Can plants save time and labor for women farmers? The team at the LAND Project believes so!
To mitigate the labor costs associated with establishing annual crops on a yearly
basis while also serving to diversify diets and increase protein consumption, the LAND Project will integrate multifunctional perennial crops (for chicken feed and human consumption) in home-gardens managed by female farmers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
We aim to support approximately 150 female farmers from the Ncedisizwe Co-op in establishing perennial home-gardens by providing training, guidance, and start-up materials. After establishment, participants will be able to propagate plants and maintain perennialized home gardens. Using a train-the-trainer approach, at least 300 female farmers will be trained on perennial gardening.
The perennial approach
Perennial crops require investment upfront but lead to long-term labor and cost savings while simultaneously contributing to agroecosystem sustainability by building soil, sequestering carbon, and producing food and animal feed. Perennials do not need to be planted yearly and after establishment do not need extensive weeding or pricey inputs. Adding perennial crops and enhancing agricultural biodiversity benefits crop productivity, as a variety of crop types utilize more ecological niches and enhance the diversity of genetic resources within the system, including soil biota, pollinators, and predators. This limits the ability of pests, pathogens, and weeds to find an open niche, which can devastate production.
Additionally, female farmers in the Eastern Cape are currently purchasing and transporting a large proportion of their chicken feed, and in some instances nearly all of it. Incorporating perennials into home gardens can dramatically reduce the time, money, and effort required to procure feed. Mulberry, Fig, Feijoa, Yarrow, and Comfrey are all excellent forage crops for chicken feed.
Making it happen…
Our participatory approach will engage and empower women smallholders as knowers and discoverers, drawing on local knowledge in the development of agroecological techniques for perennial production.
This structure will support a train the trainer model, and provide the needed manpower to set up perennial gardens at home demonstration sites. Using a “train-the-trainer” model and existing farmer cooperatives, we intend to reach between 300 and 500 female farmers in the Engcobo region of the Eastern Cape.
We are currently seeking funding for this project. Please see our Project Detail sheet for “Plants that Save Time” for more details!