Where There is No Farm Advisor
By Robin Denney
Published with the support of the Mission Personnel Office
of The Episcopal Church, New York
Printed on 35% Recycled Paper
Where there is no Farm Advisor
By Robin Denney, Illustrations by Robin Denney
©2008, Robin Denney,
This booklet may be reproduced for educational purposes.
This booklet may not be sold without the Author’s approval.
Table of Contents
1) Intro page 4
2) Using this Handbook page 5
3) Resources page 5
a) Books: page 5
b) Featured Resources: page 6
i) ECHO- Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization-
iii) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
iv) Hesperian Foundation
c) All other Resources: page 8
i) Institutions/Online Libraries
ii) Sustainable Agriculture
iii) Soil Health
iv) Pest Control
4) Plant Biology for Beginners page 10
a) What Do Plants Need?
b) How does Photosynthesis work?
c) What do leaves do?
d) What do roots do?
e) How do branches form?
f) What are Xylem and Phloem?
5) Working in Local Communities page 12
a) Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture
6) Assessing Agriculture in Rural Communities page 14
a) History Taking
b) Assessing plant health
c) Assessing Soil Health
7) Addressing Problems page 16
a) Agricultural Problems
i) Yield: Burning, Mulch, Compost, Manure, Green Manure,
Legumes, Cover Crop/Crop Rotation, Fallow, Alley Farming,
Mixed Cropping, Permaculture, Fish Pond with Farming,
ii) Pests page 23
(1)Chemical Pest Control
(2) Non-Chemical Pest Control.
(a) Observation, Biodiversity, Farming Techniques,
Curved Rows, Windbreaks, Field Borders, Predator
Habitat, Crop Rotation, Strip Planting, Multiple Crop-
ping/Mixed cropping, Increase Soil Nutrients, Local
Remedies, Pesticide Recipes
iii) Flood page 25
(1) Drainage Ditches, Planting in Mounds or Raised Beds,
iv) Drought page 26
(1) Early Planting, Planting in Holes or Furrows, Tin Can drip
irrigation, Erosion Control, Mulch, Shade, Rooftop Rain
Catchments, Crop Selection, Household Water Conser-
vation, New Water Sources, Fish Pond with Farming
v) Erosion page 30
(1) Mulch, Contour Planting, Strip Planting, Reduce tillage,
vii) Urban Agriculture, Safety, Compost, Containers, Carpet page 32
viii) Storage and Preservation of Food page 33
(1) Preservation Techniques, Common Storage Locations,
Pest Prevention Techniques, Example Storage System:
b) Nutritional Problems page 35
i) Vegetables, Moringa
c) Infrastructure Problems page 36
d) Economic Problems page 36
e) Political/National Problems page 36
8) Demonstration/Teaching Garden page 37
9) References page 39
10) About the Author page 39
In the present global climate of food shortages and out of control price increases in food and
fuel, helping communities improve local, sustainable food production is more important than
ever. This booklet is a preliminary resource to introduce you to methods and concepts in
Tropical Agriculture, and to assist you in conducting further research. Feel free to contact me
(Robin Denney) with any questions at: [email protected] And be sure to look through the
Resources section of this booklet for further research and assistance.
Using this Handbook
• Look at this handbook before you go overseas, and use the Resources section to
assist you in conducting further research specific to the concerns of your region.
• Take this handbook with you as a resource.
• Take Moringa seed with you (see Moringa page 35) (to order see ECHO page 6).
• Start a small garden by your house as soon as you arrive overseas, so that you can
try some of these techniques (see Demonstration/Teaching Garden below).
• Use Plant Biology for Beginners to get a basic knowledge of the science behind
caring for plants or animals.
• Use Working in Local Communities for suggestions and cautions in beginning and
conducting your work in agriculture with local people (cultural context and possible
impacts of your work, are vital things to consider).
• Then, with the help of local farmers, learn as much as you can about the situation,
problems, and farming practices (use Assessing Agriculture in Rural Communities
to get techniques).
• When you understand the problems, use Addressing Problems for suggestions.
• The symbol : , indicates the best ideas that can improve agriculture everywhere.
• Also use Resources for tips on finding more suggestions, getting expert advice,
downloading handbooks on various topics available for free, and visiting online librar-
ies of tropical agriculture.
The information for the writing of this booklet came from my personal experiences doing agri-
culture work, in Liberia and El Salvador, studying at the ECHO demonstration farm, and from
my research of ECHO and Agromisa publications (cited where appropriate).
This booklet focuses on crop production in the tropics. If you are going to a place where live-
stock are an important part of local food production, I highly recommend you purchase either
of the following books:
• Where there is no Vet by Bill Forse, Published by MacMillian, available from Ama-
• Where there is no Animal Doctor Published by Hesparian foundation, available online
at: http://www.hesperian.org (use the site search function, enter this title as an exact
quote, or search Google with this title as an exact quote to get the order page).
This booklet takes a basic, hands-on approach. If you are looking for a more scientific ap-
proach, (i.e. texts for educating college students), I highly recommend:
• The Tropical Agriculturalist series – By MacMillan Press, approximately 30 topical
volumes in print. You can find some titles on Amazon.com, but not reliably. I recom-
mend the ECHO Bookstore (see ECHO directly below)
• Other great books available from ECHO Bookstore online (info below)
• Intermediate Tropical Agriculture Series– Difficult to find, high level scientific texts
ECHO- Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization-
ECHO has a demonstration farm in Florida, and an excellent library and bookstore. They have
the best selection of tropical agriculture books available (books even Amazon doesn’t have).
Their bookstore is available online. They also have many free publications online, including
their book Amaranth to Zai Holes. They have a seed bank of excellent crops for development,
and ship free samples to development workers. They have a staff of expert agriculturalists
available by email or phone to discuss problems and options.
Note: ECHO does significant work with Moringa (see page 35) and can provide you with infor-
mation and with seed (see Technical Notes on their website).
• Before you go overseas: Download Amaranth to Zai Holes and Technical notes on top-
ics you are interested in. If you are planning on doing agriculture development work,
plan a study trip to ECHO in Ft. Myers Florida for at least a week. Their work/study pro-
gram is very affordable. Also register with ECHO to receive free Moringa seeds and
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (239) 543-3246
This is a group that produces handbooks on tropical agriculture, written with practical applica-
tion in mind, for the subsistence farmer. You can get handbooks mailed to you for free if you
are a development worker with an address overseas. You can also download the handbooks
at the website below under the heading “Publications”.
Titles available for FREE download on the internet:
Crops and Forestry
19 Propagating and Planting Trees
8 Fruit growing in the tropics
40 Small Scale Mushroom Cultivation
41 Small Scale Mushroom Cultivation- 2
37 Small Scale Seed Production
39 Non-timber forest products
10 Soya and other leguminous crops
17 How to grow tomatoes and peppers
9 The Vegetable Garden in the tropics
22 Small Scale Production of Weaning Foods
8 Preparation and Use of Compost
28 Identification of Crop Damage
11 Erosion Control
23 Protected Cultivation: greenhouses
30 Non-Chemical Crop Protection
29 Pesticides: compounds use and hazards
43 Rainwater Harvesting
2 Soil Fertility Management
13 Water Harvesting and soil moisture retention
31 Storage of Tropical Agricultural Products
36 Preparation of Dairy Products
18 Protection of Stored Grains and Pulses
12 Preservation of Fish and Meat
3 Preservation of fruit and vegetables
38 Starting a Cooperative
26 Marketing for small scale producers
24 Urban Agriculture
42 Bee Products
32 Bee Keeping in the Tropics
14 Dairy Cattle Husbandry
35 Donkeys for traction and tillage
33 Duck keeping in the tropics
21 On Farm fish culture
15 Small-scale fresh water fish farming
7 Goat Keeping in the Tropics
34 Hatching eggs by hens or incubators
1 Pig keeping in the tropics
4 Small scale poultry production in the tropics
20 Backyard Rabbit Farming
27 Establishing and managing water points for vil-
Posters: Nutrition, natural pesticide recipe, plant
tea fertilizer recipe, how to make an efficient stove.
Question and Answer Service: You can submit in-depth questions about issues you are fac-
ing in the field, and volunteer experts will research and find answers for you (allow 2 months
for answers). Submit a question at their website under the “Question and Answer” heading.
• Before you go overseas: download all applicable titles to your computer, they are not
large, and then you will be sure to have them.
• Once you are overseas: email Agromisa with your address, and ask to become a mem-
ber. You can request free copies of publications to be sent to your overseas address.
Email: [email protected]
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
The FAO is a critically important website. It has in depth agriculture and environmental statis-
tics available for most countries. It also has important news, technical articles, and program
• Before you go overseas: look up statistics for your country to see what crops are grown,
and what some of the issues are. This will guide your research.
Hesperian has several full books, available for free download:
An online user-edited encyclopedia on development and appropriate technology. The con-
tents of this booklet will be uploaded to the site soon (by individual topic).
Where There Is No Doctor
Where Women Have No Doctor
A Book for Midwives
A Health Handbook for Women with Dis-
HIV Health and Your Community
Helping Children Who Are Deaf
Helping Children Who Are Blind
A Worker's Guide to Health and Safety
A community guide to environmental health
Women's Health Exchange
Global Health Watch
Where There Is No Dentist
The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard
Donde no hay doctor
Donde no hay doctor para mujeres
Un libro para parteras
Ayudar a los niños ciegos
Donde no hay dentista
Salud labora en la maquila: Una guía para los tra-
All other Resources:
ONLINE LIBRARIES AND INSTITUTIONS
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is an Africa-based international re-
search for development organization.
Topics of Research: Agriculture and health, Agro-biodiversity, Banana and plantain systems,
Cereal and legume systems, High-Value Products, Opportunities and threats, Root and tuber
Library - Excellent online library of Research journals on all topics
CGIAR Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research – major tropical agricul-
ture research organization, with 15 centers around the world.
CIAT – International Center for Tropical Agriculture
Sustainable Tree Crops Program, http://www.treecrops.org/
Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) (The Netherlands): The aims of KIT are to contribute to sus-
tainable development, poverty alleviation, and cultural preservation and exchange.
Issues for the Tropics (especially health and economic issues for the developing world)
Library- Online Library with broad search topics
Food & Fertilizer Technology Center (Taiwan): Information center for farmers in Pacific Asia
region. Library- tropical agriculture publications (mostly Asian agriculture)
University of Hawaii Manoa Science & Technology Department: Tropical Agriculture
Library- information on agriculture in the tropics, crops, animals, and forestry
International Rice Research Institute (Philippines):
Publications, research, scholarship opportunities related to rice production
Belize Development Library on Tropical Agriculture: Electronic Resource Library
Sustainable Agriculture in Hawaii:
Sustainable Agriculture (crops, forestry, and animal production), books and articles available
for free download.
Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
-Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture: An Online Sustainable Agriculture Instructional Re-
source (Santa Cruz, California)
-Publication on organic farming and gardening skills and practices, applied soil science, and
social and environmental issues in agriculture.
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements- Training manual on tropical
organic production methods (available for download or purchase). Topics include organizing
training courses, principles of organic agriculture, soil fertility, plant nutrition, pest disease and
weed management, animal husbandry, and farm economy.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development - Organic Fruits and Vegetables
from the Tropics: publication on how developing countries can enhance their production and
export capacities in organic agriculture.
Soil Food Web Australia:
Information on improving soil health, Composts, etc
World Wide Portal to Information on Soil Health: Library on Soil Health information
Recipes for Homemade Natural Pesticides:
See Also: Under Featured Resources: (page 6) Publications available from the Agromisa
website: Agrodok 29 “Non Chemical Crop Protection” and 30 “Pesticides: Compounds and
hazards” and Agromisa Poster: “How to make a Natural Pesticide”
FUNDING / GRANTS
Sources of Funding - a selection of websites for foundations, donors and other sources of
funding from the CGIAR: http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/biblioteca/donors.htm
The Foundation Center, a good primer on seeking funds from foundations: Proposal Writing
Short Course: http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/shortcourse/index.html
Plant Biology for Beginners
What Do Plants Need? Sunlight, water, minerals, carbon dioxide, and something to grow in
or on, usually soil or another plant.
How does Photosynthesis work? Photosynthesis is a metabolic pathway that takes water,
air and sun energy and produces carbohydrates (H
O + CO
+sun energy=CHO(sugar)+ O
Plants’ leaves and green stems contain chlorophyll, a pigment which absorbs energy from
sunlight. The plant stores this energy chemically, like a battery. A compound called ATP car-
ries this chemical energy around the cell, and gives it up to be used in different processes that
need energy. In the second phase of Photosynthesis, this ATP is used in a reaction which
takes carbon dioxide and water and makes sugar. If you look at the chemical formula, you
can see how this is possible. Sugar is then sent throughout the plant. It is stored for later use
in stems and roots (sugars stacked and bound together form carbohydrates, and cellulose,
which is called fiber in the human diet). It is also put into fruit, and used to build new cells
What can farmers learn from this?
Plants need maximum access to sunlight to grow best. Shaded plants will soak up
less sun energy, and therefore not grow as well. (Exception: some plants, especially
trees, need shade while they are seedlings. Other plants like coffee grow better in
What do leaves do? Leaves are where photosyn-
thesis occurs. They also sweat (in plants it is called
transpire). The leaves give off water, and as it
evaporates it keeps the plant cool. Leaves have
tiny holes on the underside, which allow oxygen
and water to escape, and carbon dioxide to enter.
These holes are called stomata, and can open and
close. When they open, water evaporates from the
interior of the leaf. If the plant is under water stress
during the heat of the day, the stomata will remain
closed because the plant knows it cannot afford to
loose more water. When the stomata stay closed,
photosynthesis stops, because the oxygen cannot
escape, and carbon dioxide cannot enter the leaf.
What can farmers learn from this?
When a plant is under heat stress, it’s
leaves and growing stem tips will begin to
droop. If this is happening, then photosyn-
thesis and plant growth have stopped. The plant needs water to correct the situation
and continue growing. Water stress can become severe enough to kill the plant. This
will begin with the oldest leaves falling off, and the growing stem tips will dry up and
What do roots do? Roots collect water and send it to the leaves for photosynthesis, and
transpiration. They also take up nutrients, which are critical to both photosynthesis and
growth. The most important of these are Nitrogen (N) Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K).
Nitrogen is critically important, because both chlorophyll and amino acids (amino acids make
up proteins) require Nitrogen. Symptoms that show NPK is lacking includes the yellowing of
leaves, reduced growth, and lower yield. There are many other minor nutrients that are nec-
essary in small amounts, symptoms that nutrients are lacking include deformity in growth,
spots on leaves, die back (and others). (note: these can also be symptoms of disease or
What can farmers learn from this?
It is critical that farmers care about the health of the soil. With each crop, nutrients
are being removed from the field at harvest. If no new nutrients are added (through
fertilizer, mulch, manure, etc), the next harvest will be smaller.
How do branches form? A growing shoot tip (end of a stem) produces a hormone called
Auxin which moves down the plant and stops the buds on the stem from growing. The further
it has to travel the less effective it is at this, so branches begin to form. If you pinch off the
shoot tip of a plant, you remove the hormones, and branches will begin to grow. Once Auxin
gets down to the roots it acts as a root growth hormone. The roots produce and opposite hor-
mone called Cytokinin (CK). As CK travels up the roots it suppresses root growth. When it
gets to the branches, it encourages new shoots to grow. In this way, the plant is able to keep
its root growth and shoot growth in perfect balance. If many shoots are trimmed or eaten,
then the plant has more CK than Auxin, so it produces more shoots. If roots are broken off
during transplanting, there is more Auxin, and so more roots grow.
What can farmers learn from this?
Pruning encourages branching. This is especially effective when plants are younger.
On trees that are used to produce food, this is important. More branches lower down,
means more access to fruits, nuts, and leaves. Also when transplanting, trimming
back the shoots will help remove some of the stress from the plant, since roots will be
broken during transplanting.
What are Xylem and Phloem?
Xylem is the plant tissue that carries water up
the plant. It is made up of specialized plant
cells that die after they are formed, so as to
form an empty tube, which acts like a drinking
straw. As water is used for photosynthesis
and transpiration in the leaves, more water is
drawn up by suction through the xylem to the
leaves. Xylem is located at the center of
stems. In trees, xylem becomes wood once it
is no longer in use.
Phloem are living cells on the outer rim of a
stem that move the sugars formed in photo-
synthesis, down the plant to be used for
growth or stored in the roots, stems, or fruits.
As phloem dies it becomes bark, and falls off.
Phloem is the green layer just under the bark.
The cambium layer, is a layer of cells between the xylem and phloem. The cambium layer
produces new xylem cells on one side, and new phloem on the other. It is white and
smooth, and can be seen if you slice into a stem with a knife (the xylem is usually white and
pithy on the other side). If the cambium layer is damaged, it takes a long time to repair.
(Think about a large tree branch that is pruned, with time, what appears to be the bark, swells
up around the wound, until after many years the bark touches again, and the cambium layer
What can farmers learn from this?
Girdling (cutting around the outside of a stem, with something sharp, or slowly with a
string or vine) will kill a plant.
If you want to graft a plant, the cambium layer of your improved variety, MUST touch
the cambium layer of your original plant. If the wound is sealed, then the two cambi-
ums will knit together, and the bud or stem that was added will grow.
When tapping a tree (as for rubber production), you have to be careful not to cut too
deep and damage the cambium layer, or the tree will drop in production.
Working in Local Communities
Subsistence and Commercial Agriculture
Subsistence Agriculture is the backbone of most developing agricultural economies. This is
critical, because being able to produce your own food supply gives subsistence farmers a
level of stability: protection against job loss and fluctuations in the economy. Development
workers need to remember this. Higher producing commercial agriculture, and subsistence
agriculture can exist side by side. One is important for improving economic gains, and the
other protects against famine. Small improvements in efficiency and yield can help subsis-
tence farmers increase their production, and have excess crop to sell in the market. With ex-
tra income, farmers can continue to improve their agriculture practices, and their quality of life.
The concept of sustainability, is that farmers use a system of farming that will be able to sus-
tain itself perpetually. When trying to develop sustainable systems, it is important to think lo-
cal, and long term. How can farmers produce the inputs they need locally (fertilizer, seed,
tools)? How can farmers change their practices in order to increase the health of their soil,
environment, and crop? What low cost options are available?
Example Non-Sustainable: A system that encourages farmers to plant higher performing ge-
netically modified, or hybrid seeds, is an example of short term thinking. This may solve the
problem of low yields here and now, but it creates a dependency on foreign produced expen-
sive seeds which require fossil fuels to transport and distribute. This system also replaces the
locally produced seed, and means that if something goes wrong with the imported varieties
(bad taste, pest susceptibility, supply, nutritional value) the community will not be able to re-
vert quickly to their old seed (as supplies will be diminished or eradicated).
Example Sustainable: A sustainable system encourages local production of seed; low cost
fertilizing methods such as mulch, compost, and planting of legumes; and non-chemical pest
management or natural pesticide recipes.
This booklet highlights potentially sustainable methods only. Using the local knowledge of
your community and region, you can determine which methods are truly sustainable in your
When working in local communities, it is important to show culturally appropriate respect to
the people and elders of the community. It is also important that you go beyond the outward
display of respect, and come to a place of feeling respect.
Showing Respect- You should know after living in a culture the proper ways of showing re-
spect. This can include: how you dress; who you address first when asking a question; how
long you wait in silence; how you greet a person; your tone of voice when speaking; whether
to bring a gift; how to receive a gift; whether it is appropriate for you to speak directly to some-
one of the opposite sex; and any other considerations the local culture may have.
Feeling Respect- Truly feeling respect for the ways of another culture means that you must let
go of some attitudes you may not even know you have. Paternalism is one of these fatal atti-
tudes. This is where you feel you are coming from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots”. It is
an outcome oriented, charity minded approach. The problem with this attitude is that it blinds
you from being able to see the wisdom and value of the local ways, and it sets up an un-
healthy one-sided relationship. It is important that you let go of paternalism as well as any
prejudices or stereotypes you may hold. Approach a new culture with true respect, realizing
your way is only “a way” not “the way”. Open yourself to learn from the hundreds or thou-
sands of years of wisdom and agricultural experience of your hosts. Help them to articulate
and implement their own vision, rather than imposing a vision of your own.
Don’t be hasty! Western/Northern culture is fast paced, and in entering the cultures of the
South, we must slow down. A slower pace of life is not backward, it is just different. You may
even find that you prefer the slower pace, and see its value, if you take the time and the pa-
tience to live it. You may be frustrated by what you perceive as a waste of time, and as ineffi-
cient use of labor and resources, but you will not change the pace by being angry about it.
Try to see what is good about this cultural difference.
Proceed CAUTIOUSLY with any change. Never make or encourage changes in farming sys-
tems that are irreversible.
For Example: large scale or free range cross breeding of local livestock with foreign livestock
(this can weaken the natural resistance to disease that local livestock have, and effectively
wipe out local livestock production); large scale replacement of local crops with higher produc-
ing foreign crops (this can wipe out seed stores, and prove disastrous if the higher producing
seed must be purchased year after year, or if there is some problem related to its growth or
Try new techniques on a small portion of a plot and compare the growth of the specially
treated plants with the traditionally grown plants. Encourage farmers to experiment, but al-
ways to start with only a small portion of their crop.
Assessing Agriculture in Rural Communities
Begin by asking questions of Farmers.
Is the community able to produce enough food to feed the population?
Is malnourishment a problem in the community?
If so, research more about malnutrition in health books, like Where there Is No Doctor
(Resources page 7). And see “Nutritional Problems” page 35.
Is the community mainly producing food for their own consumption?
This is subsistence agriculture. Problems often include low yield, storage and preser-
vation of food, pests, flood, drought, erosion, physical damage to crop (from a storm
or during harvest), availability of seed, not enough labor, cost of tools, and land avail-
Or Is the community mainly producing crops to sell?
Crops that are grown to be sold are called “cash crops”. Problems with cash crop
production often include: low yield, pests, flood, drought, erosion, labor availability and
cost, land availability, credit or money for crop inputs (fertilizer, chemicals, seed, tools,
etc), transportation of crop to buyer, location or lack of processing facilities, fluctuating
market prices, markets controlled by monopoly corporations.
What do the farmers say are problems in crop production? Are these recent problems, or
have they been going on for a long time? How do they address the problems?
Assessing plant health
Look at the stems, leaves, and flowers or fruit if
present. Ask the farmer how the growth and cur-
rent health of the plants compare to past crops,
and crops in other regions. Look for any of the
Low yield: Yield is the weight of crop harvested
per area of land. Yield decreasing from
year to year is a common problem, and
can be caused by all of the factors below.
Water stress: dry soil and-
Recent stress: limp and drooping leaves
and stem tips
Prolonged stress: Larger and older leaves
fall off, stem tips dry up, yellowing of
leaves, new leaves stay small
Flooded: wet soil, puddles on soil. Most plant
roots, in prolonged flooding condition will
begin to rot- this will give the same symp-
toms as water stress, because the plant is
not able to get enough water when it’s
roots rot. (rice, and other swamp plants are
the exception to this rule).
Lack of nutrients: Yellowing of leaves (indicates
lack of Nitrogen), slow growth, small
leaves, flowers set little or no fruit, deform-
Normal Plants and
Water Stressed Plants
ity of stems or leaves, discolored spots or dry spots on leaves.
Pests: Can you find any insects or eggs on the plant? Are there signs that insects are dam-
aging the plant?
Common Insect Pests:
Grasshopper/locust/katydid: Can cause major damage, usually you can see where
they are eating leaves, or fruit.
Caterpillars: Eat leaves and fruit, sometimes curl leaves to form nests/cocoons
Mites: insects almost invisible to the naked eye, they cause tiny spots to form on the
leaf where they feed.
Aphids: Small insects that feed off of the phloem, usually found on soft new stems.
Mealy Bugs: Also phloem feeders. They are white, and exude a sticky goo. Ants
farm mealy bugs, because they eat the sugary goo exuded by the mealy bugs. Ants
will care for the mealy bugs, and move them to new feeding locations.
Beetles: some beetles eat plants, and some beetles hunt harmful insects, observe the
beetle in question to see which kind it is.
Nematodes: microscopic worms in the soil that feed on roots.
Some wasps and flies harm plants or fruits, and some are hunters of harmful insects.
Animals, Birds, Rodents: livestock and wildlife can cause significant damage.
Fungus: Fungus is a parasite that attacks the plant for food. Fungus can take the
form of mildew, which often looks like powder and black spots on plants, or something
as large as a plant like parasite growing on the bark of a tree. A fungus growing on
the tip of a growing shoot can contort it. If only part of the plant is affected, prune that
part and destroy it. If the whole plant is affected see viruses.
Viruses: Viruses often cause plants to mutate: leaves curl strangely, or get strange
stripes, shoot tips contort and curl. Viruses are spread by propagating infected plant
material (propagating means growing new plants from cuttings), or they are spread
from plant to plant by certain insects, and nematodes. Plants cannot be cured of a
virus, the plant must be destroyed, to stop the virus from spreading. Viruses usually
spread very slowly, and most often occur from propagation. Be sure you know the
cuttings you are using came from healthy plants.
Bacteria: Bacteria can take the form of rot on stems, roots, or leaves.
Assessing Soil Health
Slope: Does the land have a shallow or steep slope? Erosion may be a problem on slopes.
Is the land flat, low, near a river, and thus subject to flooding?
Soil profile: Dig a hole - The top layer of soil should be darker, and looser, this is the top soil,
where most of the nutrients are found. The sub-soil should be lighter in color, and
harder. How deep is the top soil? The deeper it is, the better the plants will grow. If
the top soil is thin, see if there is soil erosion (see erosion on page 30).
Soil Color: Dark soils are rich in decaying organic material, which is full of soil nutrients. Light
colored soils can be lacking in nutrients. Red soil has a high content of iron. Iron
does not harm the plants directly, but red soils are dense, form crusts, and thus are
difficult for roots to penetrate. (Gibbon, 12)
Soil Texture: Soil Texture affects the water holding capacity of soil. Soil is classified by it’s
content of each of the 3 sizes of soil particles which are: Sand, Silt, and Clay. A soil
that is a mixture of all three particle sizes is called a Loam soil.
Loam soils are ideal because they combine good water holding
capacity with good drainage. Clay soils have excellent water
holding capacity and poor drainage. Sandy soils have excellent
drainage, but poor water holding capacity.
Soil Texture Test: Take a lump of soil in your hand, and wet it.
Sand cannot be formed, even into a ball. Loam soil can be
formed into a ball, or rolled into a cylinder shape. Clay can be
rolled into a thin cylinder and bent into a U without cracking.
Soil Structure: For ideal soil structure, soils require decaying
plant material. This is called organic material, and provides not
only nutrients to the soil, but a loose and spongy structure to the
soil, which allows roots to penetrate easily, and tubers (i.e. po-
tatoes, cassava) to grow. Organic material also improves the
water holding capacity of sandier soils. (See Addressing Agricultural Problems: Yield, directly
below for soil improving techniques).
Low yield occurs because the plant is not getting what it needs to grow. All of the
plant and soil health problems listed on page 14-15 can cause a decline in yield. Look for
suggestions below regarding the specific problems you find. However, your primary concern
should be improving the quality of your soil, which increases the nutrient and water holding
capacity, and will almost always translate to better yield.
- Burning: “Slash and burn” Many farming systems use a process where land is
cleared, the green material burned, and then the crop is planted. The ash is a good
source of P, K and minor nutrients, but burning vaporizes all of the Nitrogen (which is
the most important for growth). The plants are able to get N from the rotting roots of
the plants that were burned for approx 2 years, but after that, a sharp decline in yield
requires the farmer to move to a new site. This system is only sustainable if the
farmer has enough land where each site is revisited every 10 to 20 years. Returning
too soon to a site means the ability of the land to support growth steadily declines
over time. This contributes to deforestation. If done
throughout a region, the climate and rainfall can be af-
- Mulch: “Slash and mulch” This alternative to burning,
has many beneficial results.
o How to:
Clear plant material from farmland, and lay it
evenly across the ground, or pile it around the
individual crop plants. Mulch should not touch
the stem of the crop plants, or it may cause rot.
Mulch should be at least 6 inches (15cm) deep,
but thicker than that is good. The layer of mulch closest to the soil will de-
cay first. As it decays the mulch will get thinner, continue to add more mulch
Fertilize- As the plant material decays it releases nutrients into the soil.
Top Soil thickness- As it decays the mulch creates a nutrient rich organic
layer to the top soil, which thickens it.
Soil Structure- Mulch adds organic material to the soil, which improves aera-
tion and water holding capacity. Mulch also absorbs the impact of rainfall,
which prevents the formation of a thick crust on top of the soil.
Soil moisture- The top-most layer of mulch absorbs the heat from sunlight,
and shades the soil below, which helps keep moisture from evaporating.
Erosion prevention- Rain hits the mulch and then slowly trickles down to the
soil, giving it time to soak in. When the soil is saturated, the mesh of decay-
ing plant material slows down run-off and helps prevent erosion.
Weed suppression- A thick layer of mulch will block sunlight from reaching the
soil surface, and keep weeds from sprouting.
- Compost: Decomposed plant material and kitchen waste makes nutrient rich
compost, which can be added to the soil to improve nutrient content, and soil struc-
o How: It is good to use differ-
ent types and textures of
materials in a compost heap.
Having both coarse dry ma-
terial, and green material is
important. Manure adds nu-
trients and top soil provides
the right micro-organisms.
Compost Heap- Make a
heap, with coarse difficult to
decompose material at the
bottom, and then layers of
green material, manure, and
a thin layer of top soil. After
2-3 weeks, the pile is mixed
up. The coarse and dry ma-
terial is then wetted, and put
in the center of the heap as it
is re-formed. Three weeks
later the pile is mixed again.
Mixing may need to be re-
peated a third time.
Compost Pit- Dig three pits, approximately 50cm deep (18 inches). Follow
the same layering technique from the heap technique. The top layer should
be soil or banana leaves to keep water from evaporating. After 3 weeks, mix
the compost, by putting it into the next pit (you can then put new composting
materials in the first pit). 3 weeks later, mix it and put it in the third pit. 3
weeks later, the compost should be ready to use.
Application- Apply compost around each plant, or dig a hole where each seed
will be planted, and fill it with compost. This will make your compost go fur-
ther than just spreading it evenly across the soil.
(Information from Agrodok 8 “Preparation and Use of Compost”)
Fertilize- Compost is rich in soil nutrients.
Top Soil thickness- Compost will thicken the top soil.
Soil Structure- Compost adds decomposing organic material to the soil, which
improves aeration and water holding capacity.
- Manure: Animal manure is full of plant nutrients, and can improve the health of the
o Caution: Adding raw manure directly to a plant can burn the plant. Also, ma-
nure should be handled and used with caution because it contains E. coli bac-
teria and other diseases. Do not use human feces, because it can spread
o How: The best way to avoid the negative effects of manure is to compost it
first. The heat of the composting process will kill bacteria. If you choose not
to compost it, you should mix it with some dry material like straw, rice hulls,
dry leaves and stems, or saw dust, which will make it less potent, and less
likely to burn the plants. Spread this mixture of manure and dry material
around the plants, or dig a hole and place it in the hole with top soil before
you plant your seeds.
Fertilize- Manure is rich in soil nutrients.
Top Soil thickness- Manure will add to the thickness of the top soil.
Soil Structure- Manure adds decomposing organic material to the soil, which
improves aeration and water holding capacity.
- Green Manure: Green manure is a term for the use of nitrogen rich plant material as
a fertilizer, like manure.
o How: Green manure is usually mixed into the soil. You can plant a cover crop
of legumes (any bean plant) and then when it is time to prepare the field for
planting, the cover crop can be tilled into the soil. You can do this with wild
plants that are growing in the field (if these are weeds, be cautious, as tilling
them under may cause them to spread), and you can also do it with crop resi-
due. Everything that is green has nitrogen in it, and you can capture that ni-
trogen in your soil by letting that green material decompose.
o How is this different from Mulching? Green Manure is buried in the soil,
similar to animal manure. Mulch is placed on top of the soil. Green Manure
puts nutrients into the soil more quickly than mulching. But those nutrients
are also used up quickly as the decomposers in the soil break them down.
Mulching has a longer lasting effect. These two techniques can be used si-
multaneously so that you get the best of both!
Fertilize- Green Manure adds soil nutrients.
Top Soil thickness- Green Manure will add to the thickness of the top soil.
Soil Structure- Green Manure adds decomposing organic material to the soil,
which improves aeration and water holding capacity.
- Legumes, Cover Crop, and Crop Rotation: Legumes are plants that can take
Nitrogen from the air, and put it into the soil. All beans are legumes. There are also
plants like Kudzu and clover which are legumes, and legume trees like acacia, gliri-
cidia, and leucaena.
Crop Rotation- You can rotate crops. This means you don’t continue to plant
the same crop on the same land, you switch crops each planting season, fol-
lowing crops that use a lot of nutrients (like corn and cassava) with legume
crops (like beans or cowpea). This way the soil can regenerate some nutri-
ents from the beans. However, most of the nutrients are still leaving the field
since you harvest the crop, so you need to combine this technique with oth-
Example: In El Salvador they plant corn at the beginning of the season, after
harvest they leave the corn stalks standing, and plant beans, which climb on
the stalks like a trellis.
Cover Crop- You can plant a legume which is not used for human food be-
tween your rows of food producing plants. This is called a cover crop. It will
cover the soil, and act like a living mulch, having many of the same effects of
mulch. If the cover crop starts to compete for light and water with your crop,
you can slash it down, and use it as a mulch. Or you can grow your cover
crop seasonally and till it under as a green manure.
Caution: In dry climates, cover crop can compete with crop plants for scarce
Multiple Crops- You can plant many crops together, a row of beans next to a
row of corn for example. In this way the beans are helping to nourish the
Fertilize- Legumes add nitrogen to the soil
Erosion Prevention- cover crops help hold the soil in place and prevent ero-
Weed Suppression- cover crops shade the soil and compete with weeds, ef-
fectively suppressing weed growth once the cover crop is fully established
- Fallow: This is what farmers call it when they leave a field to rest for a time. Fallow
allows the land to regenerate some of its soil nutrients because wild plants grow and
die, and all of the nutrients remain on the farmland (nothing is harvested). Fallow is
also good when disease and pest pressure is high. Many pests and diseases of
crops require those crops to be present for the pest and disease to thrive. If the land
is left fallow for a time, many pests and diseases die off.
o How: Leave the land alone for at least a year.
Fallow with Cover Crop- If you plan to be coming back to the land in a short
time (one or two years), you do not want wild weeds to take over and leave
their seeds behind. You can discourage this from happening by planting a
cover crop of a legume plant. Do not mix it into the soil like you would with
green manure. Just leave the cover crop, and let it take over for a year or
two. When you come back to farm the land again, use the cover crop as a
green manure or as a mulch, or as the bulk of a compost heap. Do not let all
that good plant material go to waste!
Long term Fallow- If the land has been farmed for many years, and you are
having difficulty getting yield to improve, even with other techniques, you may
need to leave the land alone for 7-10 years. In that period of time, the forest
will begin to re-grow, and the land will recover. For a long term fallow, you
don’t need to worry about weeds, just allow nature to do what it will.
Soil Nutrients- the process of fallow increases the quantity of nutrients in the
Top Soil thickness- The top soil will thicken over a long fallow period
Pests and Diseases- Fallow periods will cause pests and diseases of crop
plants to die or leave the area. This is especially true of Nematodes
(microscopic worms that feed on crop roots), because they are crop specific.
Fallow is the best way to deal with nematodes.
- Alley Farming: This is a system of farming where crops are planted in swaths
(alleys) between hedgerows. The hedges are generally a multi-purpose tree or shrub
that is a legume. When the hedges get tall enough that they are interfering with the
crop for light, they are slashed down, and the prunings used for mulch (or livestock
feed). The roots of the hedges grow deep into the soil, and have access to nutrients
that the crop plants cannot reach. These nutrients are put into the stems and leaves,
which are then used to nourish the crop (as mulch), or livestock.
Hedge row plant selection-
You want to choose a hedge
row that meets your specific
needs. Look for a plant that is
readily available locally.
Good hedge plant traits in-
clude: deep rooted, legume,
fast growing, edible to live-
stock, firewood, medicine,
Here are some common
Leucaena is a legume tree
and is probably the most
popular hedgerow tree in alley
farming. It is fast growing,
can be used to feed livestock,
and can be used for firewood.
Gliricidia is also a legume tree and can be used for livestock and firewood.
Pigeon Pea is a legume shrub. The beans can be harvested for human or pig
feed, and the leaves can be fed to livestock or used as a mulch
Moringa is not a legume, but is very fast growing, and its leaves have ex-
ceptional qualities as human and livestock food and medicine, as well as
making a highly nutritious mulch. (see Moringa on page 35)
Plant Spacing: Hedge rows should be planted at least 5 meters apart, and
parallel to each other. The spacing may have to be adjusted for your specific
location. Plant hedge rows east-west so that the crops planted between the
hedges will have maximum sun exposure.
Contour Planting: If you are putting alleys in on sloping land, you should plant
them along the contour of the hill to prevent erosion (See Contour Planting on
page 30 for more detail). If planting on the contour, your rows will not be
straight, and the distance between the rows will vary.
Pruning: The hedges should be pruned back severely as soon as they are
competing with the crop plants for water or light. They may need to be
pruned more than once in the growing season. The prunings should be laid
down as a thick mulch. You can also use the prunings to feed livestock, but if
you do this remember that you are taking Nitrogen and other nutrients out of
the field, and you need some plan to replace that lost nitrogen (legumes, ma-
nure, mulch, compost, etc).
Alleys for Livestock: You can establish an alley system for livestock exclu-
sively, or rotate grazing and crop growing. The hedges act as edible fencing.
Between the hedges you have grazing space. The end of the alleys can be
blocked off, and you can practice rotational grazing to reduce parasites, and
improve pasture growth. The hedges can be cut for feed during the dry sea-
son when the grazing land is dry.
Mulching- hedges provide a nutrient rich mulch (see mulch benefits page 16)
Soil nutrients- deep rooted legume hedges access nutrients deep in the soil
and put nitrogen in the soil.
Slow the spread of pests- hedges form wind breaks that slow down the
spread of pests on the wind
- Mixed Cropping: Mixed cropping is where you plant different types of crops to-
gether. You can choose crops that are beneficial to each other: like legumes along-
side crops that use a lot of nutrients. You can also combine tree crops with row
crops. In this way you produce different types of food for your household, and the
different types of plants are beneficial to each other.
Tree orchards and row crops – When a tree crop is planted, it is generally
spaced so that the trees form a solid canopy. In mixed cropping, you leave a
little more space between the trees so that light can penetrate to the
“understory”. Choose crops that tolerate shade. Collards and cabbage grow
well in partial shade, which protects them from wilting. Ask local farmers what
else grows well in shade. Rotating legume crops or cover crops in the under-
story will help replenish nutrients, and suppress weeds.
Legumes and row crops – planting legumes alongside row crops (like corn or
cassava which strip nutrients from the soil), will produce higher yields in the
row crop, and protect your soil from severe depletion of nutrients during the
Gardening – Many small subsistence farms are grown in a garden style, with
different crops together in the same plot, planted at different times to stagger
Soil nutrients- combing legumes or tree crops with row crops increases the
amount of nutrients available to the crops.
Pests and diseases – having different crops next to each other reduces the
incidence and spread of pests and diseases.
- Permaculture: Permaculture means permanent agriculture. The idea is to create a
system that is self-sustaining, and so can continue to be farmed permanently.
o How: Permaculture requires very in-depth design, which often comes about
only after many years of farming.
Layout- the fields are laid out according to the amount of labor required. Live-
stock that are handled often, are kept close to the house, next vegetables and
tree crops, next staple crops, next pasture, and last trees for timber produc-
tion. Wells are dug near the location where the water will be needed.
Systems- Systems are planned for composting, mulching, and utilization of
manure. Also plants, crops, and pastures are planned to be able to feed live-
stock throughout the year. Crop rotations are planned to replenish the soil,
and also to provide the right variety and enough quantity of food for the family.
Crops are also chosen for their suitability for the time of year (wet season and
dry season crops), and seed and plant material is saved so that future crops
can be planted.
Sustainability- if planned and implemented appropriately permaculture is able
to be sustained for very long periods of time.
o Caution: intensive design planning does not fit into every culture. Also, be-
cause each year is different, and the climate is always changing, agriculture
does not function well in rigid systems.
- Fish Pond with Farming: In areas with pronounced wet and dry seasons, fish ponds
can be used during the wet season, and when they are empty in the dry season,
vegetable gardens or crops can be planted in them. Fish ponds can also be used in
conjunction with swamp rice farming, where nutrient rich water from the fish ponds is
drained into the rice paddies to fertilize the rice.
Fish pond construction- (see Agrodok 15 “Small Scale Freshwater Fish Farm-
ing”, Resources page 6) Build fish ponds in low locations, clay soil works best
for making the walls and bottom of the pond. The pond should be naturally
filled by a stream or ditch, and also be able to be drained.
Fish pond gardening- In the wet season, crops can be planted around the fish
pond. When the dry season comes, the pond is harvested, and the water is
drained or dried up, then vegetables or row crops can be planted in the bot-
tom of the pond, where the soil will be rich in nutrients, and will have moisture
in the soil longer into the dry season.
Fish pond and rice- fish ponds can be built just above (or before) rice paddies.
This takes planning, you will need a channel that by-passes the fish pond to
feed the rice paddies, and the ability to block this channel to fill the fish
ponds. Expensive dykes are not necessary, you can divert water by filling up
the channel with sand bags. When the fish ponds are harvested the nutrient
rich water can be drained into the rice paddies. Or some water from the
ponds can be drained, and the ponds refilled regularly during the fish produc-
Nutrients- These systems take advantage of the nutrient rich water which is a
by-product of fish farming.
Prevent Pollution- nutrient rich water that is dumped directly into streams can
have an adverse affect on the water supply and ecosystem by increasing al-
gae and bacteria blooms. Using rice to “harvest” the nutrients out of the water
is good for the ecosystem and the rice!
Water Conservation- In the dry season you make use of the soil moisture that
exists at the bottom of the recently drained fish pond.
Chemical Pest Control: Chemical pesticides are dangerous to handle, and expensive. They
usually kill beneficial predator insects, as well as the pests. When handled, mixed, or applied
improperly they can cause serious illness and pollute the environment. (See Agrodok 29 Pes-
ticides Compounds Use and Hazards, Resources page 6).
Non-Chemical Pest Control: See Agrodok 30 “Non-Chemical Crop Protection” for more in-
formation (Resources page 6). The remainder of this section on Pests, deals only with non-
chemical pest control.
Observation: Pest control often requires critical thinking and observation. Observe the pest
in question. How are the pests attacking the crop? Where do the pests live? How do the
pests reproduce? Observing the pests will help you to determine what they are, how they hurt
the plant, and maybe how to stop them! You may observe predator insects that attack the
pest, and learn about how to encourage their growth.
Biodiversity: This means that you have many different species of plants, insects, birds, and
animals on your farmland. This diversity of living things helps to maintain the natural balance
in pest pressures. Different plants provide habitat for different types of insects, and increases
the number of predator insects (which
feed on the pest insects).
- Curved Rows: This con-
fuses the pests, slows down
the spread of pests, and
maximizes the use of space.
o How: Rather than
drawing out rows in
perfect lines, lay out
rows in a curved pat-
tern that follows the
shape of the field.
- Windbreaks: Many pests travel on the wind, which carries them to your field.
o How: Plant windbreaks around your field, and in the field, to slow the spread
of pests. You can grow leguminous trees as windbreaks, and also get the
benefit of improving the soil. (See “Alley Farming” page 20)
- Field Borders: Field boarders can be chosen that attract pests away from the field,
“trap boarders” or you can choose borders that repel pests. (Agrodok 30 Non Chemi-
cal Crop Protection).
How: Plant repellant plants around the field as a boarder, or in rows through
the field. You can also alternate between repellant plants and trap plants as a
cover crop. This creates the “push-pull” effect where insects are pushed
away from the crop, and attracted toward the trap plant at the same time.
(Agrodok 30 Non Chemical Crop Protection).
Repellant Boarders – Here are some plants that repel pests:
• Lemon Grass- planted in the field, it repels some insects
• Desmodium- planted in the field, it repels some species of moth cat-
• Corriander- Planted in the field, it repels whitefly
Trap Boarders – Here is a plant that traps pests:
• Napier Grass- Planted at the border of the field, it attracts moths to
lay eggs, then traps caterpillars when they begin to feed.
- Predator Habitat: Field boarders can serve as habitat for predator insects. Observe
the populations of insects in your field. If there are few or no predators, you may not
have enough biodiversity in your field. You can try mixed cropping, strip planting, or
more diverse crop boarders.
- Crop Rotation: Pests are often crop-specific. By switching crops, you interrupt the
life cycle of the pest. (See “Crop Rotation” on page 19).
- Strip Planting: Crops are planted in strips, alternating between strips of different
crops, and a regenerative grass/legume mix or cover crop. (See “Strip Planting” page
32). This increases biodiversity.
- Multiple Cropping/Mixed cropping: By planting crops mixed up together, or in rows
side by side, you are increasing the biodiversity of the field, which makes it more diffi-
cult for pests to spread, and increases habitat for predators.
- Increase Soil Nutrients: Healthy plants can better withstand pest damage. See
yield increasing techniques beginning on page 16.
Local Remedies: Always ask local farmers what they use to kill pests. They may have local
plants and recipes for making them into pesticides.
Pesticide Recipes: Homemade pesticides kill beneficial predator insects as well as pests,
and should therefore be used sparingly. Effective, safe to use pesticides, can be made from a
number of common plants. Soap is often an main ingredient of such pesticides. CAUTION:
farmers should take great care when formulating homemade pesticides from substances that
are toxic to humans like: tobacco or castor oil (information from Agrodok 30). Many natural
pesticide recipes can be found online. The following are some of the many plants/products
can be used to make pesticides:
• Neem- the leaf and seed of the Neem tree have a powerful compound
which interferes with pest reproduction, but does not harm humans. (See
ECHO Technical Note on Neem, and Agromisa 30 “non-chemical crop pro-
tection” for more info). The leaf can be buried to kill nematodes, or made into
homemade pesticide. As a development worker, you can obtain Neem seeds
from ECHO free of charge (See Resources page 6).
• Hot Peppers
• Papaya leaf
• Cinnamon oil- Can be used as an insecticide. It kills many insects, including
mosquito larva. Cinnamon oil comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum cas-
sia tree, which grows in the tropics.
• Marigold- leaves and flowers are used to repel pests
• Wood Ash- repels some pests
• Milk- can be used to make a fungicide
• Chalk dust- can be found naturally. When dusted on plants repels some
- Drainage Ditches: Channel the flood water away from your crops.
o How: Dig ditches (pick ax is the best hand tool for this). Keep in mind your
ditch must lead to lower ground, and the bottom of the ditch must at all times
be lower than the lowest point of the flooded ground. If flooding comes sea-
sonally from a river, you may consider a levy building project.
Flood prevention- Having a good drainage system prevents flooding, or short-
ens the duration of the flood.
- Planting in Mounds or Raised Beds: This technique raises the roots, or part of the
root zone out of the flooded area.
Mounds- Till or hoe the dirt, and pile it into mounds: at least 30cm high, and
wide, or whatever suits you.
Plant one plant, or a cluster
of plants in each mound
(depending on your desired
Raised Beds- Till or hoe the
ground, and form it into a
long raised bed of soil. You
can vary the height and
width depending on the
depth of flooding you expect,
and the plant distance re-
Protection from Rot- raising the root zone, can protect your plants from some
flooding, which can cause rot.
Protection from damage – planting in mounds also makes it easier to harvest
tuber crops without damaging the tuber (because the soil is loose).
- Crop Choice: Choose a crop that does well in your area under flooded conditions.
o How: Do not choose tuber crops, as tubers often rot in flooded conditions.
Ask local people what crops can survive flooded conditions. Rice is the most
common crop which tolerates flooded conditions. Some fruit crops, like
Guava and Coconut also tolerate flooding well.
- Early Planting: By preparing seedbeds and planting before the first rain, you take
advantage of the early rains, and get more growth. (Gibbon, 18-19)
Prepare the soil- At the beginning of the dry season, prepare your seedbeds.
There is still some residual moisture in the soil at the beginning of the dry sea-
son, which makes the soil easier to till/hoe, and form into beds. (CAUTION: if
wind erosion is a problem during the dry season, do not use this technique,
because tilled soil will blow away more quickly)
Plant the seed- Just before the first rain, plant your seed. This timing is im-
portant. Because the soil is very dry, the seed will not germinate, but leaving
the seed in the soil for too long could lead to losses from scavenging birds,
animals, and insects.
Maximize Rainwater Use- Most farmers wait until the first rain to till the soil,
because after the dry season it is hard. By the time the seed is planted, much
of the water from the first rain has soaked past the seed zone or evaporated.
This technique makes use of that first rain, by staying ahead of the normal
schedule. (as with every technique, test this on a small portion of the crop
before implementing it across the whole crop).
- Planting in Holes or Furrows: Holes and furrows collect rainwater, and move the
root zone deeper where there may be better water holding capacity. By adding de-
caying plant matter
and compost to the
holes, you concen-
trate the nutrients at
the plant root zone,
worm and termite
activity, which in-
penetration into the
soil (info from Ama-
ranth to Zai Holes
ECHO page 6)
o How: Furrows:
Dig furrows that follow the contour of the hill (see contour planting), so that
water does not run off. Dig channels that direct run off to your planting area.
Dig/form basins which collect rainwater, and plant trees or groups of plant in
the bottom of the furrows.
o How: Zai Holes: (info from Amaranth to Zai Holes Chapter 7)
Dig a hole- Dig a hole for each plant at the beginning of the dry season. You
can vary the size of the hole, but the recommendation is 20cm in diameter,
and 10cm deep. If the top soil is very thin, you may want to dig the hole a
little deeper, and then put the top soil back into the hole.
Mulch - Fill the freshly dug hole with mulch (crop residue works), and some
manure if available. The mulch adds nutrients, and encourages termite activ-
ity, which will increase rainwater penetration.
Plant- Plant your seeds in the hole after the first rain, or irrigate.
Maximize Rainwater use- holes and furrows collect water, delivering it to the
root zone, and termite activity increases penetration of the water.
Wind break- If wind damage is a problem, the hole helps protect the seedling
from the wind.
- Tin Can drip irrigation: If water is precious, drip irrigation makes better use of lim-
ited water resources, by concentrating the wet zone, and not allowing any run off.
When drip hose is not available, you can use a tin can.
Collect materials- Choose a small container that can be readily found. Also
collect something that can be laid
across the top of the container as a
lid (this could just be a rock). You
can experiment with sizes of con-
tainers. A tin can, or soda can size
container works. Poke a hole in
the bottom of the container. The
larger the hole (or more numerous
the holes) the quicker the water will
drain out. Or you could poke a
hole on the side near the bottom,
and point the hole toward the plant.
Half bury the container- You can
plant the container next to your seedling, or plant. Bury it at least half way up
the container, so that the water leaks directly into the root zone.
Water the plant- to water your plants, just fill the can with water, and place a
rock/lid over the top to prevent evaporation. The surface of the soil will re-
When? This technique can be used to establish trees and plants during the
dry season, and can be used for supplemental irrigation during the growing
Water Conservation- water is delivered directly to the root zone of the plant,
and only there, so that it is efficiently used.
Reduced labor- after the initial labor of installation, the time it takes to water
your plants, and the amount of water you have to haul is significantly reduced.
Weed prevention- because the surface remains dry, not as many weed seeds
- Erosion Control: Erosion is a complete waste of valuable rainwater in dry climates.
See Erosion page 30 for more ideas, including Contour Planting.
- Mulch: Mulch covers the soil and protects the soil surface from the strong rays of the
sun. It also prevents erosion, so more rainwater penetrates the soil.
o How to:
Clear plant material from farmland, and lay it evenly across the ground, or pile
it around the individual crop plants. Mulch should not touch the crop plant
stems as it may cause rot. Mulch should be at least 6 inches (15cm) deep,
but thicker than that is good. The layer of mulch closest to the soil will decay
first. As it decays the mulch will get thinner, continue to add more mulch on
Soil moisture retention- protects the soil surface from drying out
Rainwater penetration- prevents erosion, so more rain soaks in
See Mulch Benefits- page 16
- Shade: Shading the soil surface and plant from the sun reduces evaporation of soil
moisture and reduces sun burn and withering of the plant..
o How: There are many ways to make shade. Look for what materials are
most readily available in your area.
Braches- Branches of trees (leaf trees or
palm trees) can be used to make shade.
Stick the branch in the soil next to the
plant so that the leaves provide shade.
Individual shade huts can be formed by
cutting up palm branches, and then
bending the pieces into a circle and plac-
ing it around the plant (See Diagram).
Shade structure- a thatched shade struc-
ture can be built over the plants (this is
more labor and material intensive).
Mulch- see mulch above.
Alley Farming- see alley farming page
Trees- Combining tree crops with row
crops, provides some shade to the row crop. The trees can be pruned back
some during the rainy season so that they don’t shade the crop too much.
See “mixed cropping” page 21.
Water Conservation- Keep rainwater from evaporating.
Yield- Protect plants from sunburn, wilt, and die-back, which will reduce yield.
- Rooftop Rain Catchments: Every roof has the potential to collect rain in dry cli-
mates, but the supplies can be expensive.
Build a Gutter- construct a sim-
ple gutter and attach it to the
edge of the roof. This can be
made out of any sturdy surface
that can be bent into a U, or is
U shaped: large bamboo cut in
half, strips of metal roofing, pipe
cut in half, hollowed out wooden
poles, etc. Slope the gutters
downward toward to a common
Obtain a tank or barrel- (tanks
and barrels can be difficult to
come by or expensive). Place the tank or barrel at the place where water
runs out of the gutter. The tank, barrel should have a lid to protect from
evaporation when it is not raining.
Water conservation- Collect precious rainwater, make use of existing struc-
- Crop Selection: Choosing the right plant is critical. Some plants are more drought
tolerant than other plants.
Trees- Established trees have deep roots, and are more drought tolerant than
crop plants. Some drought tolerant tree crops: Date Palm, Moringa, Cashew,
Pomegranate, Dove plum, Karanda (Amaranth to Zai Holes Chapter 7).
Crops- Millet and Cassava are both drought tolerant food crops.
More- For more crops, read chapter 7 of Amaranth to Zai Holes available for
free online. See Resources, (page 6) for website information.
Increased success- By choosing a plant that does well in your conditions, you
increase the success of your crop production.
- Household Water Conservation: Save the water you use in your household.
o How: Collect water you have used for dish washing, laundry, or bathing and
use it for watering the garden.
Water Conservation- Make use of existing water.
- New Water Sources: If water conservation isn’t enough, you need access to new
water sources. Wells, and reservoirs can be constructed, but usually at a great cost.
- Fish Pond with Farming: See “Fish Pond with Farming” (page 22).
- Mulch: Mulch covers the soil and protects it from erosion and has many other bene-
o How to:
Clear plant material from farmland, and lay it evenly across the ground, or pile
it around the individual crop plants. Mulch should be at least 6 inches (15cm)
deep, but thicker than that is good. The layer of mulch closest to the soil will
decay first. As it decays the mulch will get thinner, continue to add more
mulch on top.
Erosion prevention- Rain hits the mulch and then slowly trickles down to the
soil, giving it time to soak in. When the soil is saturated, the mesh of decay-
ing plant material slows down run-off and helps prevent erosion.
See other Benefits – Page 16
- Contour Planting: By planting along the
contour of a hill or slope, you can control
run off, capture more rainwater, and pre-
vent serious erosion. Over time, natural
terraces will form.
o What is a contour? A contour
line is essentially a level line that
goes in and out according to the
shape of a hill. The contour of the
hill is always perpendicular to the
flow of the run-off water. Every
point along the contour line is at
the same elevation. So if you
plant along the contour, the plants
and their roots act as a barrier to
run off. When the run off water
encounters the barrier, it would usually flow left or right along the row toward
the lowest point, but because every point is the same height, the water slows
down. When the water slows down, it drops
the soil it is carrying, and more of the run-off
water soaks into the soil.
Mark the Contour- It is important that the con-
tour be actually level, and not just a guess at
Construct an A Frame Level: You can con-
struct a simple tool, called an A frame level.
Collect three long straight strong sticks/poles
(at least 1 meter long), a rock, a string, and a
few nails. Nail the three poles in the shape of
an “A”. The width of the bottom of the “A”
should be the same as your planting distance,
or a multiple of your planting distance (example, for trees on a 3 meter
spacing, make your frame 1.5 meters wide, and only mark every other time,
or plants spaced 10cm apart, make your frame 1 meter wide, and know that
you are marking every 10
plant). When the frame is nailed together, tie the
string to the top point of the “A”. The string should
hang past the cross bar of the A. Tie a rock to the bot-
tom of the string. (see diagram). If the A frame is not
stable, cut and nail an additional crossbar lower down.
Calibrate the A Frame: Place the A Frame on slightly
uneven ground. Mark the places on the ground where
the two feet of the frame sit. Then mark on the cross-
bar the exact place where the string touches it. Care-
fully lift the A frame, turn it around, and place the first
foot in the place where the second foot was before, and
the second foot where the first foot was. Now mark
where the string touches the crossbar. Measure be-
tween the two marks on the cross bar you just made,
and make a larger mark half way between the two
marks. This larger mark is your level indicator. When
the two feet of the A Frame are at the exact same level,
the string will hang down and touch this center mark on
your cross bar.
Use the A Frame: Mark where you want your first plant
to go on the contour line you intent to mark. (Sticks
with a sharpened end work well for marking.) Place
one foot of the A Frame next to your first marker. Move
the second foot of the A Frame around until the string
rests exactly where your calibrated center mark is on
the A frame. Mark where the second foot is with an-
other stick. Continue until you reach the end of your
row. The row will look messy, in a zigzagging pattern.
But you will notice as you walk the line you have
marked, you never take a step up or a step down, you have marked a per-
fectly level line.
Plant along the contour: Prepare your raised seed bed along the contour line,
and plant along the row you have marked, according to the plant spacing re-
Walls/barriers: You could also build a short rock wall along the contours leav-
ing space between the contours for planting. Or you could dig ditches along
the contours, and pile the dirt along the contour to make a barrier. These
walls or barriers will interrupt the flow of water down the hillside, and slowly
with time (if you repair and build up the barriers after the rains) erosion be-
tween the barriers will cause natural terracing.
Alley Farming: Combine contour marking with Alley Farming (page 20). Plant
hedges (closely planted shrubs or trees) along contour lines. Leave space
between hedge rows to plant your crop rows. The roots of the hedge provide
greater stability to your slope, and the leaves can be used as mulch (or as a
crop or livestock forage when appropriate plants are selected). With time
(depending on rainfall) the hillside will erode between the hedge rows, to form
natural terraces on the hillside.
Erosion Prevention- Without erosion, the top soil with thicken, more nutrients
will remain on the hillside, and yield will improve
Rainwater Capture- Without prevention, approximately 90% of rainwater that
falls on a slope, runs off, leaving only 10% of the rainwater that soaks into the
soil profile. With hedges planted along contours, this statistic is reversed,
approximately 90% of rainwater is retained on the hillside. (info from Alley
Farming of the Tropical Agriculturalist Series)
- Strip Planting: A modification of “Contour Planting” above. (Agrodok 11, Erosion)
o How: Plant in strips across a hillside following the contour approximately.
Strips can vary in width, starting around 5 meters. Alternate between strips of
crops, and strips of grass/legume mix. The grass legume mix fixes nitrogen,
and reduces erosion. This method can then become “Crop Rotation” or
“Fallow” (see page 19), if every couple years, you switch the strips: cultivating
the grass strip, and leaving the previously cultivated strip to be “cover-
crop” (page 19).
Prevent Erosion- The strips of grass hold the soil in place, and slow down the
flow of water down the hillside.
Soil Fertility- The legumes, and the method of crop rotation improves the fertil-
ity of the soil, and reduce soil pests.
- Reduce tillage: Tilled, loose topsoil is easily carried away by erosion.
o How: Reduce tilling as much as possible. Leave the stubble in place from
the last crop, and till just where you intend to plant.
Caution- Weeds may become a problem in this method. Slashing down the
weeds, and using them as a mulch may work effectively to suppress weed
Where there is very little or no arable land for agriculture, people can still grow their own food.
Plants can be grown in containers on roofs and in courtyards, in small raised beds, or even on
discarded carpets. See Agrodok 24 “Urban Agriculture” available to download for free, for
more specific information (Resources, page 6).
- Safety: There are major dangers involved in Urban Agriculture. Pollution like heavy
metals, harmful chemicals, and dangerous bacteria and other disease pathogens can
be found in the soil and the water in an urban setting. ALWAYS use soil you know is
safe i.e. soil you have composted yourself, and use water you know is clean.
o Read: Read Agrodok 24 “Urban Agriculture” (Resources, page 6), for more
- Compost: See composting on page 17. Compost is critical in urban agriculture,
because you can make your own soil, and be sure that it is free from dangerous pol-
lutants and disease pathogens. After you have used the compost/soil once
(harvested the crop), discard the soil. The used soil will be exhausted of nutrients,
and possibly be infected with plant pathogens or pests.
o Start fresh with new compost each planting cycle.
- Containers: Growing crops in containers is a great way to produce food in an urban
o How: Many different things can be used as containers: plastic or metal con-
tainers of many sizes, tires, plastic bags, sacks, canvas, wood, or anything
else you can find.
Fill the container with compost/soil, and make sure that there is a hole in the
bottom for drainage.
- Carpet: If soil is not available, or if you want to make your crop mobile (ie, an herb
garden you can take to the market). It is possible to grow plants on a discarded car-
o How: A carpet with longer fibers (i.e. shag carpet) works best. Germinate
your seeds, and start your plants in compost/soil, then transfer them to the
carpet. The roots grow into the carpet, which you will need to water often,
and include fertilizer in the water (or use compost tea, or some other home-
made liquid fertilizer). You will need to cover the carpet with something to
help keep the moisture in and to give support to the plant stem: this could be
a mulch of plant material, or even something like ground up tires, or empty
soda cans. Plants will not grow as well using this system as they would in a
container of soil/compost. (Technique seen at ECHO’s demonstration gar-
den, see Resources).
Common spoilage of stored food is caused by mold/decay, physical loss, rodents, or insects.
It follows that dry, well ventilated, well contained storage, with rodent and insect prevention
would be ideal.
Preservation Techniques: Food can be preserved in many ways: drying, smoking, salting.
There are usually preparation steps like: milling, chopping, skinning, removal of seeds from
fruit. See Resources page 5-9, for more sources on preservation techniques.
Common Storage Locations:
o Sack: Grains, seeds, and other dried food for storage are commonly kept in
rice sacks (large woven plastic sacks). The weave in the sack allows some
ventilation, and also some water resistance.
Benefit: It reduces physical loss by containing the food in a bag.
It deters rodents and insects by containing the food (no spillage to attract
o Attic: Food can be stored in stacks in an attic storage place. The ideal roof
design would allow for some ventilation through the walls and floor of the attic,
and provide protection from the rain.
Benefit: Good ventilation and protection from moisture reduces mold.
Storage and Preservation of Food
o Storehouse or shed: A storehouse is a separate building where food is kept.
Sometimes food is kept in heaps (which attracts rodents and insects, and can
cause spoilage from mold). The best way to prevent physical loss (through
trampling and wind), and to deter pests and prevent mold, is to store food in
sacks, stacked on pallets (or some rack which allows some ventilation under
the sacks). The pallets should be kept away from the walls, and away from
areas where rainwater comes into the building. The storehouse should always
have a good roof, and good cross ventilation.
Benefit- Keeping food in a separate house allows the subsistence farmer to
have a better control over the environment where they are keeping the food.
o Tank: Tanks are prohibitively expensive in most places. However, where
available, they prevent rodent damage, and keep the stored food water tight.
Caution: ventilation does not exist in a tank, so if there is any residual mois-
ture in the food that you are attempting to store, it can mold
Benefit: Prevents rodent damage, and damage from rain.
Pest Prevention Techniques:
- Rodent Prevention:
o Cleanliness and Containment:
Contain food items, so that they are
difficult or impossible for rodents to
penetrate. Keep the store area
clean, with open areas around where
the food is kept. Spilled food attracts
rodents. Rodents like to stay hidden,
so keeping food in the middle of the
store room, with space around it will
deter them (but only slightly).
o Elevated storage with metal sleeves: Rodents cannot climb metal surfaces.
You can build a store shed on stilts, and surround each leg of the shed with a
narrow sheet of metal (this metal sleeve must be wide enough that the rodent
cannot jump past it. You can also fashion the metal sleeve in the shape of a
cone with the larger end pointed down.
- Rodent Extermination:
o Predators: Keep cats, or other domestic animals that will hunt rodents
o Mechanical Traps, glue traps, poison: These and other local rodent exter-
mination techniques are often available in a local market.
- Insect Prevention:
o Smoke: Smoke from a wood burning fire is a deterrent for many insects.
Smoking can be done by building a fire under an elevated storage shed, or by
wafting smoke into a storehouse or attic.
o Neem leaf: The leaf of the neem tree is a natural insecticide, but is not harm-
ful to humans. You can dry neem leaves, crumble them, and mix them into
your sacks of dry food to deter insects. (see Neem page 24)
• Local Plants and Remedies: Ask local people what plants or methods they
use to keep insects away from their food.
Example Storage System:
- Rice Kitchen: This is the local
way of storing rice in Liberia.
o How: An open sided
shelter structure is con-
structed on four poles.
The roof will be the shel-
ter both for the food stor-
age attic, and for the
kitchen area which will
be set up under it. A
water-tight tin roof, or a
thick thatch roof is con-
structed, and a support
for the ceiling is built
under the roof out of
poles, and a woven
grass/reed mat. The
sides of the roof face the
prevailing wind direction.
The roof has a good overhang. The open ends of the roof provide ventilation,
and can be protected from rain by erecting slats of tin roofing, or a grass/reed
mat. Finally, metal sleeves can be put on the four poles of the structure to
deter rodents. The act of cooking on a fire every day, keeps the rice storage
attic dried out, and makes smoke, which seeps into the attic, and deters in-
o Benefits: Combination mold, rodent, and insect prevention. Makes use of fire
and smoke which must be made daily for a different purpose (cooking).
It is not within the scope of this booklet to fully address nutritional problems. I advise you to
see Where there is no Doctor available for free download (see Resources page 7). However,
I will make two important suggestions.
Vegetables- Vegetables are higher in nutrients than cereal/staple crops. Vegetables gen-
erally require less labor than cereal/staple crops to grow, and can be grown in gardens by chil-
dren, mothers, and the infirmed (all of whom need extra nutrition).
Moringa- The Moringa tree can be effectively used to treat malnutrition. Moringa
leaves are highly nutritious with up to 30% protein by dry weight. They are also high in vita-
mins and minerals. Mixing the leaf powder into already cooked meals does not change the
taste, but greatly increases the nutritional content. Moringa is attributed with many medical
properties including killing internal parasites, curing skin infections (even staph infections),
and regulating blood sugar in diabetics. Moringa can also be used as a very nutritious green
manure to fertilize plants, or as the main constituent in pig feed.
For more information, go to ECHO’s website (see Resources page 6). Look up Amaranth to
Zai Holes Chapter 4, or ECHO Technical Note on Moringa. Be sure to register with ECHO
and order free samples of Moringa seeds (many other seeds are also available).
These problems affect the distribution, availability and cost of crop inputs and tools, as well as
the feasibility of selling a crop. Infrastructure problems affect the ability of a country to de-
velop commercial agriculture, or small-scale cash crop production.
Transportation of Crop: Crops grown in rural areas far from urban zones, cannot expand
their agricultural production without a transportation system to get their goods to town. This
requires investment by governments, and aid organizations in development of roads. Com-
munities can engage in basic road improvement by maintenance of roads (filling potholes,
clearing brush), and by widening footpaths by clearing vegetation.
Processing Facilities: Facilities that process crops (grain mills, dehydrating/drying, chop-
ping, canning, or any other process) add value to a crop, increase its shelf life, and improve its
marketability. Processing facilities require large investments for start up costs. Basic proc-
essing can be done in communities. Small portable milling or chopping machines could be
purchased by a farming group with small business loans or grants.
Labor: The cost of labor is generally very low in a developing economy. But subsistence
farmers that are trying to move into cash crop production can still not afford labor. Forming
agriculture work groups, or cooperatives is an answer to this problem. Such groups exist in
many rural communities, where a work group rotates from farm to farm. Since each person’s
farm benefits from the work group, the members do not compensate each other with money.
Cost of tools/inputs: The cost of tools and inputs is often very high, because anything that is
not made locally must be transported in. Fertilizer, unless subsidized, is often prohibitively
expensive. In place of fertilizer, yield improving techniques can be used, like mulching (see
page 16). Encouraging local seed and tool production will lower the cost of inputs and allow
subsistence farmers to increase their production.
Credit/Loans: Unavailability of loans is a major problem in most developing nations. Credit
institutions can be unstable, prejudiced, or simply non-existent. Loans allow farmers to pur-
chase livestock and needed inputs like tools and seed, which allows them to increase their
production. With loans, farming groups can also purchase processing equipment, to add
value to their product. Many NGOs and development organizations offer small loans for busi-
ness and agriculture projects.
Fluctuating Market Prices, Monopolies: The uncertainty of fluctuating market prices
makes it difficult for farmers to make a profit if selling their crop. If the market is volatile, farm-
ers may decide not to plant cash crops, because of the fear or reality of not being able to sell
the crop for what they have invested in it. Large monopolies in supplies, processing, import-
ing, or exporting, can control and manipulate the market to their personal advantage. Such
problems require national/political action.
Land availability: (see Urban Agriculture page 32) Access to land for farming, in many ways
is access to survival. Land issues are different in every region. In some places land is taken
up by large businesses or private landowners, and little is available for subsistence farmers.
In some places, large populations mean there is not enough land available for farming. In
some places, land is held communally and the village elders assign land to people who wish
to farm. Conflicts, wars, and genocide can be the result of unresolved land disputes.
Political Instability: When nations are going through conflict and instability, agriculture pro-
duction drops. Farmers are afraid to invest in crops that might be looted or destroyed, or they
are unable to plant crops because they must flee. Food aid is critical during times of conflict.
After prolonged conflicts, seed, and livestock must be brought in to restore agriculture produc-
See Agrodok 9: “The Vegetable Garden in the Tropics” available to download for free (see
Resources page 6)
Before you start, keep in mind:
- All your techniques should be able to be applied by the average farmer
- Consider what is locally available and culturally appropriate in terms of supplies and
- New techniques should be demonstrated alongside traditional techniques
- Be sure there is a source of organic material and manure for composting
- Make sure you will have labor to tend the garden (even on school holidays)
Choose a site:
- Near a water source
- Look for good quality soil, (see assessing soil health on page 15)
- In full sun
- Not too steep, not where it will be flooded
Size of the Garden:
- Consider your available labor, available land, and desired yield.
- Yield Approximation (Agrodok 9 Vegetable Garden in the Tropics)
• leaf vegetables: 8kg/m
• fruit vegetables: 10kg/m
• fruit (fruit trees): 2kg/m
Set up your Garden
- Fence: You will want to fence your garden to discourage casual thieves, destructive
livestock, and wild animals. Use local materials (or commonly used materials) instead
of expensive fencing materials. This shows that expensive inputs are not required to
make a garden.
- Clear the ground: slash down the weeds and brush, and set it aside for compost or
- Compost: use the materials you just cleared, as well as nutrient rich additions like
crop residue, legume leaves, and manure, to make compost for your garden (see
“Compost” on page 17)
- Till: Till your garden using a hoe, pick ax, and shovel, according to what breaks up the
- Beds/furrows: When the soil is loosened, it can be formed into your planting beds or
furrows. If it is the dry season you will want to plant at the bottom of furrows or in
holes (see section on “Drought” page 26). If it is the rainy season and flooding is a
possibility, use raised beds or mounds. (See Flood page 25)
- Lay-out your planting pattern so that there is room to demonstrate different techniques
next to each other. (i.e. mulching of eggplant next to traditional farming of eggplant).
- Plant your seed directly in the field, or start them in a shaded place and transfer them
to the field. Plant seeds at a depth approximately the same as the width of the seed.
If the seedlings are wilting in the sun, they may need to be shaded by sticking a small
branch with leaves into the soil next to the plant as a shade.
- Stagger your planting times so that your harvest lasts longer.
- Water the plants as needed. Try the water saving techniques listed in the “Drought”
section (page 26)
- Watering as needed
- Weeding: remove weeds and their roots before they set seed. Weeds can be com-
posted, or used as mulch.
- Pest control (see section on pest control page 23)
Techniques to Demonstrate
- Mulching (page 16)
- Compost (page 17)
- Cover crop or mixed cropping with Legumes (page 19)
- Plant a boarder of pest repellant/trapping plants, and leguminous trees for mulch pro-
duction and to encourage biodiversity of insects (see “alley farming” page 20 and Pest
Control page 23)
- Plant a variety of locally acceptable vegetables, and trees. (mixed cropping)
- If dry: (See drought page 26)
• Zai holes
• Planting in furrows
• Tin can drip irrigation
- If flood potential (See flood page 25)
• Drainage ditches
• Planting in mounds, raised beds
- If on a slope
• Contour planting with hedges (page 30)
- If infested with pests
• Test different natural pesticide recipes
Use your Garden
- Use your garden as a teaching site
- The harvest:
• Use the harvest to feed children at the school/orphanage/community
• Have the participants split up the harvest
• Sell the harvest and divide the money among the laborers
• Be sure to save some of the seed from the harvest to plant the next crop.
Gibbon, D. and Pain, Adam. Crops of the drier regions of the Tropics. Intermediate Agricul-
ture Series. Logman, London. Pp12, 18-19.
All references referred to in this booklet are detailed in the Resources Section, page 5-9.
About the Author
Robin Denney received a BS degree from the University of California, Davis, College of Agri-
culture and Environmental Sciences, with a major in Viticulture and Enology, and a minor in
Political Science. She also took courses in the Applied Biological Systems Technology de-
partment. Robin has worked professionally in commercial agriculture in California and Austra-
lia. She studied tropical agriculture for a week at ECHO’s demonstration farm and library in
Florida. As a member of the Episcopal Young Adult Service Corps, she served for a year at
Cuttington University, Liberia. At Cuttington she was an assistant on the university farm and a
lecturer. While there, she developed a goat project and a sustainable vegetable/orchard pro-
ject, and developed curriculum and taught lecture and lab classes in Introduction to Agricul-
ture, Animal Husbandry, Introduction to Forestry, and Livestock Production Systems. She
also worked with her students to develop a Moringa community health project through the de-
velopment of 10 pilot community orchards, and worked with a local community on clean water,
skills training, and sanitation projects.