Saturday, 15 July 2006

A Pilot Project:Initiating Production of Upland Rice in Virgin Inland Swamps of Sierra Leone, Africa.

Eugene Brams, Texas AM/Prairie View AM, 9718 Clanton, Houston, TX 77080

Using early soil surveys which identified inland swamps as possible sites for cash crops, we tested two premises (1) that these ecosystems when cleared could produce upland rice (2) that this pilot project could be introduced via a delivery system designed to bring agricultural technology to small farmers. The site was a 40/ha virgin inland swamp, located 0.05 km from Njala University College. A village was located on the ridge bordering the swamp. The soils of the ridge were cultivated by the village farmers using traditional methods under shifting agriculture.

The college sponsored the project for only 1 calendar year, providing equipment, tractors, cultivators, seed, fertilizer and labor. Local change agents described the project to the village farmers who agreed to join the project providing labor to harvest and dry the rice, contributing 3 Le. per family for expenses which allotted them a share of the developed land and a portion of the rice harvest. In the spring, 22 hectares were cleared of trees, a seed bed prepared and indigenous rice drilled. A 0.5 ha plot in the swamp was designated for yield trials. In the fall, the yield of rice grain from the developed swamp averaged 2500 kg/ha compared to 600 kg/ha produced on the ridge under shifting agriculture.

By involving the farmers within the grass-roots institutions and linking them with national educational entities, we demonstrated that through this pilot project that these ecosystems could be very productive and could help alleviate poverty among the villages and help Sierra Leone become food self-sufficient and recover from the recent political devastation.

There are three elements employed in sequence which make up our Delivery System for the transfer of modern agricultural technology to small-scale farmers in Sierra Leone W Africa. They are as follows:

1.The first element is INPUT which consists of three components: a) Farmers; b) Change agents and/or Institutions; c) Technology.

2. The second element is PROCESSES which has six components: a) Change process; b) Education; c) Institution building; d) Communication; e) Linkages; f) Feedback and modification.

3. The third element is OUTPUT which as four components: a) Production; b) Skills; c) Attitudes; d)Institutional growth;

Each input is acted upon by one or more processes with different degrees of intensity in a coordinated function to achieve the desired output. Mr. Ken Mahoney, Peace Corp Director, was a co-investigator.

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