Agricultural Development

"if my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2Chronicles 7:14
Agriculture will be one of the most important development tools in Africa for the foreseeable future. In this development sector, the primary focus of Africa Crossroads’ will be the needs of the small farmer, not large scale, production agriculture. A special emphasis will be placed on high-yielding, high-nutrition and low-maintenance plants as part of the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A secondary focus will be to demonstrate to those living in impoverished, urban settings that their diet could be enhanced by a “small farmer” mindset by employing such methods as small container gardening. These efforts will be coordinated through a Small Farm Resource Development Program* (SFRDP).

The overall goal of the SFRDP is to help local agriculture take the next step beyond the already considerable indigenous knowledge. Specific goals include:

Finding new sources of income, food and employment.
Improving the profitability and reliability of present farming operations.
Backing these up with marketing studies and market development activities.
Improving both economic security and nutritional balance by including a greater diversity of crops.
Reducing vulnerability to global economic swings by minimizing the need for imported items in operation of the farm.
Reversal of the ecological problems caused by erosion and deforestation.
Fostering an innovative, problem solving mindset among farmers.

The SFRDP includes a Small Farm Resource Center (SFRC), a location where initial trials and demonstrations are conducted after which it oversees the testing of the most promising results through on farm trials in the community. Any new ideas, techniques, crops or new varieties of a local crop, are first evaluated at the center, on its own land where there is no risk to farmers. Farmer innovators may be brought to the SFRC to get new ideas, but it is not the primary place where innovations will be presented to farmers in the surrounding community.

Ultimately, the purpose of the SFRC is to evaluate in the community ideas that have been proven elsewhere. The most promising ideas are adapted to the local context and become the backbone of the agricultural outreach. This adaptive research, as it is called, is a joint effort of the SFRC and local farmers. When unforeseen problems arise, farmer-devised solutions are possible as trials are done under field conditions and sometimes in different microclimates. In so doing the local farmers are learning to do their own testing of new ideas. Marketing studies may also need to be done.

Thus the SFRC has three distinct functions:

1) The testing and adapting of new ideas which have potential to aid in the development of a community. This is not the kind of research that is done at universities, but rather adaptive experiments to make sure that what has worked elsewhere can be reliably expected to work in a particular community.

2) Using the center and on-farm trials as teaching tools for demonstration and training. This affords the opportunity of showing promising results to both future extension staff and to other interested development groups or farmers.

3) As the name implies, make sure that farmers have access to “resources” (seeds, cuttings, breeds of animals etc.) in sufficient quantity to assure that popular and proven innovations can be widely adopted.

*The information on SFRDPs and SFRCs was taken from “The Small Farm Resource Development Project: An Approach to Beginning or Enhancing an Agricultural Project,” written by Dr. Martin Price, Executive Director of The Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO). This and much more useful information on agricultural development is available at www.echotech.org.

Africa Crossroads Small Farm Resource Center Trials

Trial Crops
Moringa, Kaytuk, Chaya, Lagos Spinach, Pigeon Pea, Seven-year Lima, Pecans, Blueberries and Amaranth.

Trial Production Practices
Ducks, rabbits, small scale fish farming, and beekeeping.

Appropriate Technology
Solar dehydrators, bucket irrigation systems, container gardening, jet-elbow stove design, methane gas production for cooking, fuel briquette production, and bicycle trailers.