Last week we had a most interesting work session in World Horti Centre, Netherlands. We presented our mapping on climate smart horticulture. We also had two presentations on tools that support decisions on investing in water harvesting and/or water efficiency.
1. Farm Pond Planner
For an ICRAF / World Vision project called DryDev, Frank van Schoubroeck analysed the cost and benefits of micro irrigation for horticulture producers in Machakos, Kenya. He visited farmers who had built a project-financed Farm Pond. Farmers visited were happy: “with the farm pond, I can grow crops year round’. DryDev wondered if Farm Ponds can be promoted commercially. With a pond, farmers’ choices have consequences: small ponds lead to water shortage if plot size is too big, or horticulture crops demand too much water. Crops timed well fetch a high price, and vice versa. Frank modelled in Excel a Farm Pond Planner based on data from field visits and soil / 15 yr weather records (from partner www.agrisim.com).
With such a planner, farmers can try out cropping scenarios: changing the pond size impacts on costs (and earn back time) but also on the risk of water shortage. Conclusion was that, if the right choices were made, Farm Pond investments could be repaid in 1-3 years. Such tools can be developed for any system, and made available to farmers through apps etc. Frank works with Agrisim to get such tools online (he also models Agroforestry systems) in the course of 2019. Specialised tools must be ordered. Check out this website https://farmtreeservices.com/
2. Cool Farm Tool
Aart van den Bos (as co-founder of Soil & More) presented the cool farm tool, which is a practical tool to make carbon effects visible in the whole chain. It was developed with industry in the lead, and science in a supply role because it had to be practical and not too academic. A carbon neutral value chain may compensate the emissions during processing and transport by capturing carbon at farm level. The tool shows that using chemical fertilizer has a high carbon cost (including manufacturing fertilizer). Efficiency and low losses are rewarded in this tool.
The tool also includes measuring the water footprint and a biodiversity footprint. Obviously the more the tools are used, the more feedback is available resulting in continuous improvement. The water footprint within the Cool Farm Tool is partially based on the work of the Water Footprinting Network (originated in the Netherlands by Prof. Arjen Hoekstra of Twente University). The tool can be downloaded for free on the website. They also developed an app to easily collect data which will be launched this year in collaboration with the Cool Farm Alliance. https://coolfarmtool.org