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What I Learned from ECHO!
Written by: Mary James, Land and Water Department
0n February 3rd- 5th I attended a very informative symposium known as the ECHO Conference with two colleagues at Arusha, Tanzania. There were so many presentations, and there are several which were useful to me. I don’t know about my colleagues but I believe they also enjoyed these presentations. One was about conservation agriculture, that euphorbia can be a good soil cover and that it can provide soil cover for a long time because it doesn’t decompose easily. This was so interesting because the presenter mentioned that the idea came from a farmer who he had visited in his farm. The speaker also talked about integrating livestock with conservation agriculture; not viewing livestock as an enemy, but instead that crop production and livestock are mutually beneficial. This has been a big challenge for the Conservation Agriculture farmers to adopt because they are mixed farmers and they need fodder for their livestock. The speaker stated that 50% of the crop residue should go to livestock and the other 50% used to cover the soil.
I also learned that, although some cover crops are not edible by human beings, they are good livestock fodder (i.e. mucuna and jack bean). Green manure/cover crop (gm/cc) plants essentially create free fertilizer by “fixing” nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. They also provide large quantities of organic matter, and can help with weed control. They offer a method of restoring soil fertility in a way that maintains the soil’s crop production capacity over time.
Another presentation from Dr. Roger Sharland of Reap Kenya: ‘A Biblical basis to motivate rural change‘, talked about how we can care for our Father’s property, which is land. Dr. Sharland believes, “we are not glorifying God our father if we let the soil that he has given us in stewardship be washed away in the heavy rains and let erosion go unchecked”.
This was a really good statement! Our farmers expect to harvest, yet the soils have been washed away by erosion. Then another question he asked, “who was the first farmer?” He gave the answer:
“’Now the Lord God had planted a garden, in Eden…’ (Genesis 2:8)
Gives high status to farming!
The Bible speaks.”
Our farmers have to practice farming that gives glory to God, our Father. Our job is working with God’s creation rather than against it! Conservation agriculture and ‘God’s blanket’ is one practical part of this.