Although DSMC is still not used by Comoros farmers, direct seeding mulch-based cropping (DSMC) is about to be trialed on the island of Anjouan by Dahari, an NGO, which hopes to replicate the results obtained in Madagascar, where the technique has been widely used for 10 years.
The trial area, Mpagé, is located in a district of Mutsamudu, the capital of Anjouan and second largest city of the Comoros islands. The trial was set up by Dahari to serve as a demonstration to the farmers and covers an area of ??3.5 hectares, including 2.5 hectares on a sloping gradient. It is thus ideal to demonstration agricultural technologies tailored for sloping topography, which accounts for 80% of farmland in Anjouan.
Traditional farming methods have been dropped in favour of using new agro-ecological techniques to train farmers, including crop diversification and crop association, topo-sequence development models, soil fixing and protection, agriculture/livestock integration or soilless cultivation.
DSMC is a soil defense and preservation technique which is based on natural ecosystems. It consists of maintaining a permanent cover to protect the soil from erosion and to provide it with essential organic matter. Both of these benefits are vital on the Comorian island of Anjouan, which is affected by severe erosion and loss offertility due to poor farming practices. Building on the success of the projectin Madagascar where the technique has already been used for 10 years, Dahari now provides training for small-scale farmers, with instruction taking place on the trail area.
The NGO will train farmers to better make use of set-aside. Stylosanthes (a member of the legume family), is planted at the start of the fallow. After one to two years, depending on the condition of the soil, it is recovered and re-incorporated into the soil as fertilizer. Improved fallow can shave years off soil renewal time ; now a maximum of only two years is necessary, while seven to eight years was previously the norm, using traditional fallow. Planting can then resume, with a variety of crops.
Dahari advocates two different crop associations. The first is a combination of cassava and brachiaria. Cassava is a crop which is common in Comoros culture because it is consumed almost daily by the population. However, this crop usually leaves the land bare. Worse, tuber harvesting naturally plow up the land and destabilizes the surface, promoting erosion. In combination with brachiaria, this can be prevented. Brachiaria, a member of the grass family, develops roots that strongly bind the soil. Two varieties from Madagascar, Marandu and humidicola, were introduced in late 2011 by the NGO and are currently being grown in Mpage. In addition to strengthening the soil, brachiaria provides farmers with fodder for their animals.
The second crop association in Mpage is a combination of maize and cowpea. The variety of maize used is an improved short cycle variety known as Irat 200, which can give yields after only 3 months. Seeds are available to farmers wishing to adopt the technique. Cowpea is used as soil cover, its production cycle is identical to corn, and it can provide up to 4 harvests.
To ensure the sustainability of these techniques, Dahari has defined four separate phases, the first two of which take place in the demonstration plot. The demonstration phase aims to introduce the technique and its benefits to farmers. The second, training phase teaches new practices to technicians and farmers. The next phase is the implementation of the crops by the farmers on their own land, with monitoring by technicians. The last phase will encourage farmers to help publicize the techniques, with the support of Dahari.
The processis currently being tested. Farmers participating in the program have received small quantities of improved crops for testing on their own land. To ensure good yields, Dahari have published their crop schedule. The NGO hopes to consolidate its achievements in 2013 and to provide enough seed to meet demand. The final phase will begin in 2014.
Eventually, Dahari wants to develop its activities in Mpage so that it becomes a recognized training center for seeds production and agro-ecological expertise with official bodies and agricultural projects. It will soon work on a reforestation project with the General Council of Mayotte in a bid to re-establish the endemic plants of the Comoros.
- To learn more about the NGO Dahari and ECDD project http://www.ecddcomoros.org