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Title of best practice:
Fodder grass strips (commonly known as hedgerows)
Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights:
Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)
Short description of the best practice
Fodder grass strips were tried out in the reported areas, using the Napier grass species. This practice involves demarcation of contour lines along the slopes with the distance being determined by the slope angle; here, steeper the slope, shorter the distance between the hedgerow intervals, and vice-versa. Once the hedgerow interval and contour lines were demarcated, clearance of ground cover is done along the 20 cm on either side of the lines. The soil is tilled and soil aggregates broken down into smaller crumbs. In the process, weeds, stones and other associated debris are all removed. A small ditch is dug along the contour line to plant the first line of fodder grass slips maintaining slip to slip distance of 10 - 15 cm. The grass slips should be then covered with 20 cm thick soil from the upper slope while digging another small ditch on the upper slope to plant the second line of grass slips. Grass slips along the second row should be planted in a slanting position, and in staggered position in respect to the grass slip on the first row. Once planted, the slips should then be covered with soils. The ground surface along the row should be made it firm to remove and/or crush any air pockets. Mulching material using forest litters is spread after plantation to leverage fast growth of slips. Depending on the growth rate, a farmer can harvest the grass 3 to 5 times in a year and can be used as fodder for livestock animals. The reason for choosing Napier grass is because it is fast growing, has very strong soil binding property, it is highly palatable forage for cattle and it grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions. |
3) Chhukha District: Phuntsholing, Bongo and Logchina Gewogs.|
Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.
Radhi: Deep yellowish-reddish brown (rbr) sandy clay loam (SCL), Lumang: Mod deep-deep dark grayish brown (dgbr) to brown sandy loam (SL) to silty clay loam (ZiCL), Thrimshing: Mod deep-deep dgbr to brown ZiCL.
Nangkhor: Shallow-mod deep dgbr SL, Bardo: Shallow-deep v.dgbr to yellowish brown (ybr) SL to ZiL, Goshing: Mod deep-deep gdbr to ybr ZiL to ZiCL.
P/ling: Mod shallow-deep gbr ZiL to ZiCL, Bongo: Shallow-deep v.dgbr to ybr ZiLto ZiCL, Logchina: Shallow-mod deep dgbr to ybr SL to SCL.|
1) Radhi: altitude ranges from 1040 m above sea level (asl) to 2900 m asl, Lumang: 1100 m to 3000 m asl, Thrimshing: 1000 m to 3200 m asl.
2) Nangkhor: 280 m to 4600 m asl, Bardo: 200 m to 3300 m asl, Goshing: 200 m to 2400 m asl.
3) Phuntsholing: 180 m to 2400 m asl, Bongo: 200 m to 3900 m asl, Logchina: 500 m to 2500 m asl.
Because the landform in Bhutan is characterised by steep to very steep slopes incised by deep valleys, the slopes vary considerably in the reported areas.
1) Radhi: Sub-tropical - warm temperate climatic conditions (CC), Lumang: Sub-tropical – cool temperate, Thrimshing: Humid tropical – cold temperate.
2) Nangkhor: Sub-tropical to - cool temperate, Bardo: Wet tropical – cold temperate, Goshing: Wet tropical – warm temperate.
3) Phuntsholing: Sub-tropical with very high rainfall averaging about 4,500 mm annually, Bongo: Wet tropical – sub alpine, Logchina: Wet tropical – warm temperate climatic conditions.
Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby
Amongst the reported gewogs, Bardo and Goshing Gewogs of Zhemgang Dzongkhag and Bongo and Logchina Gewogs of Chhukha Dzongkhag, are comparatively remote with poor accessibility to road networks. Generally, other areas do have good access to road and other public facilities. Furthermore, most of the farmers are self sufficient too.|
The main livelihood source of the rural communities of these areas is crop agriculture with supplementary livelihood from livestock production. Besides, farmers also earn cash income from off-farm activities such as construction industry. Unlike in other reported areas, farmers in Logchina practice apiculture out of which they generate good income.|
Land in the reported areas are privately owned by the farmers and it ranges from parcel size of minimum less than 1 acre (small fraction of the population) to maximum of 10 acres. The average land holding is about 2.5 acres.
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'?
Drawing the experiences from the fields, it is realised that the proposed practice emerges as the 'best' on basis of its effectiveness in preventing soil erosion, maintaining soil fertility, increasing the ease of workability and producing fodder for livestock animals, particularly cattle. It is highly suitable in a terrain like ours where most of the agricultural lands are located on the steep slopes with severe soil erosion and nutrient mining problems. The high rate of adoption of practice is also a major criterion for considering hedgerows 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 and tillage operations,
2) Loss of soil nutrients due to soil erosion,
3) Improve workability by forming partial terrace over the course of time,
4) The problem of fodder shortage for livestock animals, mainly cattle,
5) The problem of overgrazing through the promotion of stall feeding,
6) The moisture stress problems through retention of rain water,
7) Off-site impacts such as cropland and hydro-power dam siltation.|
Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice
The best practice [hedgerows] which is under discussion is found to be very efficient in controlling surface erosion caused by either single and/or combination of factors such as very steep slopes, erosive soils, high intensity rainfall, tillage operations, etc. Introducing this technology in the farmer's field prevents nutrient mining through maintenance of soil fertility, improvement of soil structure and increase of soil water holding capacity. Due to its natural topography, land degradation caused by surface erosion continues to be one of the most extensive degradation problems across Bhutan. If the problem fails to get timely prevention/mitigation, chances are that it can lead to other forms of more serious land degradation, for instance, the gullies and landslides, which can have devastating consequences to peoples' livelihood and the environment. |
Specify the objectives of the best practice
There are two targeted objectives of the best practice, These are: 1) To reduce soil erosion and maintain soil fertility on steep slopes across Bhutan, which characterizes a significant portion of Country's agricultural landscape, and 2) To improve the workability of agricultural land through formation of partial terraces and also improve the forage resources for the local communities who rear livestock animals.|
Section 3. Activities
Brief description of main activities, by objective
Promotion of SLM Adoption: Farmers don't accept the introduction of new technology in their fields willingly. In order to get fairly easy access and placement of technology, provision of incentives such as supply of tools and free planting materials have become necessary. However, this has to be prioritized for those trained farmers who belong to poor households. |
Education and Awareness Raising: Demonstration plots have also been established to raise awareness and at the same time educate stakeholders such as extension agents and farmers; both local and regional.
Capacity Building: This involves training of extension agents and farmers in the establishment of hedgerows. During the training, extension agents and farmers have been educated about the functions provided by the hedgerows and the forage values of the Napier grass species and method of sustainable harvesting.|
Short description and technical specifications of the technology
Establishment of hedgerows starts with the assessment on the uniformity of the slope in the proposed areas. Considering the slope gradient, the hedgerow intervals are determined, whereby, steeper the slope, shorter the distance between the hedgerow intervals, and the converse is true for the more gentle slopes. Once the hedgerow interval and contour lines were demarcated, clearance of ground cover is done along the demarcated row, maintaining 20 cm on either side of the lines. The soil is tilled and soil aggregates broken down into smaller crumbs. In the process, weeds, stones and other associated debris are all removed. A small ditch is dug along the contour line to plant the first line of fodder grass slips maintaining slip to slip distance of 10 - 15 cm. The grass slips should be then covered with 20 cm thick soil from the upper slope while digging another small ditch on the upper slope to plant the second line of grass slips. Grass slips along the second row should be planted in a slanting position, and in a staggered position in respect to the grass slip on the first row. Once planted, the slips should then be covered with soils. The ground surface [along the row] should be made it firm to remove and/or crush any air pockets. Mulching material using forest litters is spread after plantation to leverage fast growth of grass slips. Necessary gap filling and thinning of the hedgerows needs to be done. Depending on the growth rate, a farmer needs to trim the hedges to avoid shading effect to the main crops in the proximity. After 1 to 2 years of establishment, the hedgerows should serve its functions to arrest and/or contain sediments from the upper slopes and eventually start forming partial terraces.|
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 No. 907, Semtokha, Thimphu, Bhutan
Was the technology developed in partnership?
Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted
- Local initiative
- National initiative – government-led
- Programme/project-based initiative
- Other (please specify)
Adoption of participatory approach in dissemination of the technology.
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, the Gewog Renewable Natural Resource (RNR) extension agents and RNR staff from Dzongkhags (including Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry sectors) and local government.|
For the stakeholders listed above, specify their role in the design, introduction, use and maintenance of the technology, if any.
1) Local communities: They are the target beneficiaries. Their main roles include participation in the training, adopt and promulgate the best practices and provide feedback for further improvement of the technology,
2) The Gewog RNR extension agents: They perform vital functions such as providing hands on training, providing technical backstopping and also monitoring the implementation of the best practices by the farmers,
3) Dzongkhag RNR sectors: They prepare Sustainable Land Management (SLM) plans, mobilize resources and provide technical back stopping to the field staff. They act as a bridge between the Central Government Institutions and the field extension agents,
4) Members of the local government: They facilitate introduction of technology in their locality.|
Section 5. Contribution to impact
Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)
The best practice increases land productivity through improving soil fertility and increasing the nutrient holding capacity of soils.
Formation of partial terraces overtime resulting in more levelled land to retain topsoil and plant nutrients.
The better availability of forage resources encourages stall feeding of livestock animals (cattle). Hence this practice curtails free-grazing in the open spaces and in the woodlands. Therefore, this reduces land degradation due to overgrazing.|
Availability of forage resources improve dairy production and consequently bring improvement to the livelihood of the farmers. Additionally, households with surplus fodder resources can barter with other households for food grains and other household essentials.|
When there is reduced soil erosion on the upper catchments (up-slope), there is less sediment load going into the streams and rivers. This reduces siltation of hydro-power dams and water reservoirs and hence, there is less impact on the water ecology.|
When there is less siltation in the hydro-power dams, this would imply occurrence of less wear and tear of hydro-power applications. Therefore, this will contribute to higher revenue generation for the Nation.|
Describe the major two off-site (i.e. not occurring in the location but in the surrounding areas) impacts
Reduction in siltation of hydro-power dams and water reservoirs towards the lower reaches of the streams and rivers, thereby, having minimal impact on water ecology due to sedimentation.|
Reduction in overgrazing, that is, grazing by the livestock animals beyond the carrying capacity of the pasture/forest land.|
Impact on biodiversity and climate change
Explain the reasons:
The technology has positive impacts on biodiversity conservation through its contribution in mitigating land in terms of its productivity and on size of land on which the biodiversity thrives. It also provides an alternative/additional source of animal fodder. Furthermore, having better soil conservation measures in place will reduce the vulnerabilities of agriculture landscapes to climate related disasters such as land degradation, flash floods, and drought. Since, Bhutan is characterized by rugged terrain, fragile geological set-up and more frequent and erratic climatic conditions; it is more vulnerable to flash floods, landslides and droughts. The proposed practice will enable the farming communities to cope better with the climate change impacts (adaptation) and enhance food security through prevention and mitigation of land degradation, intensive crop cultivation and conservation of soil moisture during the prevalence of dry spells which might be caused by the unusual climatic events.|
Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?
Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?
Section 6. Adoption and replicability
Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?
Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?
The fragile agricultural slopes across Bhutan received little attention in terms of sustainable land management (SLM) inputs vis-à-vis introduction of technologies. Starting late 1970’s and early 1980’s, stone bunding and wetland terracing were very few land management technologies promoted by the government by providing financial incentives. This was as far as it went till late 1990’s and early part of year 2000. Though it was one of the biggest revenue generating sector, it failed to get enough attention [strictly- in SLM domain], partly because the government was placing the social sectors such as education and health in the fore-front of development. However, gradual changes occurred since the year 2004 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF; alias Ministry of Agriculture) placed physical land degradation issues on a visible platform of the nation. Since, 2004, the MOAF has been making relentless efforts in addressing land degradation issues especially in the agricultural fields and in the vicinity of it. This was kick-started with the field assessment on severity of land degradation under Trashigang Dzongkhag, in 2004, which was carried out by the National Soil Services Centre. Then, vigorous bio-engineering training was conducted for RNR extension staff from the selected sites and nearby Dzongkhags. After achieving this, the first national level land management campaign (LMC) was conducted in Trashigang Dzongkhag in July 2005. The activities were implemented in 8 Gewogs (blocks). With participants from MoAF, Dzongkhags, Local Governments, RNR extension agents and local communities, SLM technologies were placed in the affected areas. The activities included establishments of hedgerows, bench terracing, plantations, gully protection techniques such as check-dams, etc. Over 25 ha of land were brought under SLM during the year. The RNR sectors under MoAF continued to work jointly in addressing land degradation issues. Additionally, other organizations, RNR Research Centres have taken very active roles in working towards addressing land degradation. To promote the horizontal spread of SLM activities in the degradation prone areas, the LMC activity was replicated each year, covering an average of 40 acres. By the end of 2011, over 270 acres of land were brought under SLM practices. The area excludes the ones from the reported best practices which covers over 11,390 acres.|
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?
The best practice can be introduced with minimal cost involvement using the materials collected from the local sources. It is not expensive. Once properly trained on technical aspects of the technology, one can execute without difficulties.|
The technical aspects of the best practice is not complex. It is very simple and easy to learn how to do it. For this a proper demonstration of the technique will be able to equip stakeholders with the knowhow.
The best practice is very effective and efficient in containing the sediment, improving the soil nutrient budget and for easement of the workability due to formation of partial terraces.|
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 implementation of this technology requires labour. Fortunately, this has been addressed by adopting labour sharing groups from within the community/communities. This takes participatory approach rather than as a single household effort. However, with increasing rural-urban migration, the practice needs to be made more labour-efficient considering feedbacks from stakeholders and from the field experiences gained over the years.|
Related to technical aspects
The technology is simple & easy to learn, requiring basic training to build knowledge & skills of the farmers, thus lowering the costs. However, it has some problems too. Technically, the row width decrease with the increase of the slope angle, but it was realised that at slopes > 30°, the width of the rows become too narrow making it unfriendly for traditional cultivation system, e.g. use of oxen for ploughing. This has to be compromised by maintaining 6 m row interval at slopes > 30°.|