Designing low-input cropping systems for smallholders in Surinam

Supervisors

Jeroen Groot (FSE Wageningen UR)
Walter Rossing (Wageningen UR)
Johannes Scholberg (FSE Wageningen UR)
Otto Kroesen (Surinam)
Rudi Darson (Surinam)
Dennis Tjoen A Choy (Surinam)

The east of Suriname (the district Marowijne) is at an economic turning point. Currently, the main employer is the mining industry, but it is expected that this will come to a halt within 3 years. When this happens, the already relative poor region will run a great risk of severe economic and social problems. The most obvious option to solve this is by promoting agriculture, especially commercial agriculture. However, current agricultural practices are mainly slash-and-burn, and often produce barely enough to sustain a single household. Farmers that do produce commercially often rely heavily on external inputs as pesticides and fertilizer, which are also unsustainable and usually too costly for poor smallholders in the start up phase. To make agriculture a viable alternative as source of income in this region, the production needs to be intensified and more sustainable. To do so,  there is a need for a two-way approach: new production methods have to be developed, and farmers need to be convinced to learn these new production methods.  A model farm and training center is being built to help new farmers to produce with new methods, by showing and explaining them the benefits. The knowledge gained from this thesis/internship will be directly used in this center to help local smallholders.

To help these farmers, there is a need for an integrated cropping design. With the current production methods, there are two common problems: the soil is quickly exhausted and acidified, and pests (e.g. ants) severely damage production. Therefore research needs to be done which crops are to be combined in a rotation scheme to decrease exhaustion and acidification of the soil and increase production. For pest reduction, research needs to be done which crops can be used for inter-cropping to increase pest control or natural enemies of the pests need to be identified.

Next to the research, interviews need to be held with local stakeholders, especially smallholders. Both to learn from their experiences and to familiarize them with the new approach.

Objectives

  • To design cropping systems that require lesser external inputs as fertilizer
  • To find ecological, low input methods to reduce damage due to pests
  • To engage local smallholders with the project.

Procedures

  • Carry out experiments in the field (on-farm
  • Design new experiments based on solid research
  • Interview local stakeholders
  • Conduct soil analysis
  • Share gained knowledge with local stakeholders
  • Preparation of a detailed proposal
  • Conducting field experiments
  • Designing cropping systems
  • Working with local stakeholders
  • Writing a Bsc / MSc thesis (and preferably a manuscript for a journal) in English