Our own Fred Vocasek is a member of the American Society of Agronomy (or the ASA). Fred, along with other ASA members, have been talking about water security on a global scale.
From the interview:
Why isn’t no-till being practiced in developing countries?
Rattan: There are several reasons. One is that the same crop residues that we’re talking about as being important in water conservation have many other competing uses. In developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, crop residues are used for fodder, and for fencing and house construction. And more importantly, residues are used for cooking by many households. You’ve heard the story about the atmospheric brown cloud (ABC)? That originates from cooking by burning biomass, crop residues, and animal dung.
So unless those competing use requirements are met through policy interventions, through education, through incentives, these crop residues will not go back on the land. And if residues do not get back on the land, water does not get effectively conserved.
When you say “incentives,” what are you thinking of specifically?
Pete: Maybe Rattan and Fred won’t totally agree with this, but I think to get change you need to provide an economic incentive. For example, if we want people to stop using biomass for fodder in some of these cultures, they need to see that they can make a better living by leaving it on the land. In other words, everything relates back to the billfold. Or for the subsistence farmer it’s not the billfold, it’s just a better life. So, the trick is finding a way, whether it’s through policy or something else, to create that economic incentive. Because every farmer I’ve ever met in Colorado who has converted over to some of the practices we recommend will say they did it because they could make more money.
Fred: One of the tenets of management is “What gets paid, gets done.” For example, I’ve been in southwest Kansas for about 30 years and I’ve seen a huge change in irrigation systems or water management technology—let’s call it that. And several things have driven that: the increased cost of fuel, the increased cost of pumping. So it’s been somewhat economical to switch over to technologies that are more efficient.
Pete: Exactly. So, for example, if a government policy were in place that would encourage farmers to try a new technology that would be profitable—a seed grant or something, to get people going—that would be good. We don’t want programs that require public input of money forever and ever. They need to be pilot projects that get people started and let them realize the benefits. And then they can take it from there.
It is spring time…right?
We wanted to share some photos with you that were taken over the past couple of weeks.