made, a dull brown mix in a plastic drum. It had a strong, sour smell. He put it in irrigation water to fertilize his plants. He called it a growth regulator. (The pancha kaviya adds nutrients and beneficial flora and fauna to the soil).
The farmers said they also used marigold extract and gypsum powder to control various diseases in groundnuts (peanuts). And they enhance the soil with a beneficial bacterium, Pseudomonas, mixed with aged cow dung which helps the bacteria multiply and suppress fungi that cause disease.
Thatâs quite a lot of innovation.
Bharathidasan later told me that the farmers really liked the fact sheets, except for the references to chemicals. That wasnât surprising given the many non-chemical options the villagers were using.
Later that week we visited another village, Panayaburam, slightly larger than Seethapappi, with a small cooperative office where the farmers met.
Here we quickly learned of a different set of attitudes. The farmers did mention neem oil and using a net to keep small insect pests out of vegetables, but many said that âhere we only use chemicals.â One went so far as to say that if you used a mix made from cow dung on your plants, the other farmers would say that you were insane.
Anthropologists have long known that each village is unique; conclusions drawn in one village may not apply to neighboring ones. Even so, such a big difference in attitudes to chemicals was surprising. Seethapappi farmers said that they liked everything in the fact sheets, except for the chemicals. In Panayaburam farmers only wanted to know about pesticides to manage pests and diseases.
There is one major difference between these two villages. Organic-leaning Seethapappi has a KVK (farm science center), where farmers receive training and get advice. Extension agents in that KVK have generated a lot of excitement about making inputs from local materials. Panayaburam does not have a KVK, and farmers rely on the biased advice of agro-chemical dealers to keep plants healthy.
A KVK is a permanent structure, with a building and staff, working with farmers over the years. Extensionists may become frustrated with the pace of change because farmers seldom adopt a new technique instantly. Smallholders have to try out innovations on their own. Extension agents can and do make a difference in farmersâ attitudes about agrochemicals, even if it takes time.
A plant has a personality and, like people and countries, some have stronger characters than others. Take the lupin bean (Lupinus mutabilis), for example. It is an oddly erect legume that forms a sort of cone shape, and its glorious flowers make the plant wildly popular with gardeners in many countries. In Bolivia it is called âtarwiâ, from Quechua, the language of the Incas.
While making a video in Bolivia, my colleagues and I asked doÃ±a Eleuteria in the village of Phinkina to tell us what she planted after harvesting tarwi. She surprised me by saying that sometimes she followed tarwi with potatoes. Thatâs astounding, because potatoes are such a demanding crop that Andean farmers often rest the soil for years before planting a field to potatoes. Otherwise the soil may be improved by adding tons of chicken manure. Bolivian farmers in the Andes donât buy manure for other crops, just the fussy and valuable potato.
I followed up by asking Reynaldo Herbas, from the village of Tijraska, if he had ever planted potatoes right after tarwi. âYes, and it does very well. Planting tarwi is like fallowing your soil, or like using chicken manure,â he explained.
Tarwi seeds are also rich in oils and proteins and doÃ±a Eleuteria regularly feeds lupin beans to her children. Like some other Bolivians doÃ±a Eleuteria make a nutritious snack by boiling the seeds, but itâs a lot of work. The grains need to be soaked in water for three days before boiling, then left in the running water of the river for several days to wash out the bitter alkaloids.
Agronomist Juan Vallejos from Proinpa (a research institute) confirmed that tarwi takes a lot of water to process. This is ironic, because tarwi is recommended for dry areas with impoverished soils. Sweet varieties without the bitter alkaloids do exist, but in Bolivia the search for these sweet lupins is only just starting.
While visiting doÃ±a Eleuteria to learn about processing seed, she showed us how to pick out the bad grains of tarwi, to ensure that the crop planted from them would be healthy. (The main disease is anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). We asked doÃ±a Eleuteria what she did with the diseased grains. We thought that she might say that she buried them to keep the disease from spreading. But no, she buries the discarded grains because raw lupin beans are toxic, whether they are healthy or diseased.
âI do bury them,â she explained, âbecause they are so bitter that if the chickens eat them they will die.â
Agronomist Vallejos explained that tarwi plants are so packed with alkaloids that sheep and cattle will not touch a crop growing in the field. However, the lupin plant is drought resistant and even withstands hail, which often mows down other food crops in the Andes. Local governments in Bolivia are starting to promote tarwi as a way of adapting to climate change.
A plant may have a complex personality, with sterling qualities as well as some tragic defects. Tarwi or lupin is in many ways a perfect crop: well-suited to the punishing climate of the High Andes while nutritious for people and good for the soil. The downside is that you need lots of water to process the beans and to leach out the poisons that can kill your unsuspecting chickens.
For this story in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by Paul Van Mele and Marcella Vrolijks of Agro-Insight and Juan Vallejos and Maura Lazarte and others from Proinpa. The visit was funded by the McKnight Foundation.
Calisaya, J.J., Â M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 âDesarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones TecnolÃ³gicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos AgrÃcolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.â Read at the Community of Practice meeting, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 July. See the paper here.
The farmer training video Growing lupine without disease can be viewed and downloaded on the Access Agriculture video-sharing platform in English, French, Spanish, and shortly also in Quechua and Aymara.
CULTIVO CON CARÃCTER FUERTE
Por Jeff Bentley
29 de enero del 2017
Una planta tiene una personalidad, y como la gente y los paÃses, algunos tienen mÃ¡s carÃ¡cter que otros. Considere el lupino (Lupinus mutabilis), por ejemplo. Es una leguminosa que crece casi en forma de cono, y gracias a sus flores gloriosas la planta es querida por jardineros en muchos paÃses. En Bolivia se llama âtarwiâ, del quechua, el idioma de los Incas.
Mientas mis colegas y yo filmÃ¡bamos un video en Bolivia, pedimos que doÃ±a Eleuteria en la comunidad de Phinquina nos contara quÃ© sembraba despuÃ©s de cosechar el tarwi. Ella nos sorprendiÃ³ cuando dijo que a veces sembraba papa despuÃ©s del tarwi. Es increÃble, porque las papas son tan exigentes que muchos agricultores andinos descansan el suelo durante aÃ±os antes de sembrar papas. Si no, el suelo tendrÃ¡ que mejorarse agregando toneladas de gallinaza. Los agricultores en los Andes bolivianos no compran gallinaza para otros cultivos, solo la mimada y valiosa papa.
Luego le preguntÃ© a Reynaldo Herbas de la comunidad de Tijraska, si Ã©l jamÃ¡s habÃa sembrado papas despuÃ©s del tarwi. âSÃ, y produce muy bien. El sembrar tarwi es como descansar sus suelo, o como usar gallinaza,â explicÃ³.
Los granos de tarwi son ricos en aceites y proteÃnas y doÃ±a Eleuteria a menudo los da de comer a sus hijos. Igual que algunas otras bolivianas, doÃ±a Eleuteria hace una merienda nutritiva con los granos cocidos, pero cuesta mucho trabajo. Los granos tienen que remojarse en agua durante tres dÃas antes de cocerse, para despuÃ©s dejarlos en el chorro del rÃo durante varios dÃas mÃ¡s para expulsar los amargos alcaloides.
El Ing. AgrÃ³nomo Juan Vallejos de Proinpa (un instituto de investigaciÃ³n) confirmÃ³ que el tarwi toma mucha agua para procesarse. Es irÃ³nico, porque el tarwi se recomienda para zonas secas con suelos empobrecidos. Existen variedades dulces, sin los alcaloides amargos, pero en Bolivia reciÃ©n empieza la bÃºsqueda por esos lupinos dulces.
Cuando visitamos a doÃ±a Eleuteria para aprender cÃ³mo ella procesa la semilla, nos mostrÃ³ cÃ³mo quitar los granos malos de tarwi, para asegurarse que el cultivo que siembra serÃ¡ sano. (La enfermedad principal es la antracnosis, causada por el hongo Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). Preguntamos a doÃ±a Eleuteria quÃ© hacÃa con los granos enfermos. PensÃ¡bamos que dirÃa que los enterraba para que las enfermedades no se diseminaran. Pero no, ella entierra a los granos descartados porque los granos crudos de tarwi son tÃ³xicos, bien sea sanos o enfermos.
El Ing. Vallejos explicÃ³ que las plantas de tarwi estÃ¡n tan cargadas de alcaloides que las ovejas y vacas no tocan al cultivo en la parcela. Sin embargo, la planta de tarwi es resistente a la sequÃa y hasta aguanta a la granizada, que a menudo arrasa con otros cultivos en los Andes. Los gobiernos locales en Bolivia empiezan a promover el tarwi como una adaptaciÃ³n al cambio climÃ¡tico.
Una planta puede tener una personalidad compleja, con cualidades de oro igual que algunos defectos trÃ¡gicos. El tarwi o lupino en muchas maneras en el cultivo perfecto: bien adaptado a los desafÃos del clima altoandino, mientras es nutritivo para la gente y bueno para el suelo. Su lado oscuro es que requiere de mucha agua para lavar los venenos que pueden matar a tus gallinas inocentes.
Para escribir este cuento en Cochabamba, Bolivia, tuve la buena suerte de estar acompaÃ±ado de Paul Van Mele y Marcella Vrolijks de Agro-Insight y Juan Vallejos y Maura Lazarte y otros de Proinpa. La visita se financiÃ³ por la McKnight Foundation.
Para leer mÃ¡s
Calisaya, J.J., Â M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 âDesarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones TecnolÃ³gicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos AgrÃcolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.â Trabajo presentado en la reuniÃ³n de la Comunidad de PrÃ¡ctica, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 de julio. Ver la presentaciÃ³n aquÃ.
Para ver mÃ¡s
El video educativo para agricultores Producir tarwi sin enfermedadÂ estÃ¡ disponible para ver y bajar en inglÃ©s, francÃ©s, espaÃ±ol, y pronto tambiÃ©n en quechua y aymara, en la plataforma Access Agriculture que se dedica a compartir videos.
Hunting (along with gathering wild plants) is humanityâs oldest profession. In ancient times, peoples thrived or vanished depending on their hunting skills. Experiences passed on from elders and life-long observations meant that hunters fully understood the behaviour of the animals they hunted. Ecological knowledge mattered more than anything else for survival.
As people began to domesticate crops, some animals adjusted their behaviour and began feeding in farmersâ fields. The first farms were surrounded by large areas of wild lands, and birds and mammals may have been some of the first pests.
While visiting a primary school in Malawi during a fact sheet and video script writing workshop, I was surprised to see a poster with drawings of what it said were the common pests of cassava. Clearly, skills to manage larger pests are still highly needed in rural areas.
Nowadays, few people live from hunting, but it remains an important pass-time in many areas, and hunters are still occasionally called upon by farmers.
Whenever soya farmers in northern Benin have problems with wild rabbits, they supply local hunters with free bullets and entice them to organise night hunting sessions.
In a previous blog Bullets and birds I talked about Vera and Johan, organic farmers in Belgium, who negotiated with local hunters to keep pigeons from feeding on the young cabbage seedlings.
Dominiek Gielen, my brother-in-law, told me how his father Tien used to spend hours in farmersâ fields after working his day shift in the coal mine. As patches of forests had been cleared and turned into farming land, moles had become a real pest to such an extent that Tien quickly knew all about moles and how to catch them, always at the same time of the day.
Last year, as we were making a training video on climbing beans in Uganda, I learned that moles were also a key pest for farmers there. And likewise, farmers call upon young, knowledgeable âmole huntersâ. They put a bait in the tunnel, bend a stick and attach a rope in such a way that when the mole comes to the bait, it is snatched up and pulled out of its tunnel. Farmers pay 5000 Ugandan Shilling (1.3 Euro) for each mole they catch.
The last few days, I have had the luck to be able to interact with farmers in Tamil Nadu, southern India, while training partners from Access Agriculture to produce farmer training videos. Many farmers here have so-called integrated farms, growing crops, trees, and rearing animals and fish on their farm. Fingerlings, or young fish, are the most expensive input of fish pond farming. Maran, one of the young members of the Koveri Inland Fish Farmers, told me how via the village canal that feeds water into his pond, 20 large turtles had entered the pond and were devouring his young fish. Turtles are such a common pest that Maran could call upon turtle hunters. By making noise and using spears the large turtles ended up as a feast for the hunters and their neighbours. On top, for each turtle caught Maran paid them 50 Rupees (about 0.66 Euro).
As the various examples above have shown, hunters have a unique set of skills and continue to provide specialised services to farming communities. Farmer training videos offer a unique opportunity to document and pay tribute to these professionals.
To watch training videos that include examples of farmers working with hunters, visit:
Stocking fingerlings in a nursery pond (available on www.accessagriculture.orgÂ soon)
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