Washington, June 2 : Scientists have determined that a combination of high-yield seeds, fertilizer, and small-scale irrigation may help poor farmers to increase food production, who have been till now using traditional methods of farming.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), traditional farming uses few inputs and gets poor yields.
Poor peasants use their own seeds from the preceding season, lack fertilizer, depend on rain rather than irrigation, and have little if any mechanization beyond a traditional hoe. Their farms are small, perhaps one hectare (2.5 acres) or less.
Under traditional agricultural conditions, the yields of grain-rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, or millet-are usually around one ton per hectare, for one planting season per year.
For a farm family of five or six living on one hectare, this means extreme poverty, and for their country, it means reliance on expensive food imports, including food aid.
The solution is to increase grain yields to at least two tons-and in some places to three or more tons-per hectare. If water can be managed through irrigation, this could be combined with multi-cropping (multiple harvests per year) to produce a crop during the dry season.
Higher and more frequent yields mean less poverty in farm families, and lower food prices for cities.
The key to increasing yields is to ensure that even the poorest farmers have access to improved seed varieties (usually "hybrid" seeds created by scientific selection of seed varieties), chemical fertilizers, organic matter to replenish soil nutrients, and, where possible, small-scale irrigation methods, such as a pump to lift water from a nearby well.
If farmers can be helped to obtain simple technologies, income can rise, and they can accumulate bank balances and collateral.
With a bit of temporary help, perhaps lasting around five years, farmers can build up enough wealth to obtain inputs on a market basis, either through direct purchases from savings or through bank loans.
According to experts, the time has come to reestablish public financing systems that enable small farmers in the poorest countries, notably those farming on two hectares or less, to gain access to needed inputs of high-yield seeds, fertilizer, and small-scale irrigation.
The World Bank, under its new president, Robert Zoellick, has now stepped forward to help finance this new approach.
If the Bank provides grants to poor countries to help small peasant farmers gain access to improved inputs, then it will be possible for those countries to increase their food production in a short period of time.