The EcoAgriCulture Project of The Cropper Foundation (Trinidad & Tobago) is a 2-year initiative funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. The purpose is to address issues related to small-scale subsistence farming in the Northern Range particularly:
- Farming on steep slopes;
- Unsustainable land clearing practices;
- Inappropriate use of chemicals.
The main goals are to develop a community-based model for sustainable hillside farming that delivers greater economic gain, reduces poverty and alleviates environmental threats.
Changing Farming Practices
Most farming practices we encountered were influenced by the popular cultural knowledge that evolved more for personal use than environmental conservation. To make the preservation and management of bio-diversity a farm-concern, we created a mechanism that would weave these concerns into the farmer’s assessment of personal risks, production security and perceived threats. The HNV Index, which is accompanied by a series of corrective measures, focuses on the repetitive patterns of land use that can tell us how successful a farmer is as a resource appropriator and whether that farmer can increase his economic gains by becoming more a resource sustainer:
The High Nature Value (HNV) INDEX
Basically the HNV Index asks 8 questions and generates an HNV Score (like a nature-credit rating) based on a combination of positive points for good farming practices, recycling of farm wastes and extensive use of on-farm resources; and negative points for reliance on chemical inputs, biomass burning and chemical treatment of the soil. The HNV Score serves as the gateway to introduce alternative farming practices and inputs that could enhance farm productivity and conserve the eco-system services.
Flexibility of the HNV Index
Being faced with a mix of traditional and commercial practices requires Index flexibility in four critical components:
- Entitlement and Responsibility
The first four questions on location and cropping pattern award the farmer automatically 76 points or 38% of the Index. This recognizes that the farmer’s very active presence in this environment connotes some level of entitlement (in terms of livelihood) as well as responsibility. While not challenging the entitlements, the use of the Index is more to accentuate the responsibilities.
- Disease/Pest Pressure
The INDEX views the disease/pest incidence as a “pressure/suppression” dichotomy. The more pressure the farmer feels, the greater the urge to use harsh suppression methods. This is the challenge that provides a gateway to landscape considerations.
- Agronomic Practices
The source of water, land preparation, soil treatments and structural land changes are given significant weight in the Index (26%) as these become the primary indicators of unsustainable farming practices. The Index refocuses farmers on correcting these landscape-changing aspects rather than relying solely on fertilization practices (8%).
- Managing Crop Growth
Farm observations, record keeping and preventative measures score high marks (26 out of 41 maximum points) while a heavy reliance on chemical inputs tend to attract negative points.
The HNV Index is adaptable for wider use by regulators of other resource appropriations in our “High Nature Value Environments” such as quarrying and mining, forest harvesting, housing and land development.
Allan N. Williams
Technical Advisor to Project
Former CEESP Vice-Chair for the Caribbean