Approach and Solutions

More than 17 years experience on dynamic agroforestry systems have shown that it is feasible to restore depleted soils and cocoa, coffee or other plantations in crisis without any external inputs, only by increasing the turnover of organic matter (energy), by diversifying the production systems and adapting management practices to the specific requirements of the crop. Simultaneously the main problems with pests and diseases decline significantly. Already in the short term results are achievable. At the same time food security for farmers’ families will be improved.

Scientific research projects with cocoa in Bolivia and Malaysia are considering dynamic agroforestry systems in system comparison trials as one of the treatments.

Based on an individual diagnostic of a specific production system ECOTOP designs alternatives and offers training in management practices of dynamic agroforestry systems for cocoa and other kind of crops, both for small and large scale farmers. 

Methodology

Given this is a new approach to agro-forestry it is advisable that interventions in the plots be monitored for a certain period of time. Likewise, the whole process should be accompanied by training courses for technicians/extensionists and farmers.

Ecotop recommends the following methodology:

  • Participants are introduced to the topic.
  • Identification of the parcels that will be organised
  • Planning the design of the parcel with farmers and technicians.
  • Farmers and technicians organize seeds and plants to establish a plot.
  • The instructor, the technicians and the farmers establish a parcel together (during a season that guarantees adequate humidity for the germination and growth of the plants).
Organisation of a new parcel with corn, beans, hibiscus, cajanus, manioc, banana, pineapple, oranges, coffee, papaya, and all tree consortiums corresponding to the area (secondary, transition, primary) in a slash and burned parcel with little organic matter present in the soil.The same parcel after 13 months. The species that were introduced along with the natural regeneration have created a dynamic system that covers the ground completely with vegetation and organic matter. The initial attack by the leaf cutting ants has diminished considerably.
  • Preparation of a crop plan (map) of the plot.
  • Preparation of a report and an instruction guide to follow - up on the progress of the plot - follow - up work plan.
  • After 2 - 4 months, the instructor carries out an intervention with the technicians and farmers (selective weeding, replanting) and the first crops are harvested (corn, beans and hibiscus). The progress of the parcel is documented in written and through photographs and a follow - up work plan is prepared.

Already in the first year the farmer is able to harvest self-consumption crops (corn, beans, manioc, cajanus cajan) as well as others for marketing (hibiscus, papaya, bananas, pineapples).

Twice a year the farmers, the technicians and the instructor selectively weed the parcel. This practice is reinforced with the realisation of more in depth courses.

Note: Parcel dynamics demand a different intervention every time. At first, the intervention is aimed at removing some grasses, cyperaceous or pyperaceous, depending on the area. Afterwards, interventions are concentrate on pruning of trees, stratification and management of bananas and others, as well as trying to uniformly cover the ground with organic matter produced in the same parcel. Depending on the organization and production level, it is possible to adapt mecanization.

 

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