The pilot farms, learn simple techniques a for healthy development
The Agronomists and Veterinarians of Mekong Plus live in the villages and listen to the farmers. The can then propose improvements with superior performance. Small farmers cannot afford to produce less nor do they like high risks. In the villages capital is scarce and usually the ROI, the return on investment is 100%. However Mekong Plus has a long term view and only proposes solutions in harmony with the environment, which are inexpensive and replicable without Mekong Plus.
The best trainers are in fact fellow-farmers, who share with their peers, better than a technician from outside the village! With this in mind Mekong Plus uses the pilot farmers as models and trainers. First we help them to test new techniques, then they teach and advise other villagers. Small farm meetings are organized at the request of the villagers, usually 10-20 farmers gather around the pilot farmer. This concrete talk, very practical, farmers argue and are not intimidated as they can be with an agronomist with a university degree.
A. nets instead of fertilizers & pesticides
When you have a small plot only to feed your family, you put everything in its single harvest. Often the peasants tend to put too much pesticide and fertilizer, as they think “more is better and safer”. Mekong Plus proposes a better and cheaper option: a net. The vegetables are well protected from insects and also from the heavy rains of the monsoon. Farmers can then grow throughout the year, which is not possible in traditional agriculture. Save on chemicals and grow vegetables all year round are the two key arguments to convince the peasants.
B. dry litters
One solution to reduce the impact of pollution from the excrements from livestock is the dry litter. This serves as natural fertilizer to adjacent crops. With this technique the farmer puts a layer of rice bran treated with Trichoderma* in the pig or poultry stall. This makes them save time and water. When they sell their animals, the litter is an excellent compost.
* Trichoderma is an organic fungus; it makes the roots more resistant to stress and disease; it is also a cheap organic accelerator that prevents disease.
C. compost in the paddy fields
At harvest, the remaining straw is not burned but sprayed with Trichoderma which accelerates the decomposition of the straws. The farmer saves transporting the straw out of the field, no need for burning it, and one saves about 10 days before the next crop can be started.
Another way to get rid of the pollution generated by the animals is the installation of a biogas system. In this case, excrements are mixed with the water used to clean the pig stall, and goes down the drain to the biogas tube. Within 2-3 weeks the fermentation naturally produces methane gas, which will be led directly to the kitchen. This process is doubly interesting for the family and for the planet. Indeed, not only the slurry removal is essential to the health of the residents living nearby (pest and disease factors), but also biogas reduces deforestation in the region as a family without biogas uses a tree per month as firewood.
New challenges in the face of rising sea levels
The Mekong delta is facing a new challenge: the progressive salinization of water makes the land unsuitable for cultivation. The villagers try to limit the penetration of saline water with sluice gates and pumping, but ultimately they risk to give up paddy cultivation and shift to shrimp culture. Which is another source of heavy pollution. The Mekong delta is one of the worst affected regions in the world and sure enough, the poorest will suffer.