Alternative Sustainable Practices for Selected Crops in Puerto Rico
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.
Activities to date
During 1997 the Agricultural Extension Service received a grant from the SARE Professional Development Program for the development of a project to compile, develop, publish and distribute information about sustainable agricultural practices in coffee and starchy crops. It was justify by the lack and necessity of recent educational materials related to the best way of doing sustainable practices to reduce the impact in the environment due to the severe soil erosion and the intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers 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 the sustainable practices for its development and educational dissemination among the clientele.
During this year a draft of the plantains compendium was finished and reviewed by farmers and professionals in this matter. Problems like the nomination of the person in charge, Mr. Manuel Díaz, Farinaceous Specialist, to the administration of the Gurabo Experiment Station delayed the accomplishment of our objectives. A request for extend the period of time until September 30, 2001 was submitted and approved by SARE-NCSU Administrators. A copy of the draft is included with this report.
An auction process is going on for the publication of the coffee compendium. Plantains compendium was submitted for quotations to different printing houses.
Information obtained from an experiment carried by a graduate student to determine the economics of coffee pruning in a sustainable manner was integrated to the compendium to convince the farmers and others of its benefits. The investigation proves that is more economically and environmentally friendly to do in this way than in the traditional manner.
Field observations continued during this year to observe how sustainable practices were adopted by farmers and to obtain their experiences. A sixty percent (60%) of performance was determined.
A mutual agreement was made with the Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) to train coffee farmers to adopt the recommended sustainable practices included in the coffee compendium. Trainings were given to farmers who received incentives for the establishment on new plantations and other practices for the revitalization of the coffee industry after hurricane Georges.
An informal pre-evaluation of the coffee compendium was made distributing drafts among farmers leaders, researchers, conservationists, agricultural sciences students and other participants to obtain their feedback of the content and utility. Positive responses were received.
Arrangements were made with the Agricultural Extension Service Evaluator to conduct a formal evaluation of the project among coffee and plantains farmers, agronomists, researchers and all people involved in the project.
As in the past year, the experience was very productive in terms of the attitudes changes, collaboration, involvement of the participants and the educational materials produced.