Alternative Sustainable Practices for Selected Crops in Puerto Rico

Final Report for ES97-033

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $15,000.00
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Miguel F. Monroig
University of Puerto Rico
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Project Information

Abstract:

The project trained agricultural professionals, producers and other groups in the use of sustainable practices for coffee and starchy crops. Those practices were gathered from farmers, agronomists, ecologists, conservationists and others and printed in two abbreviated compendiums to be distributed among this clientele. The major goal was for coffee and plantain farmers to adopt the sustainable practices for the preservation of the environment, for economic benefits and for social justice for the people of the mountain region of Puerto Rico. Compendiums were prepared and are available for distribution. Adoption of sustainable practices have already increased by forty five percent.

Project Objectives:

1.To stimulate agricultural professionals, producers and other groups to get involved and aware of alternative sustainable practices for coffee, starchy crops, and general agriculture production.
2.To collect sustainable practices in the referred subject matter among farmers, agricultural professionals and interested institutions.
3.To prepare three abbreviated compendiums containing such practices.
4.To distribute the information among the above mentioned clientele.
5.To follow up the adoption of those practices.
6.To enhance our sustainable agriculture strategic and training plans.
7.To prepare materials available for other countries and Spanish audiences in the United States.

Introduction:

During 1997 the Agricultural Extension Service received a grant from the SARE Professional Development Program to compile, develop, publish and distribute information about sustainable agricultural practices in coffee and starchy crops. It was justified by the lack of recent educational materials related to the most current sustainable practices that would reduce the impact in the environment caused by severe soil erosion and the intensive use of pesticides in the steep lands of Puerto Rico.

Those practices were used or adopted by farmers but the “modernization” of the intensive culture dispersed them. With the collaboration and help of farmers, agronomists of different agricultural agencies, investigators, conservationists, ecologists, leaders and specialists we collected and recorded information for development and educational dissemination among the clientele.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

To execute the objectives of the project various activities were conducted:

A literature review was made before writing the manuscripts and meeting with the participants. Important information was obtained in the search of books, scientific journals, technical magazines and other publications.

During project duration nine training meetings were held in different municipalities to give orientation to farmers and receive their feedback. At these meetings, farmers, county agents and specialists participated actively, arguing about the pros and cons of such practices. Finally a decision-making session among the participants determined which practices are feasible. A compilation and summary was made. Some of these farmers have adopted sustainable practices in their farms, and in most cases others are in a positive attitude to develop farming plans that include their utilization. With some of the most interested we initiated pilot projects and field tests using the practices to convince others of its benefits and advantages. It was regrettable that hurricane Georges (September 21, 1998) destroyed the work done.

After training meetings mentioned above, the information compiled was classified and organized by theme in preliminary sketches for further advice with farmers, leaders, county agents, scientific investigators and other persons involved.

Other activities realized during this period were the pictures and slides taken to illustrate practices in the compendiums. Many of them were taken in the pilot projects of the farms and field tests established.

Costa Rica was visited so our cooperators could participate in symposiums and field trips of sustainability in coffee and starchy crops.

Field trips were conducted at private farms and the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Puerto Rico with farmers, leaders and county agents to observe, discuss and validate the sustainable practices in coffee and starchy crops.

Ten alternative sustainable practices were classified and over fifty compiled from the information obtained during the review of literature, foreign countries visits, field trips and training meetings. Forty-three leader farmers, twenty-one county agents, six investigators, two conservationists and one ecologist were involved directly in the process. Sketches of the compendiums were written and discussed with the participants.

Validation and adoption of sustainable practices in the recovery of coffee and starchy crops plantations especially in pruning, fertilizing and soils conservation practices.

Three meetings were held with investigators, farmers, extensionists and other people to make the final review of the compendiums.

A field evaluation was made to observe how farmers adopted sustainable practices and to obtain their experiences. During farm visits we observed a seventy percent (70%) of performance in 1999.

A graduate student carried on an experiment to determine the economics of pruning coffee in a sustainable manner.

Two meetings were held for the evaluation of the printed compendiums with farmers, extensionists, researchers, conservationists and others.

Outreach and Publications

1. Publications list:

Title: “Manual para una Caficultura Sostenible en Puerto Rico”
Status: Completed
Number of copies: 2,000

Title:“Manual Práctico para el Cultivo Sustentable del Plátano”
Status: Completed
Number of copies: 3,000

2. Evaluation results:

a.Coffee compendium
The manual was perceived by the respondents as a very useful reference, very practical, with excellent references, it offers good recommendations applicable to our local conditions, easy to understand and very well organized. The manual was also visualized as a tool that promotes sustainability. The overall grade given to the manual by the participants was in the borderline to excellent. On the other hand, participants feel they did not contribute enough to the guide, some concepts need to be clarified; so all farmers can understand it. There is also room for improvement in the presentation and the illustrations of the manual.

b.Plantains compendium
The manual was perceived by the respondents as a very useful reference, very practical, with excellent references, it offers good recommendation applicable to our local conditions, easy to understand and very well organized. The manual was also visualized as a tool that promotes sustainability. Additionally, it contributes to the knowledge of new concepts, contributes to adopt recommended practices, promotes sustainability practices, and the overall grade given to the manual by the participants was in the borderline to excellent. On the other hand, many respondents felt they did not contribute enough to the guide, and some concepts need to be clarified; so all farmers can understand it. The information compiled in this guided, through considered of high quality, it lacked enough interaction between the main author and the other stakeholder groups in including different views in the guide. Although most respondents considered the information compiled very useful, some were not sure of that at this point.

Outcomes and impacts:

The experience was very productive in terms of the attitudes changes, collaboration and involvement of the participants and the educational materials produced. Farmers are motivated to adopt the sustainable practices on their farms. The compendiums have been of great value and help for it users and have had positive effects for the preservation of the environment, economic benefits and social justice for all the people of mountain region of Puerto Rico.

A mutual agreement was made with the Department of Agriculture of Puerto Rico and the Natural Resources and Conservation Service (USDA) to train farmers to adopt the recommended sustainable practices included in the compendiums. Trainings were given to farmers who received incentives for the establishment of new plantations.

A graduate student of the Agricultural Economics Department of University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez determined the economics of coffee pruning in a sustainable manner. Photos and information obtained from the scientific investigation were incorporated to the compendium.

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.