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Title of best practice:
Fodder grass strips (hedgerows)
Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights:
Prevailing land use in the specified location
Contribution to Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) measures
Contribution to the strategic objectives
- To improve the living conditions of affected populations
- To improve the conditions of affected ecosystems
Linkages with the other best practice themes
- Capacity-building and awareness-raising
- DLDD and SLM monitoring and assessment/research
Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)
Short description of the best practice
Fodder grass strips (hedgerows) were tried out in the pilot sites of Radhi gewog (Trashigang district), Nangkor gewog (Zhemgang district), and Phuentsholing gewog (Chhukha district). The fodder grass species that was grown as strips was the Napier species. The practice involves demarcation of lines along contours with the distance being determined by the slope angle: steeper the slope, shorter the distance and gentler the slope longer the distance. Once the hedgerow interval and contour lines are demarcated, clearance of ground cover is done along 20 cm on either side of the lines. The soil is tilled and aggregates are broken down to small crumbs and weeds, roots and stones are removed. A small ditch is dug along the contour line to plant first line of fodder grass slips at a distance of about 10-15 cm. The grass slips should be then covered with about 20cm thick soil from the upper slope while digging another small ditch on the upper slope to plant the second line of grass slips. The grass slips of the second line should be planted in staggered position with the grass slips of the first line. The grass slips are all planted slantingly. The grass slips should be then covered with soil and firmed it properly to remove air pockets. After plantation, mulching material is spread over the strip to improve growth of the grass. Depending on the growth rate, a farmer can harvest the grass three to five times each year to use as fodder. Napier grass has been used because it is fast-growing, has strong soil binding property, highly palatable cattle forage, and grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions.|
Radhi gewog (Trashigang district), Nangkor gewog (Zhemgang district), and Phuentsholing gewog (Chhukha district).|
If the location has well defined boundaries, specify its extension in hectares:
Estimated population living in the location:
Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.
The altitude of Radhi gewog ranges from 1,040m to about 2,900m asl with moderate slopes. Nangkor gewog is characterized by rugged terrain and steep slopes with pockets of gently sloping lands. The elevation varies from 280m in the south to as high as 4,600m asl. Phuentsholing gewog starts from the Great Indian Plains and foothills at about 180m and climbs upto 2,400m asl at the highest point. However, much of the human activity and settlements occur in the lower zone below 1,000 m asl.|
Radhi has deep yellowish to reddish brown sandy clay loam soils with phyllite, mica schist and schistose phyllite as main rock types. The soils at Nangkor are generally shallow to moderately deep dark greyish brown sandy loam soils with bedded quartzites, gneiss and granite as main rock types. Phuentsholing has moderately shallow to deep greyish brown silty loam to silty clay loam soils with variegated phyllite, dolomite & conglomerate as main rock types.|
Radhi gewog is characterized by sub-tropical and warm temperate climatic conditions. Nangkor gewog has subtropical to warm temperate climatic conditions with upper reaches being cool temperate. Phuentsholing gewog is subtropical with hot and humid conditions and very high rainfall averaging about 4,500 mm annually.|
Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby
The main livelihood source of the rural communities of Radhi, Nangkor and Phuentsholing is crop agriculture with supplementary livelihood from livestock production. The farmers also earn some cash income from off-farm activities such as construction activities.|
In Radhi gewog, 13.3% of the households own less than 1 acre of agricultural land, 68.2% from 1 to 5 acres, 15.3% from 5 and 10 acres, and 3.2% more than 10 acres. In Nangkor gewog, 4.2% of the households own less than 1 acre of agricultural land, 36.6% from 1 to 5 acres, 34.7% from 5 to 10 acres, and 24.5% more than 10 acres. In Phuentsholing gewog, 6.5% of the farm households own less than 1 acre of agricultural land, 34% from 1 to 5 acres, 33% from 5 to 10 acres and 26.5% above 10 acres|
Radhi gewog is considered as the "rice bowl of eastern Bhutan". It has good access to road and public facilities and most of the farmers are self sufficient. Nangkor gewog is remote with poor road network and public facilities. Development activities is limited and majority of the farmers are poor. Phuntsholing gewog has good access to market and other public facilities. Most of the farmers are self sufficient.
On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?
The proposed practice has been considered 'best' on the basis of its effectiveness in preventing soil erosion, maintaining soil fertility,increasing the ease of workability and providing fodder for cattle. It is highly suitable in a terrain like ours where most of the agricultural lands are located on steep slopes with severe soil erosion and soil nutrient mining problems. The high rate of adoption of the practice is also a major criterion of considering it as a best practice.|
Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice
Main problems addressed by the best practice
1) Soil erosion due to surface runoff, wind erosion & tillage operation.
2) Loss of soil nutrients due to soil erosion
3) Ease of workability by forming partial terraces overtime
4) Shortage of fodder for cattle
5) Moisture stress problems through retention of rain water|
Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice
The proposed practice is not only effective but very efficient in controlling surface erosion caused because of very steep slope, erosive soils, high intensity rainfall, tillage operation and strong winds. It prevents soil nutrient mining through maintenance of soil fertility, soil structure improvement and increase of water and nutrient holding capacities of the soil. In Bhutan, surface erosion is one of the most extensive land degradation problems and if not prevented/mitigated timely, it leads to other forms of land degradation such as gullies and landslides.|
Specify the objectives of the best practice
The primary objective of the practice is to reduce soil erosion and maintain soil fertility on steep terrain that characterizes a significant portion of Bhutan's agricultural landscapes.|Secondary objective is to increase the ease of workability through formation of partial terraces and improve cattle forage resources for the local communities who rear livestock as an additional source of livelihood.
Section 3. Activities
Brief description of main activities, by objective
During training, farmers have been educated about the forage value of Napier species and sustainable harvesting practices. Soil erosion plots are also established to demonstrate the impacts of hedgerows in terms of fodder production, maintenance of soil fertility and formation of partial terraces|
Training of farmers in the establishment of fodder grass strips (hedgerows) and supply of tools and planting materials to the trained farmers with priority to those who belong to poor households. Demonstration plots have also been established for training and extension purposes.
Short description and technical specifications of the technology
First, the uniformity of slope of the proposed site needs to be assessed. Based on the slope gradient, the hedgerow interval is determined i.e. steeper the slope, shorter the distance and gentler the slope longer the distance. After demarcating the hedgerow interval, contour lines need to be established from the marked intervals using an A-frame. Once the contour lines are demarcated, clearance of ground cover is done along 20 cm on either side of the lines. The soil is tilled and aggregates are broken down to small crumbs and weeds, roots and stones are removed. A small ditch is dug along the contour line to plant the first line of grass slips at a distance of about 10-15 cm. The grass slips should be covered with about 20cm thick soil while digging another ditch on the upper slope to plant the second line of grass slips. A hedgerow consists of two lines of grass slips all planted in staggered position. After planting the second line, the grass slips should be then covered with soil and properly firmed to remove air pockets. After plantation, mulching material is spread over the strip to improve growth of the grass. Necessary gap filling and thinning of hedgerow needs to be done. Depending on the growth rate, a farmer needs to trim the hedges to avoid shading effect to the main crop. Within a year or two, the hedgerows arrest sediments from the upper slopes and form partial terraces. |
The technical requirements demand much closer hedgerow interval so as to perform adequate engineering and hydrological functions to control surface erosion. However, this creates problem to the farmers while carrying out the tillage operation. Therefore, in order to accommodate both the technical requirements and the farmer's need, a moderate spacing is been designed. On slopes more than 20 degrees, an interval of 6m is maintained. However, with slopes less than 20 degrees, more than 6m is kept as a hedgerow interval.
A hedgerow consists of two lines of fodder grass slips with 20cm thick soil in between. All the grass slips are planted slantingly and offset to each other with a grass slip to grass slip distance of 10-15cm. A minimum of two nodes of the grass slip should be inserted into the soil for proper growth. After planting, soils should be properly firmed to remove the air pockets and it is a must to mulch it to protect the grass slips from drying, avoid soil erosion and improve soil fertility.|
Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)
Name and address of the institution developing the technology
National Soil Services Centre, Department of Agriculture (Ministry of Agriculture and Forests)|Post Box 907, Semtokha, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Was the technology developed in partnership?
Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted
- National initiative – government-led
Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?
List local stakeholders involved:
Local stakeholders include the local communities, agricultural field extension agents and district agriculture staff.|
For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.
Local communities are the target beneficiaries. Their key roles are participation in training, adopt the best practices and provide feedback for further improvement. They are also responsible for scaling-up the implementation of the best practices into other areas to combat land degradation.
The Geog RNR (Renewable Natural Resource) staff's main role is to provide hands on training, provide technical backstopping and monitor the implementation of the best practices by the farmers. The district RNR staff prepare SLM plans, mobilize resources and provide technical backstopping to the field staff.
Was the population living in the location and/or nearby involved in the development of the technology?
By means of what?
- Participatory approaches
Section 5. Contribution to impact
Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)
Improved dairy production and consequent improvement in local livelihoods as a result of better availability of forage resources. Households with surplus fodder resources can barter with other households for food grains and other essentials.
Increased land productivity through maintaining soil fertility and increasing water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil
Reduced soil erosion means less sediment in the water which reduces siltation of water reservoirs and less impact on water biodiversity.
Better availability of forage resources close to household settlements encourages stall feeding of cattle and reduce free-range grazing that damages forest vegetation. Overgrazing is considered as one of the anthropogenic causes of land degradation in Bhutan.
Increase in usable agricultural land.
Describe the major two off-site (i.e. not occurring in the location but in the surrounding areas) impacts
Reduction in overgrazing(grazing by livestock beyond the carrying capacity of the pasture/forest land) of pasture / forest land.
Reduction in siltation of hydro-power dams (reservoirs) toward the lower reaches of the streams and rivers.
Minimal impact on water biodiversity due to sedimentation.
Reduced Eutrophication in the water bodies
Impact on biodiversity and climate change
Explain the reasons:
Better soil conservation measures will reduce the vulnerabilities of agricultural landscapes to climate-related disasters such as land degradation, flash floods and drought. Since Bhutan is characterized by rugged terrain, fragile geology and erratic climatic conditions, it is more vulnerable to flash floods, landslides and drought. The proposed practice will enable our farming communities to better cope with climate change impacts and enhance food security through reducing soil erosion, increasing soil organic matter and conserving soil moisture during dry spell that may be induced by erratic climatic events. |
The fodder grass strips (hedgerows) improves the availability of forage resources in and around the village settlements. This will encourage the local communities to increasingly practice stall feeding, which will in turn reduce free-range grazing of cattle in the forests. This is expected to have a few key positive impacts on biodiversity. One, overgrazing of forest vegetation and resultant attrition of forest species will be reduced. Two, cattle depredation by wild animals will be reduced and, therefore, lessen human-wildlife conflits including retribution killing of wildlife by farmers. Three, reduced sedimentation and eutrophication of water bodies are expected to help maintain healthy aquatic life.|
The practice is expected to have a positive impact on climate change mitigation. Hedgerows help to improve the ground cover and biomass whereby it increases the its capacity to sequester carbon dioxide compared to bare soils.
Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?
Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?
The main findings of the cost-benefit analysis include:
(1) major costs include additional labor and tools, and this amounts to about BTN 6,000 (USD 130) in a year for establishing and maintaining hedgerows on 0.41 ha of land;
(2) 64.5% of the participating farmers used lands with steep slope and poor productivity for developing hedgerows;
(3) Nearly 89% of the participating farmers adopted hedgerow development to minimize soil erosion, improve land productivity and improve forage production. 86% perceived soil erosion has reduced and 73% perceived cultivable land has increased after developing hedgerows;
(4) All the participating farmers cited increased in fodder availability and 74% reported increase in dairy production after developing hedgerows. |
Section 6. Adoption and replicability
Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?
Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?
Goshing and Bardo gewogs (Zhemgang district)|Lokchina and Bongo gewogs (Chukha district)|Lumang and Thrimshing gewogs (Trashigang district)
Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?
Were incentives to facilitate the take up of the technology provided?
Specify which type of incentives:
- Financial incentives (for example, preferential rates, State aid, subsidies, cash grants, loan guarantees, etc)
Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?
Affordability and simplicity of the technology.
Multiple benefits of the technology.
The implementation of the best practice is done in a very participatory approach involving the farmers and field extension agents starting from planning, implementation, monitoring and Evaluation of the best practice.
Highly motivated field extension agents and their positive interactions with the local farmers.|
Cohesion between the farmers and the high level of community interest to address the problems of soil erosion and unproductive lands.
In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?
At which level?
Section 7. Lessons learned
Related to human resources
The practice demands additional labour, but this has been addressed through labour sharing within the community. It is done in a very participatory manner as a community rather than as an individual household. However with increased outmigration of local people into urban areas, the practice needs to made more labour-efficient based on farmers' feedback and knowledge.|
Related to financial aspects
The practice is low-cost and therefore affordable. This is a key criterion that need to be continually considered as more than 30% of the rural communities in the country are poor. On a promotion scale, modest fiscal incentives will help adoption of the technology.|
Related to technical aspects
The techniques involved are very simple and easily understood by the farmers. Therefore, basic training programmes are sufficient to build the knowledge and skills of the farmers. This has in turn helped lower training and extension costs.|