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Sustainable farming in East-Africa 



Yra Kurstjens, Frederique Boon, Sander van Rijsewijk and  Thom Smits


Small-holder farmers in the East African Region, namely Ethiopia, Uganda and South-Sudan, often do not make use of pesticides and fertilizers and therefore are losing big proportions of their produces to invasive pests. However, the implementation of “regular” chemical pesticides and fertilizers would give higher yields on the short term but eventually lead to land degradation, loss of topsoil and biodiversity, dependencies on agrochemical companies and human toxic threats. Currently, economic development in small communities is stagnated and yields remain low. 


To tackle the problem at the core, we found the solution to be healthy soil and land management. We developed a “Soil Health Circle” in which we subdivide agricultural practices under ‘defense’ and ‘nutrition’. These agricultural practices either protect the crops against pests and diseases or to boost the health of the soil. We developed a manual in which we describe specific plants, their geographical location, and their pesticidal and nutritional features. Moreover, these chapters described which pests can be repelled and how to turn the plant into a botanical pesticide. If the plant has nutritional values, we describe the know-hows of the usage, propagation and implementation. This manual also includes a visual pest bibliography, terminology chapter and an overview of all the implicit decisions we have taken, being TU/e students. Further use of the manual is then distributed to Cordaid’s local aid workers in South-Sudan and some regions of Ethiopia where our findings will be put into practice. 



The focus of quartile 1 was finding all relevant context regarding the current context and agricultural status in Ethiopia, Uganda and South-Sudan. The major crops with their corresponding pests and diseases were also researched. This set the context to understand what small-holder farmers are struggling regarding their produce and yields. Moreover, effects of “regular” chemical pesticides were explored using various sources and case-studies across the globe. Lastly, botanical pesticides (made from plants) were proposed as the most sustainable and economic viable solution. 

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The second quartile, all relevant botanicals were explored. They were filtered based on their availability in the EAR and human and environmental toxicity. The first format of the manual was developed and more information was researched on the plants growing location, identification, pesticidal properties, drawbacks and benefits. During this quartile 2 interviews were conducted with experts from South-Sudan and Uganda, during which more information on the current usage and interest on botanical pesticides was explored.

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The Last quartile, we mostly focused on including plants with nutritional properties into the manual. The same structure was used to describe the location, identification and propagation of the plants with nutritional properties. During this quartile we redeveloped the Soil Health Circle, explaining different agricultural methods under the subdivision ‘nutrition’ or ‘defense’ to boost soil health and sustain higher yields on the long-term. Lastly, we incorporated feedback on the manual from experts in the EAR to make the manual as valid as we possibly could.

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