Salty soil, lack of rain, and burning sunshine are not the only challenges faced by the Agricultural Cooperation for Development (AC4D) farm in the Jordan Valley. Convincing local farmers to adopt new and more productive farming methods has turned out to be a big challenge as well.
“AC4D is a demonstration farm. Our aim is to dialogue with local farmers and demonstrate changes to improve their crop quality and yield, save resources, and improve the economic situation of farmers in the Valley,” says Tanner from AC4D.
Twice a year, farmers and other interested groups are invited to the farm for a ‘farmer’s field day,’ where AC4D demonstrates what they are doing differently and shares the results from their research and experiments.
From feelings to facts
“Farming here has been practiced in the same way for generations and changes are often met with resistance. People need to see the value of the new ideas first,” explains Tanner.
But changes take time. Therefore, AC4D embraces a long-term perspective, as the shift from a traditional to a technologically-driven farming mentality is a major change for local farmers.
“Most local farmers simply look at the crops then add water, fertilizer, and pesticides when they ‘feel’ it is needed. Starting to measure and meet the needs of the crops in a scientific, or information-driven, way is a big shift from feelings to facts,” says Tanner.
He adds that the incentive for long term investments and change is further crippled by the present system where farmers are tenants and not owners of the land they are farming.
Signs of change
Changes, however, have slowly started to occur. One positive sign is the number of farmers attending the ‘farmer field days’, but the staff at the AC4D farm is also encouraged by the changing attitudes of some of the neighboring farmers.
“A few local farmers now come and ask us for help testing their soil or their water. They have slowly realized that even if, for example, the water looks and feels clear and fresh, it might still contain dissolved salts that are harmful for the crops. It shows that they have started to change their concept of farming from feelings to facts.”