WHAT WE MUST DO NOW
This website is intended to make its visitors undergo a paradigm shift in the small farm vs. large farm debate and to realise that - for instance - sweat can be cool.
If enough of our movers and shakers can break out of this idea that big is good, more efficient, more productive in agriculture, and look seriously at this idea of the microfarm being the next Big Idea in providing enough good quality food for everyone, then we shall be ready for some new policies to go into operation. So, a fifty-year programme might be:
Photo from 1967. 12 primary school teachers learning how to construct and line a hafir as a water source for a school microfarm (Oxfam funded project at Bamangwato Development Association's farm, Radisele, Botswana)
1. Start by promoting the concept with a number of high profile working models in the (global) field to spread the Idea and generate interest.
2. Feed the Idea into the education system so that the next generation grows up in touch with this New Thinking
3. Assist every school - primary and secondary - to develop its own microfarm; maybe just fruit and veg, maybe animals as well
4. Ensure that every school with a microfarm has its own cooking facilities to ensure that pupils benefit from the nutritious food their microfarm produces.
5. Extend the Idea into the Public Health system by ensuring that primary care centres have their own microfarms to enable them to beef up their message regarding better nutrition as the best cure for most illnesses.
Set up microfarms at long-stay hospitals (mental hospitals, TB sanatoria etc) to both improve the diet there and give the patients something constructive to do as they regain their strength
6. The same for prisons - rehabilitation as well as revenue generation.
And for army bases - turning swords into ploughshares.
7. Introduce regulatory frameworks and subsidies where necessary that encourage people to take the microfarm route out of dead-end jobs or unemployment.
'Traditional' hafir or water hole collecting run-off for gardens, Bolotwa, Transkei, S Africa. Room for improvement.
So aspiring PhD students - look at these!
At the same time, practical research is needed to improve some of the technology required for the microfarm.
1. The hafir is crucial for microfarmers in the drier parts of the developing world.
There is a need to design:
- better linings that need less maintenance, are more resistant to penetration by tree roots, resistant to termites and rodents and are easier to install without being more expensive
- better/cheaper covers that reduce evaporation even further without jeopardising safety
2. We need a simple-to-use formula for calculating irrigation need that links the following observable factors -
3. Even better, devise a simple, easy to read 1evaporimeter that is cheaper and less cumbersome than the class "A" evaporation pan with a simple table converting its readings to irrigation need according to stage of growth of the crop to be watered.
- season of year,
- approx windspeed and temperature,
- stage of growth of crop or % of ground covered by crop.
Photo from 1967. Installing trial hafir lining using butyl (synthetic rubber) sheeting. Radisele, Botswana
1 We had one in Kenya, made in Sweden I think, in 1992, but I cannot find it now