Hints for the Small Farmer

Crop productionPost-harvest activities


How to Prepare Green Vegetables for the Dry Season
By Sarah Massengo, Tanzania

In many tropical climates, there is a wet season followed by a long, hot, dry season. In the wet season wild and cultivated vegetable crops grow well. People need the vitamins and minerals that come from these green vegetables to stay healthy. When the dry season comes, many crops and grasses dry up. Only farmers who irrigate their land can continue to grow crops. But not many dryland farmers have irrigation facilities, so people go without fresh vegetables.

But it is possible to preserve your vegetables for the dry season. It’s cheap and easy to do. To start, pick your vegetables from the field.

Wash them in cold water. Boil water in a pot and add salt. Use a little more salt than you normally would to cook the vegetables. Now put the vegetables in the boiling water for two to five minutes. Then remove the vegetables from the water and cut them into small pieces.

Dry the vegetables in the sun for two to three days. Then pack them in a container that will not allow dust or insects to enter. The best thing to use if you can get it is a polythene bag, which you can seal completely. Store the dried vegetables in a cool, dry place.

When the dry season comes, boil or steam your stored vegetables in a small amount of water. The vegetables will get larger when boiled, so you will only need a handful to feed a family of six to eight people.

(Adapted from Baobab magazine, No. 15, November 1994, page 22. Baobab is available from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Casier Postal 3, Dakar-Fann, Senegal.)

Plants Prepare Food for Themselves
By Mac Moigua, Sierra Leone

Plants prepare their own food by shedding their leaves and branches. When these plant parts fall on the ground they decay easily and become plant food. In my backyard garden I almost always gather the dry plant leaves that fall on the ground. I use these leaves as manure to supply plant nutrients. I first loosen the soil around the base of the crops. I make a little trench in a circle around the plant just as I do when using chemical fertilizer. I put the dried leaves around the plant, cover them up and water evenly.

Soon the leaves start to decay. By mixing the soil with the leaves every two to three days the leaves decay quickly. Using plant remains as plant food can help the plant grow well. It is also possible to use kitchen leftovers and mix them into the soil around the plant. These are kinds of organic fertilizer. They don’t harm the roots, leaves or stems of the plant. Organic fertilizer such as plant parts helps plants to grow well in the villages today.

Plant Maize and Melon with Cassava
By Peter Afekoro, Nigeria

We always recommend that farmers plant cassava, maize, and melon together. By mixing these crops farmers can harvest early crops which will take care of the family while they are waiting for the cassava to mature. The combination of these crops can be planted in the following way.

First plant cassava, the mother crop, spacing the plants one metre apart. A few days later plant maize and melon in alternate rows. Space the maize and melon plants 50 centimetres apart within the rows.

There are some advantages to this system of intercropping. The maize and melon are early crops that mature in about three months and will provide food and funds for the farmer while waiting for the cassava to mature. Melon is a creeping plant and helps to keep weeds down which saves the farmer labour. You could also use groundnuts or cowpeas in place of the melon.