Pedal Powered Farming

culticycle pedal powered tractor

The Culticycle is a pedal powered tractor that can cultivate, seed, spray, or pull gear for most low horsepower tasks. We talked about the first prototype almost two years ago. A new version has now been released, built around a modular tractor frame. Tim Cooke explains us how it’s built and how it works:  [Read more…]

The Beauty of Organic Farming

the beauty of organic farming picture by Lloyd Kahn

It’s not an advantage that’s often emphasized, but organic fields are much more beautiful than monocultures. The picture above was shot north of Santa Cruz, USA. Photographer is Lloyd Kahn, author of the fascinating Shelter blog.

Animals as the Answer to Recycling Food waste

Mountains of food scraps end up in landfills every day. While northern countries glorify attempts to facilitate this trash-to-treasure process using state-of-the-art technologies, Bobbili, a town in Northeast India, adopts a tech-free solution – a park using animals for solid waste management.

animals recycling food waste

Livestock at waste management park in Bobbili, India

[Read more…]

Lost Crops of Africa

lost crops of africa

“Like Asia and the Americas, the continent of Africa is blessed with a rich tropical flora. Many of the 50,000 or so plants that evolved within its forests and savannas ripen fruits to tempt the myriad wild creatures into spreading their seeds. Speaking generally, Africa has as many of these tasty morsels as tropical Asia or America.

This fact, however, is something one would never guess by looking in produce markets or college textbooks. Today, American and Asian species dominate tropical fruit production worldwide, including within Africa itself.

For this, there is good reason. Africa’s fruits have not, by and large, been brought up to their potential in terms of quality, production, and availability. Geographically speaking, few have moved beyond Africa’s shores; horticulturally speaking, most remain poorly known. Thus, the vast continental landmass lying between Mauritania and Mauritius contains a cornucopia of horticultural, nutritional, and rural-development jewels still waiting to be cut and polished.”

The three volumes can be consulted online at The National Academic Press. Previously: Lost crops of the Incas. Via Avantgardens.

Precolumbian Causeways and Canals

precolombian causeways

Detail of an engineered landscape in the Bolivian Amazon. Artwork by Clark Erickson.

“In contrast to the Western obsession to drain what are considered marginal wetlands for agriculture, farmers in the Bolivian Amazon may have intentionally expanded wetlands and wetland productivity through earthwork construction, which impedes, rather than enhances, drainage.

The precolumbian farmers did not use causeways as dikes to prevent inundation of fields and settlements, but rather to expand and enhance inundation for agricultural production.

At the same time, impounding water with well-placed causeways and the creation of canals improved and extended the season of transportation by canoe across the landscape. The grid-like structure also permanently marked land tenure in a highly visible manner.” [Read more…]

Agricultural Heritage Systems

agricultural heritage systemsSix traditional farming systems in China, Iran and South Korea known for their unique characteristics and approaches to sustainability have been designated Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

They include Iran’s Qanat Irrigation system, an ancient network of farms that have survived for nearly three millennia; a 22-thousand-kilometer system of black stone walls built from volcanic rock in Jeju, South Korea; and the traditional Gudeuljang Irrigated rice terraces in Cheongsando, South Korea.

Also on the list are a trio of sites in China: the unique Xinghua Duotian Agrosystem, famous for its method of water-land utilization; the historic Jasmine and Tea Culture System of Fuzhou City; and, the Jiaxian Traditional Chinese Date Gardens. The sites were officially recognized during the 28-29 April meeting of the GIAHS Scientific and Steering Committee at FAO headquarters in Rome.

These new designations bring the number of GIAHS systems to a total of 31 sites located in 14 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The sites are considered models of innovation, sustainability and adaptability, delivering important benefits to the ecosystem. The GHIAS website has extensive documentation about most of these agricultural heritage systems. Picture: The Jasmine and Tea Culture System of Fuzhou City, China.