Waste not, want not!
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Neckles, Floyd. 1994. Waste not, want not!. Spore 51. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49386
Floyd Neckles, a Grenadian, is a livestock feed and farm management specialist and has been a consultant with regional and international agencies in the Caribbean. Since 1981 he has been Project Director of the Sugarcane Feeds Centre in Trinidad....
Floyd Neckles, a Grenadian, is a livestock feed and farm management specialist and has been a consultant with regional and international agencies in the Caribbean. Since 1981 he has been Project Director of the Sugarcane Feeds Centre in Trinidad. 'Modern', developed agriculture reflects modern life in its high consumption of energy and natural resources. Waste products are produced that are at best an embarrassment or nuisance and at worst serious pollutants. Such systems of production are not sustainable in the long-term and it is possible to develop integrated systems where local inputs are optimized and recycled, with a reduction in external inputs. Soil, sun and water are the raw materials for agriculture and in most ACP countries they are abundant. In warmer, wetter regions the sugar-cane plant, a forage grass and fast-growing leguminous tree species can thrive together. The demand for cane sugar has declined dramatically in recent years and much cane land has gone out of production. Alternative crops have been successfully introduced in some countries but too often sugarcane cultivation has been replaced literally by nothing and agriculture has declined. Yet sugar-cane is a C4 photosynthetic plant, one of the most efficient at converting the sun's energy into metabotisable carbohydrate, and there are more potential uses for sugarcane than processing into sugar for direct human consumption. The Sugarcane Feeds Centre (SFC) in Trinidad is an institution of applied research, development, demonstration and training whose objective is to investigate these uses in relation to animal production. Our facilities are on 60 hectares of poor quality, non-agricultural acid utisol land at Longdenville in central Trinidad, where we have got a fairly wide programme of alternative uses for our sugarcane. We experiment with, and demonstrate, feeding under an intensive management system using available products and byproducts of agriculture and industry. Some twelve different projects run concurrently at SFC. These include aquaculture, a small dairy herd and heifer replacement rearing unit, beef feedlot, sheep and goats, pigs, ducks, rabbits, an abattoir used semi-commercially and for training, and an offal processing facility, the energy for which is supplied by a small biogas plant. Crops grown are sugarcane, elephant grass (Pennisetum) and two forage tree species, Leucaena leucocephala and Acacia mangum. Fresh whole cane yields in excess of 80 tonnes per hectare per year have been obtained when animal manure is recycled. Four or five cuttings of leucaena per year yields 15-20 tonnes fresh matter per hectare. Obviously few, if any, farmers would contemplate operating so many enterprises on a commercial scale. However, the system can be related to 'traditional', integrated farming of an earlier generation. 'Modern' agriculture, even in the tropics, has moved into specialization and monoculture (even of animals!). We envisage farmers typically choosing one or more additional enterprises to complement their present activity. For example, a broiler producer may have land not devoted to housing or other activities. He can grow not only crops of various kinds, but can also rear sheep, goats and/or cattle, using broiler litter as the basis of the feeding system, perhaps ending up with three, four or five integrated enterprises. What we highlight to visitors is that they may have more options open to them and that there are techniques for utilizing land intensively, yet on a sustainable basis. It is possible to reduce external inputs to a minimum and yet produce good quality milk, meat and fish for use or additional income. We also face the problem in Trinidad and Tobago, as do many ACP countries, that by-products which were dumped or given away by processors are offered to live-stock producers at high prices as soon as farmers begin to use them. Transportation costs have also been rising, which reinforces the need for as much input as possible to be farm-produced. There are two other important factors. The systems of animal production that were introduced in the early decades of agricultural modernization have tended to promote the use of imported feeds. Secondly, local production often has to compete with imports from developed agricultural countries that are produced and exported with high government subsidies. My interpretation of unfolding events is that the day will come, and it is not too far away, when these high subsidies will be removed. Increasing concern for the damaged environment will also result in less excess 'cheap' food being either available or cheap. We are then going to find it was a mistake for our farmers to depend on getting their animal feed needs from abroad. Even worse, as nations we would have failed to pursue the option of producing more of our basic food needs by working more consciously to develop our agricultural potential. With generally weakening currencies and difficulty in maintaining prices of our exports of any type, we will find it increasingly difficult to pay for imports. When that happens, I believe that farmers, consumers and governments will look increasingly to the integrated low-input, recycling systems such as those we demonstrate. We know we have the land resource and the people, we know we have the sun, soil, rain and water. We have the crops and, increasingly, the knowledge and ability to use them. We must set about doing more with our agricultural resources guided by policies that are forward looking. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA.