Food & Nutritional Security Through Sustainable Agriculture
Uryadi’s Village operates in regions where major segments of the population live in utter poverty, lack clean water and sanitation and suffer from poor nutrition. A great majority of the population is involved in agriculture for income and sustenance; yet paradoxically, the majority of the population still lacks access to affordable and diverse agricultural products. The land base is being degraded by outdated agricultural techniques while unique biodiversity is being lost in the critical biodiversity hotspot known as the Somalo-Ethiopian BioProvince. The lack of access to good nutrition, land degradation and loss of biodiversity is directly due to the practice of inefficient and unsustainable agricultural systems. A main goal of Uryadi’s Village is to enact solutions to the problem of malnutrition and environmental degradation, through the use of sustainable, high-yield agricultural systems.
Conventional single crop or mono-culture (single species) type agricultural systems predominate the agricultural landscape but they do not meet the nutritional needs of the region while they degrade the soil and the local water sources. Our project area is part of a unique and diverse bioregion, where a great majority of the flora and much of the fuana is endemic, and which provides habitat for many rare and endangered species. The traditional, row-crop agricultural systems are based on deforestation, plowed soil and monocultures which deplete the soil of nutrients and cause severe erosion to the landscape as seen in the United States in the early twentieth century. These systems are dependent on continually escalating inputs of fertilizer, pesticides and labor but yield diminishing returns and are financially unsustainable for the farmers. Often the fields are left depleted and devoid of nutrients while local water sources have been contaminated and degraded from runoff laden with fertilizers, pesticides and eroded soil. This is not a sustainable agricultural system and the potential food output of the land is not being met for the population. There are alternatives however. These unsustainable and inefficient farming techniques can be replaced with sustainable agricultural systems in order to meet nutritional needs of their population, restore degraded lands and protect against drought.
One of the paramount objectives of Uryadi’s Village is to enable orphanages and their associated communities, to become as self-sufficient as possible, especially with regard to nutrition. To achieve this goal we will establish sustainable agricultural systems such as Agroforestry and Permaculture which mature into diverse “food forests”. This type of agriculture is sustainable over time and even self-sustainable to a large degree because it requires very few outside inputs. Well established Agroforestry and Permaculture systems or “food forests” can produce up to 70% more food and products per acre / hectar than conventional monoculture agriculture, all while improving the soils and storing water which can be accessed by plants in the dry seasons. When mature, these food forest will likely grow an excess of produce which can be provided to the community at affordable prices and thus also provide a source of income for the orphanage. These sustainable agricultural systems are a big part of the solution to both malnutrition and economic dependency.
Our plan is to surround the orphanage facilities with a food forest, so that the grounds are a virtual Garden of Eden. Trees shade the homes, community center, and play areas, while slowing evaporation of precious water. Paths lead you to your destination to and from each building and guide you through a lush landscape laden with food, fiber and the other commodities of life. Children, staff and community workers will learn a far superior form of agriculture which is sustainable and can be spread by these now, knowledgeable community members. We envision an orphanage that is not a drain on the extended community but rather an integral part of the community, providing valuable resources including food, medicinal plants, skills and knowledge.
Sustainable Agricultural systems in detail as utilized by Uryadi’s Village:
As defined by Congress, sustainable agriculture is: an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:
Satisfy human food and fiber needs;
Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
Traditional western style agriculture does not fit this definition but Agroforestry and Permaculture certainly do meet this definition and even exceed it. The basic principle of Agroforestry and Permaculture is to mimic the indigenous ecosystem on a site specific basis. The natural climax ecosystems which are allowed to mature to a point of stability, reach an equilibrium naturally which maximizes productivity in a sustainable manner. The basic premise of Agroforestry is to mimic this ecosystem in structure and diversity with food or commodity bearing trees and plants that provide food, fiber, medicine and other useful plants. The sustainable agricultural systems which fall under the heading of Permaculture are more accurately described as poly-cultures consisting of many different natural resources mixed and layered together. In Permaculture, we add into the food forest setting multiple and stacked uses, such as fish ponds, various livestock animals such as goats, rabbits, chickens and other types of fowl, even possibly mushroom farming. The possibilities are endless but the principles are the same. Create a balanced ecosystem among very diverse plant, animal and natural resources which will yield the maximum output of food and products for consumption, sale and barter.
Increased production is not the only benefit of utilizing Agroforestry and Permaculture systems. This region is extremely suseptible to droughts. In fact, seasonal drought is a regular feature of this tropical region while more long term droughts occur in a cyclical manner. The agricultural systems we will use are designed to very efficiently utilize water, to slow down the water runoff and sink it into storage features built into the gardens. In this manner, during times of heavier rain, we will use swales, cisterns, ponds and other natural features in the landscape to direct the excess runoff while storing the water where we need it most, in our garden. In this way, the water is stored and available through the dry season and drought periods where it can be accessed by the plants and will actually tend to flow back up, as the pressure gradient decrease in the top soil layer, due to drying. In addition, unlike traditional row crop farming, biomass accumulates on the top of the soil which not only adds valuable nutrients over time, making the soil more and more fertile but this accumulated layer of biomass also serves as an insulator mitigating evaporation. When farming bare soils, the sun will bake the top layers which depletes nutrients and lends to a more hydro-phobic tendency of the top soil to promote errosion, soil degredation and flooding. When this occurs, the water glides across the landscape creating much chaos as it flows down stream. This is a major concern with standard agricultural practices and greatly contributes to the diminishing returns that it provides even to farmers in the United States unless they are using modernized techniques. Additionally, excess irrigation can and often does compound to soil infertility and hydrophobic conditioning when excess water saturates down to deeper soil depths where saline accumulations tend to be. As the excess water dissolves these salts, the resulting brine solution will become more boyant than the fresh water being added each day and “floats” the salt upwards. This becomes problematic for farmers when the flow transports this salt up into the root zone of the plants being grown.
The impacts of land mismanagement, over grazing and poor agricultural practices have far reaching effects on both those who live in the region but also for the larger environment and the world. Ethiopia comprises a major part of the greater Somalo-Ethiopian BioProvince which has been designated as a BioReserve Hotspot. As much as 80% of plant and animal species are endemic and only occur there. The Ethiopian portion of this critical BioProvince is even more unique with a huge percentage of the flora being indigenous to this area alone, such as the coffee plant. There are many bird species and other fauna which only occur in this region of Ethiopia and it provides critical habitat to untold diversity of flora and fuana. This biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate due to unsustainable agricultural practices, including logging and poor grazing practices. As the population increases over time and the amount of agricultural land base which becomes unproductive increases, the people then have to move their agriculture, hunting and grazing further and further out from the populated areas into the Montane and alpine areas, deforesting the land as they go and putting incerdible pressures of the viability of natural systems. More and more critical habitats and needed forest resources are lost in this manner, leading to a vicious cycle which essentially turn a vibrant biodiverse tropical forest into a desert. It is only through education and example that we can change the way agriculture is done in these fragile areas. Uryadi’s Village is committed to establishing sustainable agricultural systems at the orphanages and communities we are working with and to educate and train the local populations in these high yield agricultural systems. Through the use of these systems, a much more abundant, diverse and nutritional food base can be developed while restoring the fertility and integrity of the land. Teaching these methods will invariably heal more and more land while feeding more people at the same time.
Uryadi's Village is a registered Not-For-Profit Organization in Canada, as well as a project of Empowerment WORKS, a US registered 501c3 charitable organization.
All contributions in support of Uryadi's Village are tax deductible in the US and Canada as allowed by law. US residents please donate in USD and Canadian residents, please donate in CAD to receive your charitable donation receipts.
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You can also send your donations by check directly to: Uryadi's Village, P.O. BOX1086, Sandpoint, ID 83864