Book Reviews

Low Cost Farming in the Humid tropics: An Illustrated Handbook

By Paul Sommers

This primer is a step-by-step guide to designing, planting and managing low-input, sustainable farm systems on fixed areas of land. Sommers demonstrates how 30 to 50 compatible crops can be arranged in intensive, multi-storied farming systems that use natural pest controls, live fences, animal and green manures and manual land-preparation tools. The system ideally produces all of the food needs of the household, minimizes risks of crop failure by staggering crop harvest times and provides a source of income depending on the cash crops planted.

Starting with the initially cleared site, the stages of small-farm planning and management are sketched out, keeping in mind the nutritional needs of the household and the functional characteristics of each crop. Line drawings clearly illustrate concepts such as mulching, trellising, composting, protection of young crops from the sun and wind, and use of living crops as food storage. A number of tables contain essential information about tropical fruit tree characteristics, crop positioning, companion cropping and crop nutritional characteristics.

In its brevity, the book has a tendency to idealize low-input farming, sidestepping troubling issues such as labor, meeting cash demands and other problems small farmers must routinely face. Still, the language, drawings and tables combine to make it surprisingly understandable and sophisticated for a people-oriented, 38-page manual. It also admirably illustrates the role that adaptative and creative planning can play in external low-input farming systems.

38 pages, $6.00 plus $2.95 handling.


Island Publishing House Inc.
Sta. Mesa, P.O. Box 40
Manila, Philippines

Systems, Techniques & Tools: Conservation Farming

By Ray Wijewardene and Parakrama Waidyanatha Drawing from Sri Lankan experience, this book was designed to support the field training of low-purchased- input farming extension workers. Compiled results from International Institute of Tropical Agriculture studies are used to make the case for 'no- till' farming.

The guide explains no-till planting techniques, herbicide use and fertilizer application methods. It devotes a complete section to the use of low-tech tools such as spinning disc sprayers, knapsack sprayers and the IITA punch and rolling injection planters. Although not strictly regenerative, these methods are of interest, because they are properly scaled for small farms. Furthermore, chapter five explains natural fertility regenerating systems such as in situ mulching, live mulching and alley cropping.

Project managers, advanced students and field workers will find Conservation Farming useful. Its tables build an academic base for no-till farming, while the text and illustrations concentrate on the system methodology. A useful complement to Low Cost Farming. 40 pages, £2.50


The Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House, Pall Mall
London SW1