The BioDesign story

We are involved with several projects in SSA countries helping subsistence farmers to overcome starvation or to start a project that produces some income

 

Some of our projects use Agroforestry!

With ever-increasing climate change, many small farmers have found their crops swept away by torrential downpours! When trees are growing nearby crops can be protected not only from rain damage but also from being swept away along with the soil.

Agroforestry is about growing trees and crops together and helping the soil (see below).  If suitable trees are grown they can fertilise the soil with both their leaves and roots - Glicidia is the most popular one. Their leaves can shade the crop plants during hot weather when heat can cause damage.

Trees can serve several purposes!  Beyond the obvious, it has been demonstrated that trees produce rain!                     As reported by one contact," “Transpiration from vegetation may contribute as much as 90 per cent of the moisture in the atmosphere derived from land surfaces — far more than earlier estimates,”

The plan is to introduce AF through NGO/CBOs who will be helped to start with small AF plots. Many farmers are reluctant to try AF because it takes several years to get it well established but there us an alternative to trees!   

 Bamboo

Bamboo can be grown almost anywhere - even in deserts - but one species is especially useful - Giant bamboo!    Not only does it grow quickly but, of special interest for subsistence farmers, it has edible shoots!                                       In other parts of the world bamboo shoots are very popular and exported as they excellent and tasty nourishment.

 AF Plots

In some SSA countries Agroforestry plots are being started often using Giant bamboo along with local trees and suitable crops. Care must be taken to limit the shading of crops as bamboos or trees will grow tall and pruning will be essential.    

In recent weeks we have made lots of progress with agroforestry projects in SSA countries!                             Subsistence farmers have approached local INGOs and asked for help with their agroforestry projects. 
In several SSA countries, these projects have been accepted as valid and free seeds of trees and crops, etc offered! 
Unfortunately everyone of these NGOs expects the farmer to find the money for seed transportation. 
Since they are all very poor they have to seek a transfer from elsewhere!

Below is one of several emails:

Dear Graham

We are supporting farmers working on Agroforestry project in Botswana                                                                                                                                             We learnt about your passion and work in supporting AF across Africa.                                                                                                                                                Please know that we have offered seeds for AF to Victor and we have told him to come and collect                                                                                      More later                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Regards                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Melyn Mwenelwanda

World Agroforestry/ICRISAT
Botswana

One of the best videos about small farmer agroforestry is at https://youtu.be/m_SzuUHXP1M

 

Growing Jack Beans

Another project is to try and overcome the problem of the depleted soil of many small SSA farmers. 

Previous efforts to fertilize depleted soil have often failed due to farmers being persuaded to carry out operations that take no accounts of the condition of the soil which have all too often have been affected by chemicals!

Guided by the expert, Roland Bunch, Jack beans were sown on the land of many subsistence farmers in Uganda.     The following year maize and other crops were sown alongside the Jack beans.                                                                     After the first harvest, there were so many Jack bean seeds that some could be sold to buy local traditional plant seeds and leguminous saplings to start agro-ecological farms!

Then disaster struck with heavy rainstorms and then locust attacks. Often the Jack beans were the only survivor! Many farmers reported heavy crop losses but their Jack beans were untouched! But then many had no food - except for Jack Beans. It was known that mature Jack beans could be cooked but, equally important, leaves and pods of newly sown beans would provide protein - until food aid arrived.

We have now shown that the sowing of this cover crop bean can be used to not only re-fertilise soil but be used as an emergency crop in extreme conditions producing nutritious leaves 3 weeks after sowing!. 

This first success was in Uganda has led to many of the poorest farmers in other SSA countries also taking up the growing of Jack beans so as to re-fertilise their soil and provide emergency food at minimal cost!

Now there are hundreds of small farmers in Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and dozens in other SSA countries that we are helping. There could be many more but we can get no financial help!                                                                                   With the increasing cost of 'improved' seeds, poor SSA subsistence farmers will be hard-pressed to buy their usual amount. They will have no choice but to rely on traditional/indigenous seeds in the future and hope not have too many locust attacks! And/or FAW - Fall army worms!

So far we have found few funded NGOs that will even admit there is a soil fertility problem despite the FAO stating that it is a serious problem in all these countries!

You will find our supporter Charles in Uganda giving a lesson about JB at;

VID_20210508_173132.mp4 - Google Driv

 

For SSA subsistence farmers the future is increasingly bleak! Not only is climate change threatening their crops but little help is on offer from INGOs!                                                                                                                If you do not have any crops for marketing you are of no interest to them! 

Ask Chrisian Aid or Practical Action and see if we are wrong

When their usual crops fail farmers go hungry unless they have an emergency crop - like cacti!

In recent months we have been investigating possibility of using cacti to sequester carbon dioxide. 
In parts of many countries around the equator, the only plants that flourish are cacti and some trees. 
In Kenya, and other SSA counntries one cacti that grows well is the Opuntia. So well that many farmers want to to eradicate it! 
They are are unaware that inside its prickly exterior is nutritious food!

All it needs to feed humans or cattle is the removal of the spines! 
This can be done by burning or cutting them off. An alternative is spineless Opuntia but this usually costs money!

 

No Need for Malaria

It is little known that mosquitoes hate some herbs and will keep way if grown in your garden and around your home!

One such plant that is easy to grow is Artemisia afra.                                                                                                             Note this not the well-known Artemisia annua which is not easy to grow!

In recent times, experiments have shown they are equally good for making a leaf tea which cures malaria!

 

 

    Soil Health

Soil is not an inert growing medium – it is a living and life-giving natural resource. It is teaming with billions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that are the foundation of an elegant symbiotic ecosystem.

Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife, and beautiful landscapes. Soil does all this by performing five essential functions:

  • Regulating water – Soil helps control where rain, snowmelt, and irrigation water goes. Water flows over the land or into and through the soil.
  • Sustaining plant and animal life – The diversity and productivity of living things depends on soil.
  • Filtering and buffering potential pollutants – The minerals and microbes in soil are responsible for filtering, buffering, degrading, immobilizing, and detoxifying organic and inorganic materials, including industrial and municipal by-products and atmospheric deposits.
  • Cycling nutrients – Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other nutrients are stored, transformed, and cycled in the soil.
  • Providing physical stability and support – Soil structure provides a medium for plant roots. Soils also provide support for human structures and protection for archeological treasures.

Soil health research has determined how to manage soil in a way that improves soil function.
The main principles to manage soil for health are:

  • Maximize Presence of Living Roots
  • Minimize Disturbance
  • Maximize Soil Cover
  • Maximize Biodiversity

 

Who We Are

A small UK organisation trying to help the poorest people in Africa grow food and also start small enterprises

It is little known that the poorest people in SSA countries get no help from funded INGOs as they do not market produce!

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