Benefits of alley farming for the African farmer and her household

Material Information

Benefits of alley farming for the African farmer and her household
Series Title:
Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Cashman, Kristin
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Africa ( LCSH )
Farming ( LCSH )
University of Florida. ( LCSH )
Spatial Coverage:
Africa -- Nigeria
North America -- United States of America -- Florida

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University of Florida
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Full Text
Conference on

Kristin Cashrpan InternaticraL Institute of Trcpicat A;ricuLture
Farming ; C stems Prcram
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PME 534-1)..."yo.Rcad ltacano Ni,,eria

A. SAC in-; is a ne. 3rc inrcyative appro.--ch to r-jrGL Livin:-,
ALLey f rm 'LL oescriL e ine
that wi L L cnarige the face cf Nigeria. lRy.paper wi technique n a state jy I use 6 to i L LLm in ate my own reseacn finain, s ano extend tn aLLey farming system. tc faziLy farmers in t he viLLajes of ,io-Ate ana Owu-ILe ir Oyc Stateo southeastern Nigeriaa. It iLLLstrates t e neea for cLcser LinKS tEt eell research and extension, as weLL as iren, woaeno anc cniLcren in the deveLcpment, introduction, generation, and or3cing management Gf aLLey farffinj.
In many parts Gf the humia anc s- ohuffic trcpicso particuLarLy in Af ri ca, shi f t intj cuLtivaticn wi th the related cus-h-faLLow. sLash-anc-burn cuLtivation is st i Lt tne dominant crcp procict ion system. In this system short crcpr In periccs a Lterrate with Lana taLLow, periods. The faLLow price restores soiL fertiLity and rics the Lana of many noxious weeczo Res tse an c ci seas es A
arge area of the humic anc: suchuff ic re ions corrpri s ini -' i jeri a is cominatec ty Low activity cLay (LAC) scils. These soiLs art characterized by a Lo% nutri ert status., Low avai LacL e kater an ; nutrient reserve and are highLy susceptitLe to saiL erosion (Kanc ano juo.- 1981).
The tracitionaL oush faLLcw system is Linkec to the regro4tn cf deep rooted trees anc shrut;s that recycLe pLant.nutri nts anc buiLda up organic matter. During the faLLo pericc: pLart cover ano Litter protect the soiL from the impact cf nijh intensity rainfaLL ana %ith the roots binc: the soiLe as 6eLL as increase water infi Ltration arc reduce runoff arc sci L ercs ion. P oreovtre Litter muLch ano shading by tree ana shrub canopies reduce soiL
teffperature anc! reduces weed infestation.
In vacation to restoring soit fertititye the CLsh faLLc4 provides
supLementary. fcooo animaL feecP staking matEriaL.- firewooce ano herbal medicines.
Where Land is abundant the nush faLLcw has been fauna to oe a state and efficient ffethccl fcr sciL fertiLity re generationn for c rap procucticn. Food crops grow weLL on ne .Ly cLeareu Lanu foLLcwinc a Lorg fatto% or rest period.
Y e to increasing Lanc pressure.. resuLting.from. rapic pcpuLition growth tnrougnout Africa has resuLteo in a shortening of the
a L L c w periods. Cver-exptoitation cf Lanc: ccminatec Ly hilhLy weathered., frariLe scils and ceforestatiun is attrioutinG to the downward spirit of the environment. This incLuces soiL
degradation.- rapiaty cecLinln crop yieLds.. ana increasing invasion of cifficuLt to ccntrc: w eecs Risin.: popuLatiGn f6rce farmers to cemanc mcre from the Lanc, to reEuce tracitionaL faLLow periods and open.ana cLear marGinaL anc forested Lancs that past generations avoicea (Kan:; et. aL.o 1934).

The InternaticnaL institute cf TrapicaL AcnicuLture (IITA) irancates research or innovative cioLoc icaL tectncLc,-;ies. These innovations ass Ist Limit ed resource-farmers to enhince the productivity of their soils, recuce their neec for e x pensive.* dflO cften uncttainaLte, capit3L inputsp anc increase fcoa'supcLies.
Many lconventional a~ricuLturat methods are nct whoLLy suitac.Le f or tropical conciticns. Sirce the a vera e farmer in Africa cannct afford the costly inputs conventional Amrerican farmers use to address production protzLems., IITA deveLopec a lO-w input soiL rvanacerrent technoL'-y that can sustain crop procuction cn the same pieci of Lana indeflnateLy.
This promising systeff is alley farmfinj. Alley farrring is discussed as a technotcgy' in the croacest sense; it is a management system not a new piece of hardware.
Alley cropping is an agroforestry system in khich toa crops are grown in alleys forirec cy Legum~inous heageroims. The heoGerows are cut back or pruned on a regular oasis and are aLLowec to rcw freeLy curing fallow. The cuttings are usec as a nutrient ricn muLch anc as animal folder.
Alley croppingj is particularly amena.L-e to African farmers since it retains. many of the basic features of the tracitioraL Oush fallow, being easily adoptec b-y resource Liaitec farmers. Tne Legumrinous tree species in th e aLey cropping system:
* Provide screen manure or mujlch fcr companion fooc crops
and recycles nutrients from ceeper soil layers.
*Provide pruningso applied as mfulcho and shace c~ring fallow to suppress weeds.
*Provides favorable conditions for sciL regeneration.
*The hedgerows prov .ice an extensive rcoting system,, in acdition to mulch to control soiL erosion.
* The prunings prcvide a nutritious source of animaL
fcdoer, staking Material,- anc not to be understressof ire wood.
*The trees coffprising the hecqercws are Le uffinous anc bictogicaLLy fixec nitrcgen to the companion food crop.
In 1984 the International. Livestock Center for Africa CILCA)
introduced aL Ley f arming to f ami ly f armers in tio vi llages in
southwestern N ig e r ia. This outreach program was cased on a mooeL
attempting to integrate small ruminant production with alley croppin

through a cut ano carry feeding of 25% of the leucaena anc gliricicia tree foliage. In crcer to give stfficient benefit to the farmer's crops and avcio the possibility of mining the scil, 75% of the prunings should be applied as mulch to the sciL (Sumoerg, 19d4).
An important objective in the initial phase was the icentification, description, ana monitoring of the client population fcr the ILCA alley farming moael. The monitoring was concerned with expLaining the contrasting participation of particular categories of ren ano women. Upon completion and analysis of an initial demographic survey
administered in the villages, ILCA concluded that only 29% of the women in the area farmea, most in ccllaboraticn with their husoanos. At this point, ILCA wanted to know why so few women farmed, anc why even fewer planted alley farms (Report to the Fcro Founoation, 1984).
This research, which was supported oy a grant from the Fcro Foundation, to assess the potential involvement of women in alley farming. Findings, based on participant cbservations, show that specific attention must be focussec on women, if the benefits cf alley farming are going to have maximum environmental and socio-eccnomic
Observations and inquiries produced increasing returns regarding the activities of women's Lives. Initial information incicated that the majority of women dc not farm. With baseLine cata on Yoruba women's involvement in agriculture so weak, my fielo work was to acquire

vaLio, pertinent, ano reliable data.
The increasing replacement of locally procuced commcuities with manufactured ones anc higher school fees ccntinue to pressure the ccmmunity members to seek every means possible to raise their income.
Both villages are now very "accessacLe to the cutside wortLa." As a result, urban tracers come to the rural areas anc export cutK quantities of produce from the farmers. These very farmers once relied on their wives and other village women to trade their procuce for them. In adoiticn, some of the en in the village with access to transport are harvesting fielcs ana acing their share of trading in urban centers too. The neeo for the small time itinerant female
trader is diminishing.
With no other means to make a Living, more and more women in the villages are farming. The majority of produce women grow ano harvest is usec for their families. The crops that homen process anc sell are purchased from other farmers. This is a matter of economics because a woman's losses 7ano gains can be calculated nore readily. The crops women grow can be harvested arc processed for their families as they need it. If a woman buys a crop from a neichtoring farmer, then she is under pressure to harvest the whole fielto as scon as possicLe so
that the farmer can replant it.
Because women have been at the bcttom of the production hierarchy, in

terms of rescurces; the str~cturese reLatiorshipse ano activities concerning th em c if f er frcrr those affectirc mfen. Toey are cften reLegatec peripheral status. so their activities are more Li Ke Ly to ce nisunderstooco, underestimated, anO miscaLcutatec.
Previous ano currert infornmaticn ana Literature av3iLatLe on rura1 Yoruba women indicates that they are iscLatec in nolre-oasea incu.stries Li ke focd prccessinq for trading purposes. It was not what the Literature stated but what it Left Lnstatea that createc inaccu~rate images cf these women in agriculture. The Literature on women in southwestern Niger ia is nct wrong, tut inacecruate for cesiu-nincg outreach programs in agriculture.
In the 1984 Report to the Ford Foundation, OkaLi ano Cassicy reported, that they were toLo ty viL laGerso i n refe rence to a LLey c ropp in, t he "Women are waiting to see what happens." Yes they~ were waiting, oot not because they are Less serious,' I'laggarcs I 'toL Lcwers' I'Less progressive,' 'Less courageous' or 'Less enthusiastic' about farming than men. For reasons aetaitec in tbis report, women were thouGht not to te activeLy farming. The initiate impressicr resuLtec: in outreach designed and targeted for men.
Therefore the viLlage women's impressions of alLey farminS were comprised of pieces of information passed on cy the mate viLLa'jers. The sketchy information provided to the womten Left a Great ceaL of uncertainty in their miinas as to what alley farming was aLi aoout. Hoekstra (1984) states that, "Risk anc uncertainty aocut the cutccome

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of an activity itt Lower the farmer's perception cf tne expected future benefits," anc that "Uncertainty atcL.t the outcome of an activity wilL, in generaL Leac to a Lower valuation of benefits tndn risk because the outcome is more unkno.n."
Agricultural development selcom helps thcse who carnct take an additional risk anc uncertainty to change. Any uncertainty is too great for a subsistence farcer to accept. Rural wocen not sufficiently irformea about alley farming will reject it. The results of the demographic survey createc an impression of women as only fooc processors ano tracers and attricutec to the low participation cy village women in the first year of ILCA's alley farminG program.
During the sixties many naviganle roads were built in Nigeria. At this time rural areas intiatedtea many 5-day markets. The markets brought better roaa maintenance and greater accessibility many remote rural areas. Farmers began tc sell increasingly more cf their farm produce directly to the urban tracers.
As a result of the ease with which the urban traders, who are capacLe of exporting bulk quantities of procuce, can access rural areas ana make direct contact with the farmers, preconinantly men, rural women are finding it is no Lcnger economically viable to trade long distances. The direct Link that is teing fcrgea between the urban traders ana the farmers, is transforming the open market in ife Coan from a place that usec to market area agricultural prccuce only to a place where women go to buy manufactured provisions.

Women with no other reans to earn an income are farming to supplement their other income generating activities. As a result of tneir many sources of income anc their natural maternal instincts, women are financing of their children's school fees. Anc cue to their tencency to frequent the markets, many are responsible for purchasing those
items needed, but not procuced at home (i.e. salt, sujar, meat).
After Living in the villages for a short time, I realize that many of the women were inceec farming, ano most on their own. My initial observation was, if alley farming was presented anc explainec in a comprehensive fashion, aescrioig all the potential benefits accessiote uncer cifferent management systems, women woulo be more interested in alley cropping. So in accition to my assignec outies, I began to worK closely and continuously with the village schocLs staff, stucents, arc their mothers to gain more accurate picture of family members' involvement in agricultural production.
In research at the househoLc Level, better results anc reliacLe data were obtained by Living ano interacting with those around me as a fellow communitymember, adapting my methods of inquiry to situations confronted, arcno by keeping all possible channels of communication open. To reduce tension, suspicion ana cata distortion I never carried a camera with me ana kept taking field notes tc d minimum. So I must acmit that I have few slices to present at this time.

M y research *as Lased cn participant o.-servaticno I sought acuitional means to illuminate woffen anc ffen's rctes in agricuLture.
A simple data collection schedule was cesigneo and a*uministerea as an assignment. Irfornmation was reccrcec ty illiterate househoLa nefrters, through their chi Lcrenp on their Laoor., production costs, incoMe, anc other farming activities.
I worked closeLy with tfle teachers, principals,- ano stucents,- trying to transfer the appropriate kncwLecge, information and skill fleeced tc understand anc compete the simfpLe surveys, in acoition to substantiating my f innings on f arminG women, the stucents' assi 4nments provided me with infcrniation necessary to form a comprehensive picture of ru raL Yoruba house hoLd:s.
The tending forged with the vintage schcoLs anc the stucents resuLtec in increased acceptance anc accessiciLity tc the village housenolds.
The students served as transmitters of the aLley farming technologies.
This approach has many advantages which incduae:
1) increasing researcher anc villager cooperation cy
having members of the target pcpuLaticn participate
airectly in cata collection anc technology generation;
2) reaucirg errors that can creep into communication translates
tetween two Languages;
3) reaching a Larger segment of the population; ano

4) increasir.invoLvemfent cf the ccrrnunities in Ii-CA's
z.LLey farmin, program.
The schcoL teac-hers introcucec aLLey'farming in the AGricuLture classes and then hac the entire class participate in planting a one-acre plot with Gtiricicia and Leucaena.
When the school planted their aLLey farms, it served as a demonstration plot fcr the whole community. ALL the agriculture students were given acequate seed tc plant part of a rcw in tne schocts' fielder with plenty Left over to take home. This aLLowec the students to ring the technology home in the forim of comrprehtensive information and seece allowing househcLo meffbers to plant their own alley farms.
Student participation shec Light on aspects arc processes of farmin.overshadowed and misjucgeo by outsicers,. anc enatLea ire to reach a
larger numoer of farffing women.
A s the year progressed I cevetopec a more hcListic view of alley farming. 1 began to target the entire househo for the introcuction ano acceptance of this system. I realized that if all ff-em~ers of the househoLc,. especially those famiLy-membters, who worked cn the farm.. haa an adequate uncerstariding of alley faring aria its' rotentiaaL iffpact, then the family couto access and maximize its' potential oenefits. During t he 1985 planting season nearly twice as many women planted aLLey farms.

Despi te earl ier reports cn Ycru-a women's Lou jartici option in farm in,
(Spiro 19 11,- CkaLi 1964, Frarcis., 19Z5) it is rry contention that
sufficient nuaners cf women aare presently encagec in farnminj in tne
villages to justify further intervention in the formi of alley farffin-:.
Moreover, my findings conduce that potentially hign ni..rters of women
a re dlefinateLy attracted to and interested' in a syster cf farmin,which offers increased returns under a sustainatLe systeff to continue
to promote aLLey f amfing speci fi cally to women.
A. Benefits
The attractions of alley f arrirg incorporating a Livestock have Ceen
set out, Yet, there are severaL important reasons why the alley
f arming system shouLa aLso oe more aviaty promoted to women. Tnese
reasons include;
1) Rural women aappear to be increasingly fcrced cut of the
uroan trading markets. They are seeking alternative forms
of Generating income. ALLey faraing can offer thlis.
2) According to Ycruba custom and tradition, men are the cwrerz
of the Land. This is ccomon throughout many parts of Africz Yet, in YorucaLanco notocy is ceniea Lanc to farm. UJp to 5C at- the women in my stucy farmec cr rented ccLand. Cnce a wowar
receives perffissicn to plant.
on another's Larco her crop is estactisheap and the farm is maintained then that piece is ccnsicerec hers. Eu with the
increasingly shorter fallow periocs,. when she is forcec to
Let the farm revert to bushi she Loses ?ler hoLd. CoupLeo
with increasing Land scarcity, womfen appear to -e in a
degenerating position in regarcs to access to farmland.
It also costs a -reat ceaL to clear new Lana as freouertLy
as a rotatioraL allow system recuires. Alley farffing offers sustainable and enhancec: cropping3 and livestock
production with increased Land tenuresnip. Alley farminG
reduces women's need for new Lanc to farmf ano increases
their sense of security of their existing farmLana.

3) women are u na3l e to ove rccme the pruc Lems o f increa sea
time.. money, anc Lacor spent on the necessary items neca
for coae stic constffpticn both food and fcou prccu.cticn
items. In aacitiono depLetec soiLs result in foco crops kc'
in protein and other valuarble nutrients for nfuian heaLtn,teing used in the faffily diet. Alley farmin offers potentia L resoluti ons to these pro3l ems by provi ainc a
aadjtionaL fuel supply, regeneratec soi Ls for yriowingmcA
nutritious fcoo crcps, ana the Leucaena anc Gliricicia seec,
leaves, ana pocs offer a source of high protein food fci.
human corsumptio., (AID Draft, 1385).
4) Women suffer from Liniitec means of storing anc increasinCtheir capital. Alley farming cffers potential fcrimproving their capital income ny~the m-cium anc Lon- -term
increases in returns from crcp inc. This capitaL ditz
stored in the usual manner nel ivestock.6 This LivelWc
in turn will experience improvec health anc nutrition fromf
the Leucaena and GLiricicia foccer use.
e. RecommendationsI
Re commienoati on s f or alley farminG ircLude the whcLe hcusehoLoo as alley
farming benefit woen., men, children, ano infants. After my viLLagelI
experience and interactions with attey farming men, wovene and chiLorenY- I
would suggest:
1) SuiLoing up the commcn identity of families ano compou.nds
with alley farming members. This can te achieved by faFrninq
support groups similar in structure ano function toI
cooperatives. This would prcviae the ffembers with access
to infcrmaticn and support on the state of the art of aLLey
2) Further research on the potential of Leucaena anc ZLiricioia I
as human fooc and Lator saved through the use of the trees
as fuetwooc.
3) Increased attention on the short, meciusm, ano Lon-g-ters
strategies in promoting and managing alley farms (IlockstraA
1984). There needs to be greater anc; enhanced coLLacoration between -research institutions, Like ILCA no IlTAo extension, and the iaLLey farming fatrilies. The need for a system such
as alley farming is crucial, there is nc time to spare onU
petty rivalries ano competition.

ALLey farminyj reduces many corstraints impirg-inc- cn African women's rote i n agriculture. And as primary coLLectors cf firewooc anc contibutors tc the family diet, alley farming wcmen mray ue more effective users, with more environmental impact, then tren. Yet.. I imouLc Like tc make one acoiticna. ccmment. ?Mcst Of u~s have a good sense of what is taking place rural Africa. omen are farmin... we must strive to use, anc encouraGe others to use neutral terminroo--y. 2>' targeting men as farmers.. acopterso ano Lsers of technoLocies; farming women and their chiLcren are impressec that their rote in
agricbL.turaL production is nct iffpcrtant.
The comprehensive nature of aLey farming cictates introaucing and provicing the necessary support in such a manner so that it catches the attention cf-alL Africans regardless of their tender.

1935 Agency fcr InterraticnaL DeveLcpffento L.S.A.
Leucaena: Let's Lse It. Draft report Washinjtcn iwrLeau for
ATF"fE5;-CTTTU-5f-T;ZTMicaL Resourcese A ricuLture and RuraL
DeveLopment Division (AFR/TR/ARD).
1985 Atta-Kraho A.N.
"A DeveLcpmentaL Approach to On-Farm Research: A FiL ot Pro iect
Improving SmaLL Ruminant Procuction in h6mic Aest Africa."'
International Livestock Center for Africao Humic 2one Prc ramo
I)-aaan NiGeria. Paper prepared for the ICARDA/IDAC ke,_;ioraL
Workshop on Research MlethcccLogy for Livestock Gn-Far(r TriaLse
1985 Francis.. P.
"Land Tenure Systems and AgicuLturaL Inrcvations: A Case SStucy
from Southern Nigeria." aper presented at a seminar on
ProbLems of AaricuLturaL DeveLcpment anc Lana PoLicyp Lana
Acwinistratio researchh Centero University of Science and
TechnoLogy. KUM3Sie Ghana.

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19 5 Hoekstrao D.A.
The Use uf :conctrics in Giacr'osis anc Desi'.n of Acroforestry
~T VT. rt'airc: i, Kenya.
1934 Internationat Livestcck 'enter fcr Africa:Reottth
r'ulnnt rouctonProgram in the Humid Suo-Tropics. I cac an,
~iye r i a.
1921 Kan-3, O.T. anc A.S..R. Juc
managementt of Low Activity CLay Sods in southern NiGeria."
Paper presented at the Fourth IrternaticnaL SoiL CLdssification workshop. Ki-aLi, Rwanca.
1984 Kana, O.T., .G.F. 'WiLson.- and T.L. Lawscn
ALLty crc21ncl: A StatLe ALternative tc Shiftinq cuLtivation.
l I JriFafionar
1985 CkaLi, C.
"Commnunity Response to a Pilot ALLey Famaing Project,,International Livestock Center for Africa.. Itacan,- Nigeria."
African Issues Center, Ecstonr Mass. -.cston University.
1984 Spiro, H.,41
"Women in Ag icuLture: The ;esearch Gaps." Paper presented
at the Imcrkshop on women in AgricuLturep hosted by The
InternationaL Li vestock center for Africa, Icadan, igeria.
1984 Suwbergo J.E.
"Smatl Ruminant Feed Procuction in a Farm-inj System~s Context."
Paper presented for the Workshop on SnaiL Ruminant Procuction
Systems in the Huimic Zone of West Africa. InternationaL
Livestock Center for Africa. Itacan,. Niseria.