Sunday, 02 October 2022

In Agriculture

Old Orchard Organic Farm in Zambia

A study by Sebastian Scott for FAO. Since its establishment in 2008, Old Orchard Organic Farm has grown every year in diversity and size. The farm is run by two people, including building, irrigation installation, crop production and marketing.

The total area under production is currently about three hectares of crops and one hectare for free-range pigs.


Production is diversified to reduce the risk and to spread the workload over the year. The farm has developed the following enterprises as profit making ventures: banana production (1 000 plants over 0.7 hectares), vegetables, eggs, broilers, pork, dry-land crops for animal feed production, macadamia nut production (trees not yet bearing nuts), and research on rainfed crop production. The idea to start the farm came from a desire to help to develop rural Zambia and empower people through knowledge in natural resource management. The farm has become a farmer-managed ‘research station’ for small-scale farming


The Chicken Banana System

The banana/chicken production system works to benefit the bananas by eliminating the need for imported nutrients, as the chickens are constantly adding manure to the soil. The chickens’ foraging habit also reduces weeds and insects in the banana plantation (picture below/left). The benefit to the chickens is the canopy made by the bananas which gives the chickens shade and protection from eagles – a predator to free range chickens. The feed consumption of the chickens is also reduced by up to 30 percent in the rainy season when grasses and insects are abundant. 


Pigs Dry Lands Agroforestry

The pigs are on a rotational free-range system; currently there are four paddocks, two of which are dry land fields for rain fed crops and the other two are used in the rainy season. In order to reduce the parasite burden, the aim is to have at least six months rest before the animals return to the paddock. The grass pasture is well wooded to provide shade for the pigs and the crop lands are planted with Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan) and Sesbania sesban, leguminous shrubs (Picture 3), and Faidherbia albida (musangu) a long-lived tree. These are grown in rows in the field. Pigs have access to a mud bath at all times to help control their temperature and as a means of allowing them to control external parasites. 


Livestock Feed

The aim is to grow as much animal feed on the farm as possible, but the balance of feed is currently brought in from local small-scale farmers and from livestock feed merchants. The main ingredients for our poultry are maize, soya cake or farm roasted soybeans, fishmeal, livestock lime, di-calcium phosphate (DCP), iodised salt and vitamin supplements. Currently organic standards restrict the use of nonorganic feed stuffs to 35 percent of animal feed. As about 35 percent soy is used in layer, broiler and pig grower ration, and the farm does not grow enough soy to feed the animals for the whole year, maintaining an organic status for the birds and pigs is difficult; one strategy is to increase the area under rainfed crops.


Irrigated Vegetables

A wide variety (25 or so different types) of vegetables is grown for direct sale through a box scheme, farmers market and wholesale to retailers, in local and Lusaka markets. Trailers have been constructed on the farm for mountain bikes which can carry up to 175 kg on rough roads. The local farmers market is 5 km from the farm and opens twice a week. The box scheme operates by finding interested customers who buy high quality, fresh organic fruit and vegetables and subscribe to an internet/ mobile phone mailing list. Text messages are sent to customers every week with a note on what will be in the box. What goes into the box depends on the season and what is available at the time; the customer has no choice over what goes into their box. The customer can order a small (ZMK40 000) or large (ZMK60 000) vegetable box; they collect their box from a central point on a set day. Growing organic vegetables is easy and if done well, can reduce the cost of production over conventional ‘chemical’ growing.


Broiler Production

Free-range broilers are integrated into the vegetable or maize cropping system. The chickens spend the night in a moveable house that is rotated around the field. The birds gain benefit from the greens and insects on the pasture and they weed, fertilize and control insects, making the field ready for the next crop. Birds are harvested at 10-12 weeks to ensure a good taste and texture to the meat. All the birds are sold through direct sales and are sold by weight. Current price is ZMK14 000 per kg live weight and ZMK24 000 per kg cold dressed weight. The potential profit under good management is ZMK20 000–25 000 per bird.


Low Input Maize Production

Trials for reducing inputs in maize production have been underway on the farm for four years and some low-input/high-output systems have been developed. The basic principle is to use the same field to produce a cash crop (maize) and a nitrogen-fixing crop (legume) that grows well with maize with minimal competition to the maize. Two crops have been identified that show potential to give commercial level yields with reduced or no added nutrients. In general, the green manure uses the end of the cropping cycle and uses residual moisture to grow on into the dry season.


Full text is available in the report titled "Organic Agriculture: African Experiences in Resilience and Sustainability".


Source: FAO


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