SALT Innovation to Recover Denuded Forests 90.0
SALT or Sloping Agricultural Land Technology is an innovation in agro-forestry developed in the 70’s to help stop erosion and rejuvenate our deforested slopes. The benefits to the country of its successful diffusion in terms of agricultural productivity and alleviating climate change effects are monumental. STI learning on agro-forestry for erosion prevention is ready to share. It is being diffused for FREE in the Philippines for all takers.
SALT has been successfully adopted in 20 other countries but would not be counted as a Filipino innovation according to the Oslo Protocol (See Post #87, Patarapong Intarakumnerd). It is covered by no patent and did not report R&D spending and is a good reason why addenda to the Protocol must be developed. In fact, it was financed from donations and the sweat equity of Baptist missionaries and their Filipino associates who saw the big benefits of such a public good.
SALT was developed by the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBLRC) of Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Fom its website, the “MBRLC is a non-profit, private development organization with public concern. Its base project is a 19-ha demonstration center, which hosts over 20,000 visitors but has several satellite projects throughout the southern Philippines. “
In the 1950’s the Philippines had 30% forest cover. Since that time, the Philippines became famous the world over for the fastest rate of deforestation which denuded our heritage to just 2.4% cover by 1990.
A lot has been written about the failure of the Aquino administration to implement the logging ban successfully in 1989. Yet, at that point, it was already like “shutting the barn door after the horse has ran away.” Before then, a combination of poverty in the countryside with slash-and-burn farming and the indiscriminate granting of logging concessions by Pres Marcos to his regional warlords and cohorts to prop up his regime created such an environmental disaster and denied us the legacy of past generations.
The MBLRC started the experiments in 1971 first with ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala). At that time, promoting ipil-ipil must have been a great success as I remembered a group of my classmates in 1980 had as their graduate thesis its use as animal feed material as well as for erosion control. Unfortunately, mono-cropping ipil-ipil developed a pest and had to be mixed with other trees in the hedgrows to minimize the psyllids problem. The missionaries researched for alternatives and found madre de cacao (Gliricidia sepium) among other leguminous trees like flemingia, rensonii for the hedgerows that works well up to now.
In 1985, Harold R. Watson, the MBLRC founder, became a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding. MBLRC has been the recipient of numerous awards since then. It has also developed numerous extensions to the original SALT, now dubbed as SALT I. Kudos to the MBLRC!
In 1988, Mr. Watson founded the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF) as, to quote its website, “an Asian-based foundation that is primarily dedicated to aiding the development of upland rural farming areas. Its scope is Asia-wide and it offers training services, conference facilities and on-site consultation services in a variety of countryside development projects. Its base project and main training center is located in the southern Philippines [at MBLRC].”
Among the farming systems MBLRC/ARDLF is promoting are (from their website): “Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT 1), Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2), Sustainable Agroforest Land Technology (SALT 3), Small Agrofruit Livelihood Technology (SALT 4), Food Always In The Home (FAITH) gardening, goat raising, fish farming (aquaculture), sexual and asexual propagation, agro-forestry, fruit production (durian, mango, rambutan, etc.), and vegetable production.”
From the SALT I brochure above, Gliricidia is an interesting tree for rejuvenating the soil because it is leguminous (with rhizobia), in fact, a prodigious nitrogen-fixing plant. Harvesting and mulching its leaves and branches regularly actually reduces the need for urea-type (N-source) chemical fertilizers. Farming it as hedgerows in contours as recommended and harvesting the leaves and branches as mulch around the plants, over time, creates terraces that protect against erosion. Cash crops like corn or perennials like coffee can be planted between the hedgerows to create a profitable agro-forest cover to rejuvenate deforested hills.
(Another leguminous specie developed by the missionaries for hedgerows is flemingia. It has a very high (28%) protein content and is an excellent feed source for livestock. MBLRC also recommends goat-raising between the hedgerows in SALT 2.)
I learned about SALT while attending the free Nestle coffee training at Tagum (See Post #88) as the appropriate cropping system for hilly farms (where contour farming is appropriate). I am acquainted with madre de cacao (gliricidia) at the BSFil black pepper pilot farm (See Post #89).
I am evaluating both for an agro-forestry based afforestation project in Iloilo. Given the present null alternative with negligible income and with the technical assistance from the proponents (for FREE), I do believe we have a winner with coffee and black pepper and SALT in this project.
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