The purpose of this project is to assess simple-to-use, low-cost techniques to enhance savannah lands in a productive and sustainable manner.
Few plants adapt to the red clay soil of the Palau savannah with its high acidity, low organic matter and many deposits of subsoil. To reclaim the Savannah, project coordinator Kesewaol Bishop surveyed the site and drew a rough sketch to lay out plans, which include:
· digging water diversion ditches,
· “green machining” a 6-foot-wide fire buffer zone,
· preparing beds and planting two-and-a-half rows of native halconias and native trees and shrubs as alley crops and two rows of alternate crops,
· handpicking giant African snails and
· testing native ground covers.
Bishop discovered that rehabilitating degraded savannah land is a lengthy process. The project did, however bring sheet erosion under control, provide an effective fire buffer zone, grow some successful alley and alternate crops and begin trials on cover crops.
“The projects so far look promising,” says Bishop. “They indicate savannah lands may be stabilized. The next big step is to enhance the soil’s fertility.”
A heavy rainstorm revealed that the sheet erosion was markedly reduced, but exterior erosion onto the farm increased during the storm because a road leading to two home-construction sites had been reopened. Still, much of the road erosion was diverted through the ditches. In addition, the fire buffer did its job, stopping the latest fire from reaching the farm.
Of the three varieties of native halconias planted as alley crops, only one survived, but it is thriving. Two of the six native savannah trees and shrubs appear promising.
“We have learned about the adaptability of native plants,” says Bishop. “We are in the process of creating favorable microclimates under difficult conditions.”
Finally, handpicking the giant African snails reduced their numbers by 80%.
The project shows the reclamation potential of savannah lands through careful management. Adding nutrients to the soil could make such lands even more valuable.
FARMER OR RANCHER ADOPTION
While several farms have inquired about the methods used in the SARE-funded project, it is too early to assess whether they have adopted any on their own operations
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
Bishop contends that the original hypothesis remains valid, but the scope of the project was too short. To establish plants under adverse conditions and to have a lasting impact requires additional time and money.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
The outreach effort, which had yet to initiated at the time of this report, will include photo and video documentation as well as on-site farm tours by farmers, ag instructors and ag students; monthly newsletter articles; an article in two local newspapers; and the write-up and submission of a final performance evaluation report.