The Decline In Biodiversity
The loss of biodiversity in the food and agriculture sector threatens global food security. Furthermore, the decline in bees and pollinators are another major worry. Our reliance on pesticides and agrochemicals threatens our ecosystems and clean sources of groundwater.
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations states that the loss of traditional lifestyles because of population growth, urbanisation, the industrialisation of
agriculture and food processing negatively affect biodiversity and the maintenance of traditional knowledge related to it.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us have tried a hand at gardening. Our article 10 Things to do during COVID-19 Lockdown suggested various foods grown from kitchen scraps. However, let’s look at some options available for community gardens and small-scale farms. What would be possible on a 1-acre plot? One acre is 4046.86m² or 43560ft² this is approximately 16 tennis courts or 60% of a football (soccer) pitch.
Integrated Small Scale Farming
Dr Emma Naluyima is a smallholder farmer, veterinarian and educator. She runs a farm called ‘One Acre Limited’ in Uganda. Dr Naluyima’s farming method merges integrated farming and energy production. Her one-acre plot of land has four distinct areas. One quarter is for the pigs, the next quarter is for cattle. The third quarter is for growing matoke, the staple food in Uganda and the last quarter holds fish, fruit, vegetables and fodder for animals.
An Acre of Land
Dr Naluyima’s pigs eat the fodder grown on the farm, producing urine which is a great source of urea (fertiliser) and manure. Ammonia in the pig urine acts as a pest repellent. They then expose the pig manure to flies. The flies lay their eggs in the manure to produce larvae. The larvae are a prime source of protein, which the fish and chickens on the farm consume. Once the larvae are harvested from the pig manure, they introduce compost worms to the remnants of the manure. The worms cast this pig manure into fertile soil. Additionally, the worms are also fish feed.
On the second quarter of land, the cows produce milk for selling and nutrient-rich manure, which is ideal for the anaerobic digester to produce biogas. Biogas is a clean source of fuel used for cooking on the farm. The slurry from the anaerobic digester is a fantastic fertiliser for the crops grown on the farm.
The third quarter of land holds 100 matoke trees using the slurry from the anaerobic digester and fertiliser sourced from the pigs’ and cows’ urine. Matoke is the staple food of Uganda and Tanzania but also popular in Rwanda and Burundi, this cooking banana is a vital food source in this region.
Modern Technology Gives A Helping Hand
On the last quarter of this acre of land, on a plot of 8m by 15m, sits 10 tanks, with 1000 fish in each tank they grow tilapia and catfish. Using the fly larvae and earthworms reduces the cost of feeding the fish. This high protein feed gets the fish ready for sale in 4, instead of 6 months. Water from the fish tanks is used to water the matoke field and other crops during the dry season.
In a makeshift greenhouse, Dr Naluyima grows vegetables such as beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage and passion fruit. They also grow high-value crops like strawberries in the greenhouse. Additionally, an aquaponics station is kept in this quarter. The murky, nutrient-rich water from the fish tanks is used to feed the crops. The nitrates from the water are extracted by the plants, which return clean oxygenated water to the fish tanks. Grain and legume seeds take 6 days to grow via hydroponic methods, producing highly nutritious animal fodder.
Education, research and sharing knowledge is a key part of the work carried out by Dr Naluyima. One Acre Limited has also created a primary school to provide 200 children with lifetime skills primarily in agriculture. The three key things they teach these children are the value of money, time management, and the culture of saving.
Small or Large Scale Just Start.
Dr Naluyima’s integrated farming method shows that an acre of land can produce year-round fresh fodder for the animals to eat. The animal waste is fertiliser for the crops or feedstock for the anaerobic digester producing biogas. The crops produced are organic. Similarly, she combines new technology such as hydroponics and aquaponics with traditional farming methods. Overall, Dr Naluyima’s method improves the biodiversity of the land, preserves pollinators and conserves traditional methods of farming while incorporating clean energy production and new techniques. She shows us that small scale farming is doable and profitable.
Dr Naluyima’s farming method creates approximately $60,000 per year. Please note this figure is an estimate and does not include the sale of cattle and pigs for meat or other farming expenses.
At Viable AlternativEnergy we encourage the use of allotments, small-scale farms and community gardens, even if it is just to grow flowers and plants that help pollinators and bees thrive.
Please watch the video below, where Dr Naluyim talks about her one acre of land.
For examples of large scale integrated farming and energy production, we recommend the Songhai Centre in Port Novo, the Republic of Benin. The Songhai centres across West Africa follow a clear circular economy model. They are fantastic examples of zero waste, large-scale agricultural management.