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22 September 2019
PLATFORM2013: Inspirational sustainable island farming in Mauritius Print
Monday, 06 January 2014 11:22

University of Mauritius’ article in PLATFORM2013 outlines a project in Mauritius that focused on working closely with a community of onion farmers to implement environmentally friendly farming practices on sloping coastal land in a way that both supports the local eco-system, and increases crop yields and fish catch in the nearby lagoon.

Researcher: Associate Prof. B. Laljee, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Réduit.[Portrait: Associate Prof. B. Lalljee]

Research in Context

The core mission of the University of Mauritius is the creation and dissemination of knowledge and understanding for the citizens of Mauritius and the international community, with the purpose of these being used for social, environmental and economic development,” said the Vice Chancellor of University of Mauritius while discussing Research Uptake. “In addition to its capacity-building approach that contributes tremendously to the training of a well-qualified workforce for various sectors of the economy, the University also plays an important role in addressing national priorities.

The main objective of the Maurice Ile Durable programme is to make Mauritius a world model of sustainable development, particularly in the context of SIDS (Small Island Developing States). The research project chosen for this publication ran from 2009 to 2013 as a part of this programme. Its intent was to make coastal and sloping-field agricultural practices more sustainable through the development of a package of technologies that help to reduce the impact of fertiliser and pesticide on water systems, and decrease soil erosion, land degradation and siltation of a downstream lagoon, while at the same time contributing to employability and poverty alleviation. Key to the success of this project was the dissemination of knowledge and technology to the end users, the farmers themselves

What it’s about

Conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture, this research project focused on the development of sustainable agricultural technologies for use in coastal and sloping field plots with the aim of (i) reducing soil erosion and agrochemical leaching into a nearby lagoon; (ii) reducing the negative impacts of fertilisers and pesticides on the coastal and lagoonal ecosystems; and thereby (iii) reducing the directly related decline in lagoonal fish catch.

Beneficiaries and unique location
The direct beneficiaries of this project were the farmers that cultivated onions and other food crops on the sloping lands of the coastal belt in the South East region of the island of Mauritius, and the fishermen who depended on lagoonal fishing for their livelihood. The indirect beneficiaries were people living in the region, as well as tourists who visit this area to marvel at the combination of the steep, lush mountainside that drops spectacularly into the ocean and the lagoon, with its shallow waters criss-crossed by deep canals, that create hundreds of different shades of green and blue on sunny days.

Funders and stakeholders
This research project is in the field of agriculture and was funded by the European Union under the ReCoMap programme to the tune of 4.2 million rupees. The project was officially launched by three Government ministers, in the presence of representative of the European Union and the Indian Ocean Commission, the direct beneficiaries and target groups.

Research in action
One of the novelties of this project was that the stakeholders, namely the onion growers and fishermen in the South East coastal area, were involved right from the inception of the project. Research and demonstrations were carried out in farmers’ fields and the farmers were directly and fully involved in the project. The technologies developed for and demonstrated to farmers were simple and affordable as well as sustainable, and included mulching by crop stovers, composting, preparation and extraction of botanical pesticides from locally available plants area, and use of yellow sticky traps for insect control. Farmers were able to see for themselves the improvement in yield and quality of the onion crop as well as the resulting reduction in the amount of pesticides and fertilisers that needed to be applied, and therefore the reduction in the extent of agrochemicals that entered the sea. At the same time, fishermen in the area were provided with free fish cages as part of the project, and were able to see and appreciate the difference in seawater quality, and the expected effect on fish catch.

Capacity and uptake
The capacity-building component of the project consisted of the provision of equipment that formed an integral part of the project, including free field machinery, tools, and implements such as rotovators, pesticide sprayers and water pumps. Training and awareness activities on the use of sustainable agricultural technologies were also held with other farmers in the region.

The technology had a very high adoption rate of over 75%. It was also of great interest to the media and received wide coverage on radio and television. The results of this research have potential for use in other regions of the island that have a similar topography and agricultural profile, and can be used by policy-makers as an evidence base to make decisions related to agricultural production systems in the country. An interesting aspect of the project was the close and trusting relationship it built between the University researchers and the direct beneficiaries in the region, in particular the 50 or so farmers whose fields were included as part of the research project. This relationship continues with the implementation of another project that the researchers are in the process of setting up.

Join the Research Uptake Conversation

If this piece of evidence-based development research from SSA is of use to you, please continue the Research Uptake Conversation by contacting University of Mauritius.

Website: www.uom.ac.mu

 

DRUSSA Research Uptake Leader and PLATFORM2013 article writer/researcher at University of Mauritius
Associate Prof. B. Lalljee
Faculty of Agriculture
vinodi@uom.ac.mu

DRUSSA Research Uptake Champion at University of Mauritius
Prof. Sunita Facknath
Faculty of Agriculture
sunif@uom.ac.mu

Read this article on pages 48 and 49 of PLATFORM2013 – a print and digital publication from the DRUSSA Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA] – aimed at accessibly communicating evidence-based development research with the goal of deepening its reach and impact in the region. 

Follow the PLATFORM2013 blog campaign daily until 16 January 2014. You’ll find the blog schedule on PLATFORM2013 articles from the DRUSSA Universities here

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