Farmers Fostering Crop Rotation

Encouraging more crop rotation and intercropping is one simple measure that is good for farming and good for diets. Crop rotation means farmers plant a crop such as cereals in their field and then plant a legume and then an oilseed or another crop. In intercropping, at least two different crops are grown simultaneously in a single field.  Rotating crops has many benefits for farming.  It replenishes soil nutrients, protects against crop diseases, and means more varied markets. It is also invaluable to the local community.  Too often diets are based on a single primary starch.  Growing cereals over and over again is not good practice for people’s diets or farming.  By having each farmer grow a mix of cereals, legumes, and oilseeds, it means a better diet for local consumers. Legume crops add protein into a diet, oilseeds add vegetable fat, and a cereal provides a starch.

Implementing these best practices could diversify large volumes of crop supply in key areas.  Investing in agronomic training, good crop rotation and soil conservation practice, and seed supply are a well known way to increase the quality and diversity of food supply. From this base of crops, horticultural, orchard, and livestock can then further supplement the diet to add additional essential vitamins and nutrients.

La Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (FTM/CPM) is one of many farm groups that actively help implement best practices such as crop rotation. They use crop rotation to improve soil nutrients, foster soil quality, minimize soil erosion, and to increase water efficiency.  Continual replanting of one crop, over and over again on a field, depletes soil nutrients and the organic matter in the ground.  A good rotation using nitrogen fixing crops like beans helps to sustain farms, increasing productivity and lowering input costs. Combined with good land management practices such as establishing wind-breaks, replanting trees, dikes and channels to protect fields, crop rotation can actually help increase the resilience of farmers in the face of climate change and extreme weather.

National support programs and international research and  extension networks are critical to furthering these efforts. Co-operation with scientists and agricultural research centres is important and then conducting workshops with farmers to practices into place locally. In Madagascar, they have also run information campaigns on the radio and on key “Action Days”.  They also hold forums to encourage farmers to share their experiences with each other.

These steps can help improve the quality, quantity, and diversity of food.

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