Advertise here

Non Chemical Weed Management Increases Crop By 20%

by Ifham Nizam 

  • In Sri Lanka, the project collaborates with the Tea Smallholder Development Authority (TSHDA) on training smallholder farmers.
  • The Sunday Leader visited the demo plot at Hapugastenne estate on non-chemical weed management continued to serve as training site for smallholders
  • At least 30,000 smallholders in the project area will make improvements in tea production to reverse land degradation
  • To reverse the trend towards land degradation is to improve farm management practices, so that existing production land becomes more productive

Mahendra Peiris

Instead of using dangerous chemicals and herbicides -that give farm workers and locals cancer, contaminate water supply, and threaten biodiversity, they let good weeds thrive, which retains, adds nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil and has increased at Hapugastenne estate managed by Mahendra Peiris crop by 20 per cent.

His sustainable innovations are important not just because they protect local people and raise their wages, but also because sustainable agriculture is the best way to protect the rain forest, and the rain forest is the best defense humans have against climate change.

The Rainforest Alliance, a world renowned body said that it is proud to be part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Tea Program to mainstream sustainable tea production landscapes in India, China, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The project was launched in October 2014 and will run up to April 2018.  The project is also funded by the United Nations Environment Programme with an overall budget of $2,189,563 for locations in India (Assam, Darjeeling), Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China.

The main objectives of the GEF Tea Project are to reduce land degradation associated with tea production in Asia by supporting farmers and catalysing industry and government leaders to mainstream sustainable land management (SLM) and integrated natural resource management (INRM) practices.

 

Sri Lanka –classic example

 

In Sri Lanka, the project collaborates with the Tea Smallholder Development Authority (TSHDA) on training smallholder farmers. Focus is on three provinces in the South-West of the country. The total number of smallholders trained by TSHDA is now around 11,000.

 

Non Chemical weed management

 

The Sunday Leader visited the demo plot at Hapugastenne estate on non-chemical weed management continued to serve as training site for smallholders supported by the project as well as other RA projects in Sri Lanka.

A second demo plot on a much larger area (138 ha) was started in the low country, but did not show the expected regrowth of ‘soft’ weeds, due to the prolonged drought in the area. Pilots on energy efficiency (at both factory and smallholder/estate worker level) were not implemented. Fuel wood is not a main source of energy for tea factories in Sri Lanka, and workers normally collect enough fuel wood by collecting pruned tea branches.

Besides, several estates have effective programmes to introduce gas cooking to the workers. However, some sources claim that workers still take considerable amounts of wood from the forest which has negative effects where it occurs. Therefore, a more detailed assessment of fuel wood extraction intensity and impact will be made, although only in the area identified for the landscape-level INRM planning work under component 2. If significant impact is detected, corrective actions would then be included as part of the INRM action plan to be developed for the landscape in early 2017.

In general, manual weeding and waste management have the highest adoption rates -more than 60 per cent of farmers interviewed. But variation among project regions is considerable: in Sri Lanka, for example, only 12 per cent of farmers practice waste management, while no farmer in Assam reported to practice manual weeding. Use of soil erosion prevention, integrated soil fertility management, IPM, forest protection and establishment of riparian buffers are practices, on average, by less than 20% of all farmers surveyed.

 

Land degradation

 

As an important land use in numerous countries, tea production systems can be both a contributor to land degradation and a segment of the rural economy that is particularly susceptible to land degradation. However, well-managed tea production landscapes can help arrest or even reverse land degradation, while providing economic and ecological benefits for local communities, downstream beneficiaries, and the global commons.

With global demand for tea growing at more than 2% per year, the pressures on land for cultivating the crop will increase, all the more intensely because of climate change As a result of this project implemented by Rainforest Alliance, land degradation associated with tea production will be reduced by supporting farmers and catalysing industry and government leaders to mainstream sustainable land management (SLM) and integrated natural resource management (INRM) practices.

At least 30,000 smallholders in the project area will make improvements in tea production to reverse land degradation. New monitoring and analytical tools will be developed to provide practical, cost-effective means to understand change and guide adaptive management related to sustainable productivity, vulnerability, and ecological integrity in tea-producing landscapes in the project’s focal regions: Assam and Darjeeling in India, the wet zone of south western Sri Lanka, the northern mountain region of Vietnam, and Yunnan Province in China.

 

Key activities for the project

 

Promote SLM to mitigate and reverse land degradation in tea-producing landscapes. To reverse the trend towards land degradation is to improve farm management practices, so that existing production land becomes more productive and forests, rivers, streams and other biologically important land situated on or adjacent to tea production areas are protected from negative impacts.

To conserve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural land requires appropriate management on the farm: maintaining adequate vegetation, creating buffer zones between production areas and water sources and between production and dwelling areas, applying integrated crop management practices, and properly sorting and disposing of waste.

The project will train and support farmers to apply SLM practices, build knowledge and capacity among government extension officers and private sector technicians to apply these practices more widely, facilitate wider stakeholder initiatives for INRM practices, and measure results to understand the role of SLM and INRM in mitigating and reversing land degradation in tea-producing landscapes.

 

Plan and implement integrated landscape management approaches:

 

The project will also harness policy-based incentives, as governments increasingly seek to make production practices in major commodities consistent with their strategic interests in conserving the natural environment and in sustaining the production capacity of tea as a source of long-term employment of rural populations and of revenues for the national economy. Policies protecting natural resources are supported by investments in research, extension services, nurseries and training courses for tea farmers. Government organisations will participate fully in the project, providing endorsement and motivation for the farmers to get trained and apply this knowledge to deliver improved land management practices. The project will train extension workers and create training resources for them, so that they acquire the knowledge to disseminate the SLM practices both in the selected landscapes and in other tea production areas of the country.

The strong participation of governments, private sector and tea farmers in the project will provide the necessary momentum to build from the focus on the farm and explore larger landscape factors affecting land degradation. The project will establish participatory process to carry out two or three landscape context analyses and planning processes, including participatory landscape mapping and assessment. There is an increasing interest among stakeholders, including an incipient initiative in the tea industry, to consider land management at a wider scale than the farm, as it becomes better understood how the production capacity of a commodity can be affected by issues beyond the farm, such as respect for forest boundaries, water use and application of agrochemicals. (This component will only be implemented in India and Sri Lanka)

Engage key public and private institutions to mainstream SLM in the tea sector:

The project will invest in mobilizing communities, industry and stakeholder groups to take actions in support of INRM that strengthen the value of SLM at farm level and lead to land management initiatives beyond the project’s scope in these biologically important regions.

Develop robust tools to evaluate sustainability and reduced vulnerability associated with SLM and Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM) in tea-producing landscapes:

Through the project focus on wider landscape measures, other practices will also be monitored, such as conservation set-asides or reforestation initiatives. This project will bolster previous efforts by Rainforest Alliance in some of the target areas where the path to certification has already begun, mostly with tea estates in India and Sri Lanka, and add an explicit focus on reducing land degradation through locally-adapted measures for erosion control, reforestation, reduced dependency on chemical fertilizers, and more. The project will package lessons learned through measuring the impacts of these improved farm management practices via new monitoring approaches that will be applicable to a wide range of GEF projects. The project is designed to be scalable, and Rainforest Alliance and UN Environment will be in a position to bring these approaches to SLM and INRM to a wider audience after this project is completed.

 

Key partners

 

In project implementation, the Rainforest Alliance works through partner organisations in the project countries, Tea Technologies Outsourcing (TTO) in India, the Alliance for Sustainable Landscapes Management (ASLM) in Sri Lanka, Good Wood in Rainforest Consultancy in China and VECO in Vietnam. The roll out of the training programme for smallholders is mainly done through smallholder associations, extension services and tea companies. In each country MOU will be signed with these organisations.

Main co-financing stakeholders in the project are private sector partners from the tea industry, including the largest buyers of tea in the world (Unilever, Tata Global Beverages), and government agencies investing in sustainable agriculture and SLM to reverse land degradation. Additional government organisations, companies and tea producers, including smallholder organizations involved in the training programme, will be making investments over the life of project.

 

Expected Outcomes

 

Improved agricultural management results in more sustainable tea production systems and reduced vulnerability in five critical tea-producing regions Integrated natural resource management (INRM) plans engage key tea and non-tea stakeholders in complementary activities to support INRM and guide investment to help reduce land and resource conflicts and safeguard key ecosystem services supporting tea production and local and downstream communities.

Key public-sector agencies, tea associations, and tea industry decision-makers understand and have capacity to implement new policies, systems, or support mechanisms to facilitate uptake of SLM in the tea industry in the focal regions.

 

What’s special 

 

The estate is located in the up country wet zone of Sri Lanka at an elevation range of 816m to 1411m (2693ft – 4657 ft). The annual rainfall in this area ranges from 5500 to 6600 mm (estate’s rainfall records) and temperature varies within the range of 18-30°C (day) and 08- 15°C. (night) within the year.

During the survey it was further revealed that Hapugastenne estate, Maskeliya was a much suitable and convenient location for perfect ecotourism destination since the estate is bordering to Peak Wilderness World Heritage site and some historic villages as well.

This medium sized commercial tea garden is located on the western dip slope of the mountainous ridge which separates apart Kehelgamu Oya and Maskeli Oya, the twin major tributaries of Upper Kelani River Valley in Sri Lanka. Hence the estate is fortunate to border at its bottom section with Maskeli Oya Riverine Forest line along with immediate next pristine Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve; declared World Heritage Site.

Flamboyant Canyon reservoir, a member of Kelani Valley Hydro Power Scheme is well positioned in between tea carpet and the forest line adds an extra attraction to the location. Picturesque “Seven Virgins mountain range” escarpment too positioned next to the tea garden to its opposite side fulfilling the mind captivating feature richness of the area.

Winner of the Best Eco-innovation Prototype in Blue Economy sector @ MJF Innovation Awards 2016 Identified by Rainforest Alliance as a model to be applied in tea plantations worldwide

When we meet, Mahendra Peiris is dressed head-to-toe in purple. He is the sustainable farmer we came to profile and he is spectacular. He and his wife have a boundless curiosity for living things.

In a corner of the garage, he shows us a plant decorated with string and small plastic bags.  “A hybrid between a weed and mangosteen,” Mahendra explains, “So far it’s thriving. Six months old and it needs almost no water.

I saw these weeds everywhere, they are very resilient, so I’m trying to make it do something useful.”

Comments are closed

advertise

Photo Gallery

Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes