FAO: Combining livestock and crop farming triples earnings

Small-scale agribusiness people can triple productivity by adopting modern integrated farming and hi tech practices, a United Nation's food agency official has said.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General José da Silva says Save and Grow methods can help farmers boost world food security.

The Save and Grow, which are new methods the organisation is advocating, Silva says they will help suppress poverty levels while maintaining environmental balance.

“Save and Grow is sustainable agriculture aimed at intensifying production, protecting and enhancing agriculture's natural resource base. It is premised on reducing reliance on chemical inputs by tapping into the earth's natural ecosystem processes to increase farmers' gross income,” he said.

Leaf shedding plants would double up as mulch to crops and non-chemical fertilizer as they rot. This would not only safe on costs of irrigation, but also on fertilizer.

Mixed farming does not only focus on intercropping, but also rearing animals with plants.

The director-general gives China's classic farming example where rice flooded fields are filled with fish.

In such a composition, fish will eat insects, weeds and other micro-organisms that can cause infections to rice.

By so doing, Silva says, the farmer will not incur costs of weeding or applying chemicals against he infectious micro-organisms.

At the same time, the fish will be releasing nutrients like nitrogen in metabolic waste into the water for rice to utilise.

Besides, the fish will tremendously feed on mosquito larvae, therefore, decreasing Malarial infection to humans.

“A one-hectare paddy field can yield up to 750 kilograms of fish while still supporting rice yields. This would lead to fourfold gains in rural household income,” he says.

In addition o the traditional mix of gains with leguminous crops like maize and beans, technology can support farmers to realise high yields.

“Hand-held optical sensors can determine, in real time, how much nitrogen fertilizer a plant needs. Similarly, laser-assisted precision land levelling has led to productivity gains across India.

Laser can reduce water application by as much as 40 per cent when compared to levelling land with traditional wooden boards, the officer said.

For the success of Save and Grow, policy makers should create incentives for farmers to diversify. They can do so by supporting markets for rotational crops while devising security options such as crop insurance, social protection schemes and credit-easing facilities to reduce the risk they may face in making the change, he said.