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Inventory of Peasant Innovations for Sustainable Development an annotated bibliography

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Participation by Farmers, Researchers and Extension Workers in Soil Conservation

(Gatekeeper Series No.SA16, on Sustainable Agriculture Programme, 1986, pp.1-19)
Soil Erosion/Sub-Humid Region (p.11)
Farmers in Claveria, Philippines have made following statements regarding soil erosion and nutrients:

  1. Banana and coconut are good because they hold the soil.

  1. Contour ploughing reduces downslope erosion losses.

  1. Weedy strips can decrease erosion effects.

  1. Trees planted above and below fields can decrease erosion effects

  1. Banana planted above and below fields can decrease erosion effects

Randhawa, M.S.

A History of Agriculture in India

1983, Published by Indian Council of Agriculture Research, New Delhi, Vol.III, Chap.34, pp.302-317
Soil Aeration/Region Unspecified (p.307)
Indian cultivators planted deep rooting plants which served as natural soil aerators. It was well known practice to grow a crop requiring especially good aeration which could break up the sowed airless packed soil under rough grassland (‘Perti’) growing before tobacco and sweet potato was one such crops. It managed to thrive in condition which would choke other crops and whose swelling roots acting “like a mild explosive” shattered the soil for the next crop.
M.S. Randhawa, 1983, 307, op cit
Soil Aeration/Semi-Arid Region
In alluvial soil of the Indo-Gangetic plain, a crust forms on the top of the soil after rain. The formation of such a crust interferes with the aeration of the roots. This stops the growth. This is followed by gradual wilting of the crop and the plant often die without setting seeds. The moment the ‘papri’ (crest) is broken and the gaseous interchange is renewed, there is an instanteous effect. The leaves turn dark green and the arrested growth recommences. It was a common practice among the farmers in Northern region to break the crust by hoeing or ploughing.
Paul Richards, 1986, 13, op cit
Land Use Modification / Semi-Arid Region
A land-use system in the seep zone (which extends from the bottom of the lower footslopes to the margin of the rear area) has been evolved by the local Africans themselves. It is on this pale, brownish-grey and reddish-brown colluvium that they establish their rice nurseries, cassava and sweet potato bed and occasional small banana groves.
Eva Wollenberg K.

Land Use Decision Making in Uplands : A Case Study of Lake Balinsasayao, Philippines. (Presented at the Symposium on Agri-Ecosystem Research Bagino City Philippines, ed by Sajise and Rambo), September 1985, Chap.11, p.147-169.
Land Use Modification / Humid Region (p.165)
Farmers at Lake Balinsasayao use both bad and good lands to make it productive. Poorly drained swamp areas are planted with ‘Taroor kang kang’ (Ipomoea aguatica). Rocky areas are considered ideal for chayote, because there the vegetable will not rest to the moist soil and rot. Even lands limited to low intensity uses such as sweet potato field have an important function in the farming system.
Abedin, Z and Haque, F

Learning from Farmer’s Innovation: Experience from Bangladesh (Paper presented at the IDS Workshop, Sussex on July 26-31, 1987)

FSR-A5-1987, pp.1-21
Land Reclamation-Saline/Humid Region (p.2)

In saline areas, using stubble mulches and raised beds farmers have been able to grow tomatoes, cabbage and other winter vegetables.

A.Y. Balasubramanian, 1986, 66, op cit
Land Reclamation / Saline / Humid Region
Apply Perandaicissusquandragularis and ‘margosa’ (eliaazadirahta) leaves to remove salinity from the soil. (In eastern Uttar Pradesh, farmers reclaim alkaline soil by applying large quantity of farmyard manure and water. Pyrite application is also used for the purpose. D.M. Maurya, Pers. comm.., NDUAT, Faizabad, U.P. India, 1988).
Emilio Moran F, 1977; 267-268, op cit
Land Reclamation / Humid Region
In Sweden cultivation an area of land is cleared by cutting the standing vegetation and then burning it after it has had time to dry. Burning brings about numerous changes in the physical properties of soil. It kills parasites insects, etc. The effect of burning on soil’s physical properties is highly dependent on the soil themselves. In soils high in oxides, such as oxisols the structural changes are actually beneficial. In areas with shrinking clay the effect may be detrimental.
Sam Fjuisaka, 1986; 11, op cit
Crops, Weeds and Soil Nutrients / Sub-Humid Region
Farmers have made various statements regarding soil nutrients in Claveria, Philippines. Some of them are enumerated below:

    1. Cassava adds to soil acidity and gobbles up soil nutrients.

    1. Rice is more tolerant of acidic soils than is maize.

    1. Rice is more vigorous on an area previously planted with tomato.

    1. The effect of decomposed rice straw is like that of lime.

    1. Rice was harmed by cogon (Imperatacylindrica) roots.

    1. The soil is poor and acidity increase where cogon dominates.

    1. Digitaria longiflora and cogon consume nutrients and destroy soil quality.

    1. Fertility is added and the soil is made cool (re Calapogoniumspp).

    1. Soil is good where there are weed/grasses with nodules.

Jhunjunwala, A and Deshingkar, P.

(Proceedings of Convention on Organic Farming Method held at Wardha in March, 1984)

Eco-Env-J2-1984, pp.1-9
Land Modification/Region Unspecified (p.2)
In Auroville, Pondicherry, South India, new crops are planted before removing the old. Aurovilleans. The mulch trees with leguminous crops and use certain legumes which can survive six months in the dry land so that some biological activity always continues in the soil instead of leaving it dry in a desert like condition. This practice is also called no tillage rice farming and Indonesian technique of reclaiming waste land with different types of cove crops.
Floquet Anne F

Maintenance of Soil Fertility in Smallholder Cropping System sin Atlantic Province, Benin

Land Modification / Semi-Arid Region (pp.15-18)

  1. In the Atlantic province of Benin the development of deeper tillage technique is practiced particularly in sandy soils. These are used for growing for maize since ridging permits better incorporation of organic matter. Plant residues are laid in the furrows.

  1. Sweet potato is grown in the south west of the province where there is demand for the root crop. They are planted when hardly anything else can grow (after 7 years of cropping).

  1. During the cropping phase various fallow shrubs are selectively cut back and retained while the others are removed. It leads to selective fallow vegetation which farmers regard as more productive for a shorter fallow period.

  1. With the so called palm fallow system the spontaneous spread of seedlings have been developed into a systematic type of land use. The small palms are planted and protected during the early ¾ years of cropping. Some are also transplanted in order to create a uniformly dense stand. After the cropping period mixed palm/bush fallow vegetation develops.

Anil Gupta, 1988b: 13, op cit
Soil Temperature/Semi-Arid Region
In some villages of Kosali, District Mahendragarh, Western Haryana, India, the soil temperature is very important for planting crops like gram. Methods of taking soil temperature are numerous. In some cases it is noted temperature by feeling through walking barefoot or by smelling the odour emanating from earth where water falls while drinking at noon time, the extent of dust thrown up in the air when animal herds returns to the village at sunset is used as an indicator of the sowing time. Sighting of birds locally called ‘Kunj’ also is used as an indicator of sowing time.
Kurin Richard

Indigenous Agronomics and Agriculture Development in the Indus Basin

(Human Organisations, 42(4)-287)

FSR-K1-1983, pp.283-294
Soil Temperature/Semi-Arid Region (p.287)
Lighter soils are generally thought to be rightly by the farmers as drier than heavier soils. More seasonally variable heavy soil are said to be more fertile and possess moderate wetness.
In cold season production, Chakpuri, Pakistan farmers, notes several principle for combining inputs if balanced crop growth and soil fertility has to be preserved:

    1. As soil texture becomes lighter and therefore cooler a hotter fertiliser input is called for.

    1. As soil texture becomes lighter it becomes drier, additional water input is required.

    1. As fertiliser input becomes hotter and drier increases in water input are needed.

    1. More tube well water than canal water is needed if soil and crop are to be cooled and wetter adequately.


Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century: Some Contemporary European Account (First Edition), July 1971, Reprint 1983, Academy of Gandhian Studies, Hyderabad, Chap.12, p.229-256.
Soil Temperature/Region Unspecified (p.247)
“The native, however, known from experience that the soil at the surface, and which has been well heated by exposure to the sun, is that which yields he best returns. It is not uncommon to see them before the hot season plough their more valuable lands the roughly, so as to expose as much the soil to the reviving influence of the sun. It is a fact too, that in most soils in Northern Guzerat, the lands are more productive, when kept continually form year to year under cultivation, than when allowed to lie fallow; soils, however, improve by a year or two’s respite, which they always receive. This is not uncommon in Surat, and even in Broach district, and in some parts of the Deccan. (Farmers in different parts of western and eastern India practice summer or fallow ploughing even today for letting soil borne pathogens as well as to improve the aeration, weed control and better incorporation of rains in the ensuing season. Ed.).
Robert Chambers, 1983: 88, op cit
Soil fertility/Region Unspecified

  1. Some farmers in Nigeria use colour to identify the degree of soil fertility. (Similarly, in Bangladesh, farmers use classification like ‘Chaya’ or ‘Lal’ mati (soil) in Barind region. In India too, people classify soil as peeli, kali, lal (yellow, black, red, etc. ed.)

  1. In one case in Malaysia soils are categorised as sweet, neutral and sour which correlates significantly with PH levels.

  1. The Hanunoo are reported to have ten basic and thirty derivative soil and mineral categories; four different terms for describing the firmness of the soil, nine colour categories to reflect the properties and five different topographical types and three different ways of categorising slopes.

  1. Soil colour is used by Somalis in Northern Kenya to distinguish soil vegetation distinction there, as in other parts of Africa between red or dark brown and black soil.

  1. In Bangladesh (and Eastern India ed.) indigenous land classification is based on the depth of flooding and associated differences in cultivation practices. Six different depths are distinguished.

Milton Flores

Velvetbeans: An Alternative to Improve Small Farmers’ Agriculture

ILEIA, July, 1989, 5(2)-8-9
Soil Fertility/Humid Region (p.8)
The velvetbean (Mucuna pruiens) – maize association is being practiced by hundreds of farmers living in small villages of Atlantida and Colon at the Northern Coast of Honduras, in Central America.
There are two cropping seasons in the region: the first one is planted in January and harvested in June or July. The second is planted in July and harvested in December. Most farmers grow only one crop of corn during the year, and it is planted during first cropping season.
Farmers using velvetbean for the first time, plant the legume 1-2 months after planting corn, at the beginning of January. Later on, when corn is harvested, its stalks are bent over and left on the fields. Velvetbean starts covering these stalks and soon the legume will take over the whole corn field. By December, the large amounts of velvetbean foliage (varying from 50-70 mt/ha) begin to dry out until it finally ends on top of the ground providing a cover that can be up to 20 cm thick. This means that the next corn crop is planted directly through the mulch. The mulch suppresses weeds and allows adequate establishment of the corn. During the second year, velvetbean seeds will sprout from last years remnants and the cycle continues with the planting of a new corn.
Reynolds Len

Legume Trees fro Integrated Crop/Livestock Farming in Southern Nigeria

ILEIA, July 1989, 5(2)-14-15
Soil Fertility/Humid Region (p.14)
In Southern Nigeria, under the traditional cropping practices soil fertility slowly declines, so that after a few years the land is left fallow. During the fallow period natural vegetation regenerates and, through decomposition of the leaf litter, organic matter and nutrient content of the soil slowly improves. Fallow periods of 3-4 times the length of the cropping period are needed to restore soil fertility.
Grasses, bushes and trees on the fallow land are used by farmers as a source of animal feed.
Valentin Paul

Mang Jose’s Organic Rice Farm

ILEIA, July, 1989, 5(2) – 18-19
Soil Fertility/Humid Region (p.18)
Mr. Jose adapted the ‘Fukuoka’ method of organic farming to Philippine conditions. Because rice cultivation is permanent and not limited to one season, as is the case in Japan, therefore composting of the rice-straw cannot be done on the spot. Instead, it is brought to an area near the farmhouse, where it is left to decompose. ‘Cantonese’ chicken roam around freely and help in the decomposition process, adding manure and scratching the top layer of the compost. Cattle is also kept near the rice-straw, so while eating a part of it, they also produce manure that is added to the compost. (In India too, some experiments along this line have started at Rasulia, Madhya Pradesh, Narayan Reddy’s farm in Bangalore, Aurobindo Ashram at Auroville, Pondicherry, etc.)
G.P. Majumdar, 1927: 212-213, op cit
Crop-soil Relations/Region Unspecified
The maxims of ‘Khana’ abound in Wet Bengal having bearing on crop-soil relationships. Even though soil here is quite fertile making cultivation of several crops possible, these observations still have a place in evolution of cropping system.

  1. If you grow Patol (Trichosanthes dioica) in the sandy alluvial soil the crop will be good.

  1. The sandy soil is fit for the cultivation of Aus paddy and clayey soil for jute.

  1. If you grow Arum on the bank of a river it will grow to the height of three cubits, i.e., it will flourish well.

Dharampal, 1983: 254, op cit
Soil Fertility/Coastal Region
“In Malabar the soil is classified in three categories on the basis of productivity. They form their judgement of its quality by the following experiments and processes.
The first sort is called Pasheemah Koor. This is the highest quality of soil, and consists of rich clay. In order to discover its relative properties, they dig a pit about a yard deep, and as much wide. If the soil is of the kind in question, the hole will not receive, the earth that was dug out of it, when returned back, by a considerable quantity. The natives assure us that the hole cannot be made to contain the whole of the earth even by pressure, as by stamping with the foot, and beating it down with a spade, or a piece of wood. This earth is very adhesive and unctuous. When handled it sticks when handled to the fingers like grease; hence, its name, Pashee signifies paste or grease, and Koor, kind relatively considered.”
The second is called Rashee Pasheemah Koor; g round of an equal or middling sort. To determine its quality, they dig a hole as before; but on returning the earth into the hole it will be exactly filled, and appear level with the rest of the field. This earth will also stick to the fingers, but not so adhesively as the first. It has therefore the epithet Rashee, which implies a mixture of earth and sand, which are united with the rich clay of the former soil.
The third kind of soil is simply called Rashee Koor, a name descriptive of its poverty. This is very poor light land. The earth in this experiment, when returned into the hole, will to fill the pit. This soil consists merely of loose sand.
Paul Richards, 1986: 38-41, op cit
Soil Fertility/Semi-Arid Region
Soils of the river terrace zone (in central Sierra Leone) are salty, gravel-free, occasionally waterlogged at the height of the rains, and in some cases of higher fertility than soils developed over crystalline rocks to the east of the village. The mende (tribe) term for silty soils of the type predominating in the river terrace zone is ‘Tamu’ (literally ‘dusty’). A drier, less permeable type of tumu found where soil-eating termites have been especially active is sometimes distinguished and termed ‘koko.’ There are some small areas of clay soils in the river terrace zone. Farmers distinguish clay soil (bobo) from tumu because the former becomes hard rather than powdery when dry.
Mogbuama (tribe) cultivators draw a sharp distinction between soils in the river-terrace zone and in the zone of crystalline rocks, and see this distinction as having far-reaching consequences for rice planting strategies and other farm management decisions.
Mogbuama farmers are conscious that the harvest is very dependent on the extent to which a cleared farm burns well. Farms in the granite zone are generally fallowed for longer periods than farms in the river-terrace zone and the greater bulk of vegetation increases the ash available from a good burn. Conversely, farms in the river-terrace zone caught by early rainfall sometimes hardly burn at all, and sometimes do very badly as a result. All Mogbuama farmers would agree that swamp and bati soils are especially fertile.
Paul Richards, 1986: 79-85, op cit
Soil Fertility / Semi-Arid Region

  1. A good burn is crucial to the success of the upland rice farm. The ash, rich in phosphates, fertilises the soil, a fact farmers acknowledge when they choose to try out new or unfamiliar rice varieties in those parts of the farm where they have made bonfires of unburnt sticks and branches. Phosphates are frequently the limiting soil nutrient factor in forest zone agriculture in West Africa.

  1. The weeks between the end of March and mid-April are a time of hot tedious work as farmers gather up (nglangla) and make bonfires of unburnt material, and generally arrange the farm so that those hoeing the rice are able to work relatively unimpeded.

Sanghi, N.K.

Participation of Farmers as Co-research Workers: Some Case Studies in Dryland Agriculture

(Paper presented at IDS workshop, Sussex on July 26-31, 1987)

FSR-S6-1987, pp.1-29
Air Erosion/Arid Region (p.13)
Farmers in Telegana (Andhra Pradesh) use a modified grading bunding system to suit their purpose of small holding and air control.
In this region, a common practice is to leave the plough furrow open after sowing operations in castor and also make new furrows during interculture operations. Same practice was adopted in Sorghum for moisture conservation.
Paul Richards, 1985: 22, op cit
Air Erosion/Sub-Humid Region
West African farmers are aware of the crucial importance of soil physical characteristics. They provide evidence that practices designed to create or conserve appropriate physical condition for plant growth under intense rainfall, e.g., heaping, ridging, mulching minimum tillage and managing vegetation cover help minimize erosion. The practices such as composting and green manuring designed to improve fertility by organic means are generally of greater significance in terms of labour inputs.
Anil Gupta, 1988a: 83D, op cit
Air Erosion/Region Unspecified

  1. Farmers cultivate even slopes of 5-10% leaving (allowing grass to grow) across the slope to prevent erosion.

  1. Conservation of drain system as a substitute to bunding system in the kharif black soil in Telengana to avoid clash of field boundaries.

Rhoades Robert E

Thinking like a Mountain

ILEIA, March 1988, 4(1)-3-4
Water Erosion/Humid Region (p.4)
Andean farmers use vertical furrows because, they like to have sufficient drainage; water stagnation will cause potatoes to rot. Secondly, poorly drained furrows could build up pressure causing land slides. Most of the farmers use vertical furrows where the erosion is not a serious threat. (Similar practice is observed in Bhutan and other mountaineous regions. See Gupta 1985: ed.).
Na-lampang Pongchan

A study on Farmer Adjustment to Flood Stress Conditions (paper presented at Symposium Agroecosystem Research, March 1985, Edited by Sajise and Rambo, op cit, 1985, Chap.7, pp.105-114).
Water Erosion/Semi-Arid Region (pp.105-111)

  1. Farmers of Bantika, a rainfed village, south of Sisaket, Thailand, have evolved many ways to cope with the flood problem. First higher than normal dikes are built around the paddy fields especially those along the banks of stream and swamp. The dikes can effectively protect the rice crop from the anticipated flooding which usually occurs one or two times a year at the beginning of rainy season.

  1. The second measure adopted by farmers to cope with flood problem is selection of suitable rice varieties to be grown on different types of paddy fields. ‘Floating’ non-glutinous varieties are grown on the lowest paddy field along the banks of t he Huery Samran stream and the Hong Samrong swamp because of high flood resistance. Long-grain non-glutinous varieties are grown on the lower paddies and the least flood resistant varieties, short-grain, non-glutinous and glutinous are cultivated only on upper paddy fields.

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