Second Place: Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh’s “Agriculture”

By Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh, posted on March 30th, 2009 in Agriculture, Articles, Ecosystems Theme, Essay Contest 2009

Institute of Advanced Management and Technology

Institute of Advanced Management and Technology

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Institute of Advanced Management and Technology
Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa

Agriculture

The concept of agriculture for sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance in agricultural practices. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term.

For these reasons; a systems perspective is essential to understanding sustainability. The system is envisioned in its widest sense, from the individual farm, to the local ecosystem, and to communities affected by this system both locally and globally. An emphasis on the system allows a larger and more thorough view of the consequences of farming practices on both human communities and the environment. A systems approach gives us the consciousness to explore the interconnections between farming and other aspects of our environment. With this, my focus will be on “Slash – and – Burn Agriculture

Slash-and-Burn Agriculture

Slash-and-burn agriculture is a common practice in underdeveloped countries. In this system, small plots of forest land are partially cleared, the cut vegetation is burned, and crops are planted in the ashes. Weeds are a significant problem when land availability is so scarce. Fertilizers used to maximize crops also maximize weed growth and thus reduce crop size. Herbicides used to control these weeds are often obtained from developed nations in which they have been banned because of possible water and soil pollution problems or adverse health effects. This paper will deal with a hypothetical situation and look at the technical, economic, environmental, and legal issues relating to sales of such herbicides to an African country.

Subsistence farmers in some African countries have traditionally practiced the slash-and-burn farming technique and the plots are used for one to three years and then left fallow. The primary food crops are rice and maize, with some cassava as a security crop, and vegetables that can be sold in local markets. The crops are usually grown in polyculture. Crops which require the highest nitrogen levels are grown first, then crops with lesser requirements. Once the land is depleted of its nutrients, the area is abandoned.

Concerns over deforestation are prompting environmentalists and the governments of some African countries to take actions in tackling environmental issues, yet little or nothing has been done to protect the environment. My worrying alternative here may be to teach the farmers to use more natural forms of weed killers. Mice should be particularly effective, since rice and maize are the major crops grown by the subsistence farmers. If the mice prove highly successful weed killers, no herbicide may be needed. Even if they are only partially successful, at least the amount of herbicide needed could be reduced and thus reduce concomitantly any associated health risks. Environmentally, permanent farming is much more appealing since it reduces the amount of forest land destroyed by slash-and-burn techniques. However, there is a risk of pollution of water systems when chemicals are used in farming. Run-off occurs and underground water tables can become contaminated. Since the people living on these farms do not usually have access to purified drinking water, there are serious health concerns when chemicals are used in farming in these regions. Permissive standards and lax monitoring allow dangerously high levels of the most widely used weed killers in tap water supplies even in America (Henderson 10-11). In Africa, in most cases no sophisticated water delivery systems exist, and water is drawn from rivers and wells which can easily be contaminated by herbicides.

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32 comments
Raliatu
Raliatu

Bravo Sulaiman, I knew it was going to be a very excellent one, considering your last paper for an environmental conference in Portland. I was really impressed with that presentation and when I heard about your essay this time round, I had no doubt that you will win. Sulaiman definately you have won. Thank you for puting Sierra Leone on the map. You are indeed a champion. We are proud of you always

Jacob Sama Charley
Jacob Sama Charley

Thank you Sulaiman, it always good to have students like you, you are not only excelling in all your ventures, but you have also put your institution on high stage and Sierra Leone as a country. We Sierra Leoneans are very proud of you as your essay is gaining grounds. Thanks and God continue to enlighten you. Bravo as yours make a winning.

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Hi David, I still stand on my legs that our leaders are solely responsible for our problems. Despite the collective will on the part of the electorates, with all conserted effort by the citizenry, there must be a political will. The leaders have the veto power over all, the people can explore and only do that to certain extent,but the leader can easily and simply do much more and better. If for any reason things happen, donor and taxpayers monies are misused of which corruption climax the whole thing. As far as the use of mice is concern,it can be appropriate for the control of pests instead of weeds.An example can be grass hoppers which usually move in their exodus to destroy plants. Thank you.

Ibrahim A. Kamara
Ibrahim A. Kamara

This eassay lamented about the DO-NO-HARM concept in promoting agricultural practice and enviromental justice and for that reason its deserved a winning

Bereck kamara
Bereck kamara

This eassay deserved commendation above all others because ,its encourages farmers in the underdeveloped world to practice local ways of preventing weeds, reduce cost and above all enviromental risk.

Fanta K  Sheriff
Fanta K Sheriff

Hi Sulaiman, Your essay is really in place especially when it advocates for the reduction in the use of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture as majority of African farmers like in Sierra Leone who are mostly subsistence farmers. This indeed will reduce cost and prevent the environment from being polluted. Sulaiman,it is absolutely clear that your essay will surely reate an impact in the pool

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Hi,Benjamin I welcome your comments on my topic.In your submission,the idea of Arab nations in Africa whose climatic and soil conditions do not permit the growing of cereals,an option could be that of waiting after weed emergence and such weeds are cleared before sowing inorder to prevent competition for nutrients.This is olso applicable to Sierra Leone especially for upland rice & maize cultivation. As far as the use of mice is concern,it can be appropriate for the control of pests instead of weeds.An example can be grass hoppers which usually move in their exodus to destroy crops.

Benjamin Axel Mugema
Benjamin Axel Mugema

Tejan, Well done. You have debated your issues on slash and burn agriculture quite feasibly and your suggestions could be appropriate. I am of the view that perhaps your suggestions were not contextualised and appeared to be mere thoughts. You speak of using mice as natural weed killers. Granted, mice can be effective. But then, let us get practical and think about such solutions and their practicability in Africa. You have pointed out, categorically, maize and rice but you may want to think about Arab nations in Africa whose climatic and soil conditions cannot permit the growing of cereals like rice. What sort of solutions would work in such areas, since you are possibly aware that we are called to think globally and act locally? Agriculture is the major economic activity in Africa today. You suggested the use of mice as a practical alternative for herbicides. However, you may want to think about large scale farming. Take the case of Sierra Leone, where, I believe, maize and rice are extensively grown. Do you think mice would be effective on large scale commercial farms? Can such a method be controlled? I would suggest that you take a critical and analytical view of the issue you debate here, and delve deeper into your solutions.

David N. Tshimba
David N. Tshimba

Dear Tejan, I do welcome your kind words. Nevertheless, I still do not fully agree with you when saying that 'our leaders yesterday and today are the real cause for our backwardness till now' for you yourself acknowledge that development presupposes a total involvement and collective responsibility. Thus, it becomes somehow fallacious to blame it on the leaders solely, being in Sierra Leone or elsewhere in Africa and/or the globe. Development, agricultural development being greatly included here, still is a collective responsibility and hence all stakeholders are to be involved for praise or blame. Secondly, should I know how reliable and feasible the practice of MICE can be? You have just mentioned to me that once best practiced, they can be realiable. Can I know the HOW part of it, for I do beleive that farmers won't teach those mice to only consume weeds by automation or least of all search for a big number to deal with the big number of weeds in the garderns. Ijust do not get it well. Thanks, Dave

Jalloh
Jalloh

Thanks to all for commenting on my essays

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Hi David, I thank you very much for you salent comment. It is true that some of the so called underdeveloped countries are absolutely and gradually advancing; but please note that itself is a process that need total involvement and collective responsibility. Our leaders yesterday and today are the real cause for our backwardness till now. Yes development is a non-concluding conclusion. MICE practice can be reliable due to how they are best practice. My essay here vividly reflect the Slash-and-Burn Agriculture long and still practice in Sierra Leone. Thank you also for helping me highlite some of the disadvantages which is a real posed threat to our environment, meaning the use of chemicls as fertilizers. Thank you very much

David N. Tshimba
David N. Tshimba

Dear Tejan, Thanks for this wonderful and well-written essay. Your advocacy for Sustainable agriculture, especially in the African context is significant and thus should be given a significant amount of care as well. Allow me, however, to raise some few points: First, you talked of 'underdeveloped countries' in reference to some of the countries in Africa. Don't you think that those so-called underdeveloped countries are also developing- if not developed in some dimensions- and it thus become unfair to refer to them as UNDERDEVELOPED as if they are altogether stagnating. Are you aware that development per se is a non-concluding conclusion? Secondly, you have lobbied for MICE practices:How feasible and reliable do you think they are? Do they fit in the sustainable chain? Thirdly, I beg that you try to contexualise the related facts so as to bridge a specific gap in a local reality such SIERRA LEONE. In doing so, try as much as you can to open up the disadvantages of the case in point as you discourage the use of herbicides and all other forms of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, for they not only pollute our soils and water bodies, but also our air and hence constitute an ecological threat to the betterment of our environment. I dearly appreciate the whole idea, otherwise. Best wishes. David N. Tshimba

Jon Ndanema
Jon Ndanema

the least man can understand your essay. it is explicit and the system slash-burn is a viable methord for our farmers.

Alie M Conteh
Alie M Conteh

I am Masters in Agriculture but i really admire at you inspiring talent and courage. i trust you. your essay is simply the best. win win sulaiman.

Marie K Koroma
Marie K Koroma

congrats. you made it to this level. its amaizing and i have no comments/ critics. yours is explicit. thanks

Lamin Sesay
Lamin Sesay

It is not a supprise to me seeing your essay emerging as the first two. at first i though you are favoured but after gone through your script, i conclude straight off the you are a potential winner as your essay is depicting the practicalities of the peasant farmers. I remain greatul and thanks.

Joseph Kamara
Joseph Kamara

You always supprise me. and today you have also restore my hopes that you are an up coming researcher. kep the fire high up and continue the good spirit.

manson Turay
manson Turay

Hi Sulaiman, I am quite impress with your essay. slash-burn Agriculture. it is presently the best agricultural practise for us in Sierra Leone. wishing you good luck

Abu  B Sesay
Abu B Sesay

Hi Sulaiman, I still don't believe that your essay was among the first seven. it amaize me so much after going through it this morning. upon my third reading of your essay, i actually understand that this system of agriculture is the one presently used by my uncle. regards.

Adama Kabba
Adama Kabba

My mentor, among the shortlisted essays i read, yours's was explicit and seek exactly to bring to light the new system of agriculture practised by farmers in my district. it is cheap and economically viable. good luck

Modu kamara
Modu kamara

I know from the first day i read your essay that you are going to make it up. keep the fleme burning.

Osman M Mansaray
Osman M Mansaray

Sulaiman, i always trust you as your interest towards Agriculture and the environment keep increasing every day and i hope that you will one day befome a recognised researcher in this firld. keep it up. as for your essay, no comments at all. good!

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Thank you Fatoma I hope this cannot only be talk and talks, but let us take the challange and end it all.

Fatoma Joseph Momodu
Fatoma Joseph Momodu

As an extension worker with the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security,We should gang with Sulaiman to end the cause of environmental injustice as that is what I particularly stands for. Thank you Sulaiman we are with you.

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Thank you Mr. Abu Bakarr, I hope you will join me in this fight as the battle is endless

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Thank you Mohamed, it is not just too easy to get over dreams, I am with every seroius opinion to see that environmental justice prevails, but this cannot be done single handedly. I need even the support of Earthzine and well meaning organisation to intervain in Sierra Leone to help this situation.

Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh
Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh

Dear Saidu, It is indeed eminet that we all join hands to entisify our campagin and pull resource from where ever necessary to savage the underlying environmental issues we are really facing. thanks

Abu Bakarr Conteh
Abu Bakarr Conteh

sulaiman, congrats for your vivid narration and lucid exposition. indeed, the slash and burn agriculture is a waterdown vassion of agricultural systems for rural farmers diluted for the farmers in underdeveloped countries in Africa. thanks. Abu Bakarr Conteh Sierra Leone.

Abu Bakarr Conteh
Abu Bakarr Conteh

As a young environmentalist, i very much admire Sulaiman for his excellent essays, there are adquate senses in all his presentations. He presented fact of all that is happening in Africa. Bravo Sulaiman keep the good work

Mohamed Kargbo
Mohamed Kargbo

The faster growing world population is a call for concerd as this essay is towards raising interest for such an agricultural practice pin-pointed by this student. Most chemicals used for high yields ended up resulting to low yields all depending to this type of agricultural practice. from the student point of view, it is however but important to make follow-ups not just write, therefore I advise that you look critically into these issues and make contributions to further savage the situation especially from low income earning countries like this student home town.

Saidu Mansaray
Saidu Mansaray

It is indeed evidence in Sulaiman Tejan Jalloh's essay that if these problems aren't addressed, the issue environmental issues will remain unresolved. This student need to be helped further to increase awareness on the hazart of such a pritice, as the world is just a global village. thanks