|Soil Conservation Techniques for Hillside Farms (Peace Corps, 1986, 96 p.)|
Many non-traditional agricultural techniques require a greater investment in labor and/or fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, etc. than the traditional techniques they are designed to replace. me extra labor and expenses incurred discourage many farmers from changing their traditional methods.
In order to illustrate the changes which a small family farm operation might experience, data are presented here representing average expenses and earnings of 50 farmers. The data were collected in Santa Cruz, El Para, Honduras, the year before (1982) and the first year (1983) in which techniques of soil conservation, fertilizer use, improved corn seed varieties, and chemical pest control were introduced to a group of local farmers by Rory William Steinke, a Peace Corps Volunteer. m e farms involved in this project were all small (1 Mz =.68 ha), with slopes ranging from 10-50%. They were planted with corn and beans, the traditional crops in this area. Because of the nature of this group, these data are probably not applicable to other cultivation systems such as vegetables or fruit trees, but they do provide insight into questions which may be important to extentionists working with other systems.
TABLE 8 RESULTS OF THE SANTA CRUZ EXTENSON PROJECT:FARM EXPENSES AND EARNINGS PER MANZANA (0.68 hectare)
TABLE 8 (Continued)
The expense accounts reveal several points which should be considered by the extensionists when advising farmers:
-These farms are heavily dependent on family labor. (Note net losses when all labor costs are included). Therefore designing a conservation plan that can be carried out without hiring out additional labor is important.
-The market price available to farmers determines whether or not the extra expenses are profitable in the short run. Due to seasonal variations in grain prices, profits are much higher if grains can be stored and sold when prices rise (in this case approximately 6-8 months after time of peak harvest).
-Once the soil conservation practices are in place however, future years' labor expenses will decrease and a greater likelihood of sustained yields increases the profitability of the modern techniques in the long run.
The use of organic fertilizers may reduce the amount of chemical fertilizer needed and avoid some expenses.
-Limiting the first year's work to a smaller plot (1/4 1/2 Mz) can greatly reduce the risk incurred and can be helpful in promoting the techniques in new areas.