Monthly Archives: July 2015

Rural communities increase livestock performances through the project

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Vanuatu poultry farmer, Shem Lock, at his old chicken shed before the Cyclone Pan.

Increasing livestock performance in rural communities in light of the challenges by climate change and related stresses is paramount for the Western Pacific region.

Improved animal husbandry practices and feed technologies are needed in climate change vulnerable communities so as to find new grounds for increased food and cash opportunities.

Under the EUARD project, the livestock component is focused on assessing the potential in diversifying livestock assets; identifying stress tolerant forages; pilot stress resilient livestock systems; assess breeding stock supply mechanisms and demonstrate new models.

Farmers should observe the significance of diversifying their agricultural enterprises to mitigate the threats as well as improving farm viability and household nutrition at the village level.

In most of the project sites in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the project has made inroads with low cost livestock interventions targeting rural farmers.

The approach involves the use of locally available feed resources, the involvement of the farmers themselves and trials done in the farmers’ settings.

Among the interventions tested and delivered were technologies on livestock management, feeding systems, and livestock and crop integration.

Due to rising costs in animal feeds, more demonstrations were conducted on sweet potato silage for pig feed and locally developed poultry feed for broiler chicken using locally available feed resources.

Farmers have shared testimonies on the success of the interventions in their farm and communities.

The process has developed lasting relationships between farmers and researchers.

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Soil erosion demo sites set up in Solomon Islands

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Home-made rain gauge

Solomon Islands is experiencing population pressure on good and arable land in most rural communities, forcing farmers to move to steep slopes to do farming. However, these steep areas are already infertile and unfavorable, and are highly vulnerable to soil erosion.

In a bid to help control the impacts of erosion in such areas, and to improve crop yields, the project has established ‘soil erosion control and moisture conservation’ trials using different hedge rows at two project sites. These sites are Aruligo on West Guadalcanal and Hunda & Kena on Kolombangara Island in the Western province.

Solomon Islands Project Coordinator, Jules Damutalau, said the trials are undertaken to manage impacts of soil erosion, with the introduction of contour farming using pineapple and vetiver grass as hedgerows.

“A catch pit of 5m x 0.5m x 1m was dug at the bottom of each treatment plot to catch all the eroded soil materials during the course of the trial period,” Damutalau said.

“The size of each demonstration plot is 45m by 15m. It is then divided into seven treatment plots of 10m by five meters.”

Hunda Soil Demo site1

Home-made rain gauge

“One plot was left for natural re-growth, with vetiver and pineapple on the second and third plots respectively while the other two plots were mixed with vetiver and pineapple hedge rows.

The final plot was planted with cassava without any hedge rows,” he explained.

Damutalau said the objective is to determine the amount of surface runoff caused by rain under conventional farming system; and the use of different hedgerows compared to natural fallow cover over a certain period of time.

He added that the amount of eroded materials collected from each treatment plot will be analyzed and compared at the end of the trials.

A rain gauge made from a 25 liters jerry container and a funnel were placed close to the trial plots to collect the rainfall data.

The two researches will run for a year with the Aruligho trial ending in May 2016, Hunda/Kena ending in June 2016.

Demonstrations offer soil fertility management and moisture conservation options at Yule Island

Yams (Dioscorea spp.) are an important tuber crop for most of PNG’s lowland farming communities. For some, it is a staple food, also playing significant cultural values. The traditional yam-based farming system requires fertile soils to supply the required nutrients in order to produce economic tuber yields.

The crop is cultivated firstly after the natural vegetation has been cleared or after a long fallow period.

Yam Cultivation Under Marginal Soils at Yule Island  2

Yams cultivated under marginal soils at Yule Island in the Central Province

As a result of increasing population pressure on land, the length of fallow period has been drastically reduced to a few years in recent times. Farmers in Yule Island in the Central Province have mentioned that their fallow periods have been reduced significantly to less than six years for those who have a lot of land, and much lesser for those with little agricultural land.

Yams, like many other tuber crops, demand significantly higher quantities of the major soil nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg).

The major causes of declining soil fertility on Yule Island, as identified and discussed, were:

  • increasing rainfalls and floods,
  • soil erosion,
  • cutting down of trees,
  • continuous cultivation on the same piece of land,
  • burning of grass/ bush fires,
  • lack of knowledge,
  • cultural beliefs,
  • population pressure,
  • land shortage,
  • laziness, and
  • lack of soil improvement efforts.

Soil samples collected at two depths (10cm – 15cm and 15cm – 30cm) at model farmer gardens indicated very low levels of the macro-nutrients N, P and K, although Ca and Mg seem to have adequate levels. The soils being weakly acidic to neutral and alkaline.

The interpretations indicated that the highly nutrient-demanding tuber staples such as yams and cassava cannot continue to sustainably produce high quantities to meet the food demands for the increasing population on Yule Island, unless efforts are made to address the declining trend in soil fertility.

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Yams cultivated under marginal soils at Yule Island in the Central Province

Soil improvement efforts have been minimal or non-existent due to lack of knowledge or farmers being oblivious.

Under the project, several interventions were trialed, which included hedgerows using Gliriciddia sepium (which is available in abundance); legume crop inter-cropping; and crop-rotation using peanuts, snake beans, dwarf beans, cow pea, pigeon pea and Mucuna spp, to name a few.

Mulching for soil moisture conservation was also demonstrated. Yam plantings were done using compost materials of local weeds and leaves of Gliricidia sepium alongside their common practice of without any soil improvement practices.

The importance of soil nutrient replenishment was emphasized during the training. Further demonstrations will be conducted when the yams are harvested later in the year.

Madang farmers participate in livestock assessment

Thirty farmers from Madang province had recently participated in a community assessment on animal production, based on NARI-introduced livestock technologies.

They included both model and interested farmers as well as community members who were supported by NARI through a regional research and development project funded by the European Union.

NARI Livestock Scientists Martin Labao, James Tarabu, and Maime Sine travelled to the Murukanam and Derin areas of Madang to carry out the community participatory assessment in early May.

The activity was undertaken under the project to improve the capacity of livestock farmers in the area with livestock management systems and livestock feeding systems.

The NARI staff also took the opportunity to present certificates to other model and interested farmers who had participated in on-site trainings in the two sites in the last couple of years under the program.

The assessment involved feedback from the community, comprising opinions and experiences on the introduced livestock technologies. The introduced technologies included pig management practices, sweet potato silage for pig feed, and fish and duck integration.

Farmers expressed positive views on the technologies that were introduced.

Lobao said previously pigs would roam freely and destroy food gardens creating disharmony among farmers and within the community. He said however as a result of good management practices, pigs are now provided with better housing and husbandry such as tethering.

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NARI Scientist Martin Labao (left) with a livestock farmer from Derin in Madang outside the farmer’s pigpen. NARI’s pig management system has helped the farmer in setting up his pigpen.

Farmers who were able to make sweet potato silage and feed it to their pigs saw improvements in pig body size and appearance.

A farmer had reportedly fattened his pigs which were sold for K800 each.

Fish and duck farming techniques showed positive outcomes with farmers wanting to continue in using the technology.

A similar assessment was carried out at Tambul in the Western Highlands province with livestock farmers there.

Model and interested farmers that participated in on-site trainings at Tambul were also presented with certificates.

Tambul on-site training certificates

NARI Scientist Martin Labao (left) with a livestock farmer from Derin in Madang outside the farmer’s pigpen. NARI’s pig management system has helped the farmer in setting up his pigpen.