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Recently we have been telling all you networkers a little more about the International Information Exchange Network (IIEN) and the International Ag-Sieve newsletter at the Rodale Institute Research Center in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. But I wonder how many of you know about RodaleUs two Regenerative Agriculture Resource Centers (RARCs) in Senegal and Guatemala. Here are the profiles of the two projects. In the future we hope to replicate the RARC model in different parts of the world. While you read the descriptions, think about Rodale's farmer participation RARC model, and the process of establishing a RARC as well as the specifics of each RARC itself.

For more information contact Karen Westley, Rodale Institute Research Center, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA 19530. Tel: (215) 683-1459, Fax: (215) 683-8548, email:

RODALEUS SENEGAL REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE RESOURCE CENTER The goal of the Senegal Regenerative Agriculture Resource Center (SRARC) is to enhance the productivity of SenegalUs agricultural resource base which will in turn increase farmer self-sufficiency and decrease dependency on imported food sources. Farmer involvement is the key to improving soil quality in a lasting manner. SRARC actively involves farmers, both men and women, in the development of alternatives for improving their agricultural resources. Empowered by this participation, farmers can continue the dynamic process of adapting to a changing environment.

Program History In July 1986, several African ambassadors to the United States were among the invited guests at the Rodale Institute Research CenterUs annual Field Days in Maxatawny, Pennsylvania. As a result of this visit, Senegalese Ambassador Falilou Kane encouraged the Rodale Institute to pursue the development of a similar center in Senegal. Ambassador KaneUs enthusiasm for the Rodale approach facilitated the establishment of the program.

With a three-year grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia and support from private donors, the Senegal Regenerative Agriculture Resource Center became a reality. Funding from the Food Industry Crusade against Hunger and the Public Welfare Foundation has allowed the program to continue.

The initial focus was in three areas: to collaborate with the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research(ISRA) to reorient the agenda of the national research stations towards more sustainable agriculture; to assist the development community in implementing applied research in sustainable agriculture; and to establish a regional information exchange center for regenerative agriculture. A team of seven Senegalese staff continue to pursue these broad goals.

Primary Clients The most vital natural resource is the farmer. Farmers are the only real conduit for developing, implementing and spreading technologies on a local level. Farmers play a dominant role in project planning and development: the perceived needs of the villagers are not overshadowed by those of experts. Only with the farmer as a catalyst is there any possibility for success and continuation of the program at the village level.

Regenerative technologies are being increasingly well received by farmers. Since the government of Senegal ceased subsidizing chemical fertilizers, they are no longer an affordable option. Farmers are keenly aware that they must find an alternative to chemical fertilizers; organic soil amendments made from locally available materials are an option that is receiving greater attention.

News of the successful on-farm trials is rapidly spreading throughout Senegal, faster than the seven-member team can travel. Some villages have begun adapting and implementing technologies they have heard of even before the team has been in contact with them. Composting is one example. Several villages have been spreading uncomposted waste on their fields. This indicates that although they do not yet fully understand the concept, these villages are motivated and ready to learn.

The Senegal team is gaining the confidence of participating farmers, and the number of participants is steadily growing. A project that began with two villages three years ago has grown to include 14 villages with over 8,000 residents. Many more villages have expressed interest in working with Rodale. In 1991, 453 farmers and extension agents participated in on-farm research and training activities.

Operating Strategy The extension strategy of the SRARC team is guided by one theme, the participatory approach. This strategy is based on the understanding that the farmers involvement as the primary developer and evaluator of on- farm research trials is critical to success and continuity.

As an informed participant in the research process, it is the farmer who ultimately determines which technologies will be adopted or rejected. But the farmerUs involvement does not end there. Once convinced of the value of a particular technology, the farmer becomes the teacher. SRARC works with motivated farmers helping them to pass on their newly acquired skills. Training of trainers is an integral part of the extension program.

Workshops and Training Through village-based workshops, the SRARC staff demonstrate various techniques. An introductory meeting precedes the workshops, the workshops are presented, often in a series and a farmer evaluation completes the process.

When it comes to teaching farmers new technologies, the person with the greatest chance of success is another farmer. Subsistence farmers have everything to loose if a new technique fails, and they are wise to be cautious.

SRARC relies on farmers who understand the trials and have benefitted from their results to act as extensionists. The multiplication of SRARC techniques depends on this farmer-to-farmer connection as a method of transferal.

Networking Published bimonthly by the Senegal RARC, Entre Nous is a newsletter about regenerative, low-input agriculture in West Africa. The newsletter is entirely produced in Thi s by the SRARC communications staff, and distributed to approximately 400 readers. Each issue focuses on a specific topic, such as compost, legumes, livestock or agroforestry.

Training materials As demand for Rodale involvement grows, appropriate training materials have become an important tool of the communications program. Extension materials such as posters, brochures and slide sets will allow the team to reach a larger audience without diverting efforts from existing projects.

Technical Focus To serve as a technical focal point for program development, Rodale Institute has adapted a conceptual model of soil regeneration (shown on page 4). After years of inappropriate agricultural practices, including tillage techniques, monocropping and misuse of chemical inputs, compounded by the adverse effects of erosion, soils throughout the Peanut Basin are severely depleted. This deficiency reduces the soils capacity to retain nutrients and moisture. As a result, farm productivity has been steadily declining over much of the region.

To further aggravate the problem, the few soil nutrients that do exist are often tied up by high soil acidity or diverted by competing weeds. Crop residues are not returned to the soil but are removed from the fields or burned. Unreplenished, soil organic matter (SOM) continually declines and water-holding capacity is reduced. The soil ecosystem grows weaker and does not have the nutrient or moisture reserves to support crops in times of drought. As a result, crop yields increasingly become a function of rainfall.

To counteract soil degradation, the rehabilitation model emphasizes rebuilding SOM reserves. This means recycling crop residues back into the soil profile and decreasing surface runoff and erosion. A selection of practices are being tested in on-farm trials; some are new, others are adaptations of traditional practices.

Soil and water conservation structures, both mechanical and vegetative, minimize wind and water erosion. The integration of livestock accelerates nutrient cycling and accumulation, completing the natural process. Under these conditions, the soil ecosystem grows healthier and more active. Productivity is increased and crop yields are stabilized. This is the regeneration process, and healthy soil is the best defense that a farmer can have when faced with drought, insect pests and other adversities.

Primary activities promoted by the Senegal team fall under three categories: soil conservation, soil fertility improvement and resource management, networking.

Soil Conservation The residents of Tatene Toucouleur and Tatene Serer had abandoned the denuded and unproductive fields located between their villages. The topsoil had been lost to wind and water erosion, and crops would not grow on the skeletal soil that remained. Three years ago, under the guidance of the Rodale team, the villagers built stone barriers along contour lines in the fields. Farmers were trained to use the RAS frame to determine the contour lines. Later they planted leguminous trees and grasses along the lines creating a living barrier.

Today they are again able to grow crops, and graze their animals in those fields after harvest. Soil and plant matter has accumulated adjacent to the stone barriers to the extent that the level of the soil is visibly higher than before. The barriers prevent soil and organic debris from being carried away by water runoff, and have allowed the soil structure to be rebuilt. Plant species once absent from the site are beginning to reappear.

Soil Fertility Enhancement

Compost Senegalese farmers are in the habit of either removing crop residues from the field or burning them. However, crop residues composted with animal manure increase SOM and serve as an excellent organic fertilizer- providing more lasting benefits than costly chemical fertilizers. The SRARC team has been conducting on-farm composting trials in the villages of MUBoufta and NUDiamsil since 1989. The lack of available compostable materials, and in some areas lack of water are potential constraints to composting in Senegal, but the SRARC team is having success with a rainy-season, pit method that does not require watering. Trials in NUDiamsil and MUBoufta are being conducted on millet and peanut crops with compost made from animal manure, millet stalks and grasses.

Trials with both compost and manure utilization are underway. Preliminary results showed that treatments receiving manure or compost had greater yields than untreated plots. Farmers have noted that composted plots appeared healthier than uncomposted plots. Compost has more nutritive elements than manure, and reduces the actual amount of manure needed for soil regeneration and a substantial yield increase.

Rock phosphate Rock phosphate is a valuable soil amendment, particularly for acid soils. It is readily available and relatively inexpensive in Senegal, and with proper application, could greatly benefit farmers. As a compost amendment, rock phosphate has been shown to increase available P for plant uptake to levels comparable to superphosphate. But unlike superphosphate, rock phosphate also contains calcium, zinc and magnesium. The microbial action of compost speeds up the release of phosphate ions- which can then be used by the plant.

Rock phosphate is being tested by SRARC as part of manure management trials. The study, conducted in collaboration with ISRA at NUDiamsil, was to evaluate the effect of natural rock phosphate amendments to animal manure on crop yields and soil conditions. Seven farmers participated in this study and each of them applied the same four treatments to millet and peanuts. Preliminary results showed a significant yield increase for both crops when rock phosphate was added to the manure. On-going trials should reveal how to obtain maximum nutrient use efficiency when using rock phosphate with compost and manure.

Cattle Fattening and Manure Management Stall feeding cattle is a logical component in better management of on- farm resources. SRARC is working with groups of farmers in the Thies region using cattle fattening as a strategy to relieve feeding pressure on grazing areas.

As part of the cattle fattening program a feed garden has been established in Tatene Toucouleur. The feed garden is in the family compound and consists of alternating rows of grasses (Panicum and Andropogon) and leguminous trees (Gliricidia and Leucaena.) The feed garden not only provides a food source for animals, but also exploits household waste water and enriches the soil with leaf litter. Hay making, also being done in Tatene Toucouleur, provides an additional feed source for cattle.

Several womenUs groups have expressed interest in becoming involved with the animal manure program using small ruminants. The SRARC team is working on developing this idea.

Intercropping SRARC is working with farmers and ISRA in three villages (Baback, Sessene, and MUBomboye) to adapt traditional cowpea/millet intercropping technologies to the changing conditions of the region. In the past, successive crops of millet and cowpeas could both be planted in the same rainy season. But this is no longer possible as the rainy season has become too short. Growing cowpeas and millet in combination accommodates the short rainy season and is a more efficient use of land.

The trials include millet and cowpea planted in pure stands and in combination. Trials examine different varieties, spatial arrangements and planting dates. Farmers are interested in intercropping as a way of both reducing risk of crop failure and maximizing yields. Cowpea also provides a source of forage.

Gardening Vegetable gardening fits into the SRARC regenerative model as an efficient way to use available resources. Gardening improves the nutritional intake of the rural community, and provides a potential revenue source. SRARC works principally with women on this project. On- farm trials are being conducted with womenUs gardening groups in the villages of Sinthiane, Tatene Toucouleur, and MUbomboye, in collaboration with ISRA. The trials focus on the use of soil amendments, and exploring out-of-season production. This program also builds on existing composting activities. The women are an invaluable force in directing these trials.

Another component of the gardening program are natural plant protection trials being conducted at the SODEVA/Pout research site. These trials are using plant extracts for pest control. Extracts of neem, tomato stems and chili peppers applied to okra and cauliflower are showing a positive effect in controlling caterpillars.

Conclusion Simply put, every management step is focused primarily on improving the soil ecosystem in favor of moisture and nutrient retention and availability. This regenerative strategy represents a major shift in emphasis from a short-term, production-oriented strategy to a long- term, rehabilitative strategy in which farmers invest in the soil resource as a first priority, and subsequently receive the long-term benefit of increased crop yields and sustained production.


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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