Is it possible to grow vegetables on a steep slope and prevent soil erosion at the same time?
Farmers in a hilly part of Nigeria have a special way of growing vegetables on steep slopes.
The method prevents good soil from washing down the hillsides, and holds water in the soil.
And farmers can produce a lot of food in a small area.
How do they do it?
The farmers plant their vegetables in small patches.
In other words, they cultivate only a very small area at one time.
After planting they allow the crops to grow a little before planting the neighbouring plot.
They never have much bare soil exposed at one time.
Why does this save soil?
Think about it like this.
When you cultivate just a small area and leave the grass and other vegetation beside the plot, there is less bare soil.
So water does not run all the way down the slope.
It slows down and is absorbed into the soil when it runs into the grass beside the vegetable patch.
This way, water runs over bare ground for only a short distance.
The less distance the water can flow over bare soil, the less erosion you will have.
And more water stays in the soil where you want it.
Another technique used in Nigeria is to plant beans, corn and yams together in the same plot.
The beans climb on the corn stalks.
The vines of the yams spread out and smother the weeds.
So no hoeing is necessary.
The yams, corn and beans do not ripen at the same time, so you can harvest food from this plot for a long time.
This technique means that food can be produced from the hillside on a continuing basis.
And only a small area is being cultivated at one time.
A hectare of land cultivated this way often produces three to four times more food than a hectare of land planted with only maize or only yams.
The main thing is not to let the rain wash good soil down the slopes.
Try to find a way to force the water to trickle slowly down a slope, instead of running down and destroying good farmland.
You want water to soak into the soil.
That is the best place for water to be.
- Contributed by: Ecolink, White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa. Ecolink is a non-profit organization promoting good health and food security in rural areas.