Agriculture Archives

UYAG Development Center - Agroforestry Project

UYAG Development Center (UDC) is an integrated and sustainable agroforestry project in Barrio Cebuano, province of South Cotobato on the island of Mindano in the Philippines. The purpose of the project is to use the facility and surrounding area as a demonstration farm and teaching center for agriculture students from Mindanao State University in General Santos and for local farmers cultivating similar land areas. The group emphasizes an agroforestry technique that incorporates Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT) to stabilize the steep and easily erodible hillsides so they can eventually be farmed safely and productively.

I had the opportunity to spend two days with the project leader, Mr. Craig Gustafson, and with the center director, Mr. Joseph Nerredo and lead technician, Mr. Daniel Gorzen. They openly shared what they knew about UDC while I learned about the installation, their strategy and mission, and discussed the operations. I also reviewed the infrastructure and water supply, and walked the highlands seeing SALT in practice and the affects of slash and burn agriculture on the quality of crop yields and on the soil erosion it caused. I then advised them on the agronomic aspects of the project and worked with them to improve the productivity of their vermiculture and horticulture operations.

Phase one of the project incorporated SALT techniques planting hedgerows of four legume tree species along contours of the steep slopes at intervals of one meter drop in elevation. UDC staff hadn’t measured the actual slopes but they are estimated at up to 30% to 40% on most locations and higher in some locations. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Capability Classes of upland landscapes would classify them as VIIIe, having severe limitations of slope and susceptible to severe erosion. They can only be considered for use mainly as pasture or range, woodland, or wildlife food cover. SALT allows the above but with the stable soils; cereals and vegetables are also planted without severe consequences. The legume varieties planted for the hedgerows consist of species of Calliandra, Flemingia, Desmodium and Indigofera.

Within a short period of time, mini terraces form behind the hedgerows from soil washing down within the contours and catching behind the base of the bushes in the branches and stems placed to act as an erosion barrier. The mini terraces later become the platform for the planting of various crops to be grown sustainably for food, fodder or fuel.

Branches of the maturely growing legumes are high in protein and provide feed daily to a herd of Nubian goats. Because the steep slopes make it very difficult to transport the cut branches to the goat pens located on the more gentle downhill slopes, the workers use a zip line to move the feed from the highest points of the property to the goat complex below. The goats are caged in very high quality, covered bamboo structures with slatted floors where the manure and urine pass through the floors to the ground below. The goat manure and urine are collected and layered with banana stalks and leaves or with other green vegetation in two to three cubic meter bins and mixed with earthworms to make vermicompost.

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John Casazza
posted July 6, 2010 12:08 PM

What I Learned From Training Farmers in Tanzania

We read a lot about sustainable agriculture on our multi-acre farms in the USA and the rest of the developed world. What makes them sustainable? The most common farm inputs and farm capital assets tied into sustainability are

But there is nothing more sustainable than a small farmer managing to eke out a living by producing food and a bit of cash for the family on one to two acres in a sub-tropical highland in the mountains of Eastern Tanzania.

Take a look at this picture of a randomly planted tract, straddling a small creek and looking like a dense and healthy backyard garden. It's a bit hard to pick out all the crops, but there are bananas, pineapple, mango, taro, cassava, chick peas, coconut, cloves and oranges. Their produce is either consumed over the year by the farmer and family or sold for cash to local brokers. It's been recently weeded so the fertile, dark red, volcanic soil is readily exposed.

continue reading "What I Learned From Training Farmers in Tanzania" »

John Casazza
posted August 7, 2009 9:18 PM