The Novel Ethnobotanical Intercropping (NEI) technology in the DIVAGRI project is essentially a multiple cropping practice that involves growing two or more crops in the same field. Small-scale farmers in several African countries traditionally used this cropping practice with indigenous (or native) plants, although not always properly managed. One of the primary challenges for rural farmers is to increase their output per unit area soil, in a sustainable manner.
Regenerative farming focuses on restoring soils, degraded by overuse or too much exposure to artificial fertilizers and pesticides through industrial and agricultural practices. Conversely, regenerative farming’s methods promote conservation and healthier ecosystems by rebuilding soil’s organic matter through holistic farming techniques. Intercropping, combined with a regenerating farming approach, is a relatively simple and very efficient farming system to improve the situation in many subsistence or low-input/resource-limited agricultural systems through diversity and optimal utilization of natural resources.
The most significant advantage of intercropping and crop rotation is nitrogen availability through biological nitrogen fixation, the primary benefit. Using legumes for biological nitrogen fixation provides a more cost-effective method of supplying nitrogen to plants. However, careful selection of the plants to be intercropped and intensive management of the growing process and natural resources is key to success. Intercropping needs careful planning, design, and maintenance wherein several aspects such as soil, water, climate, crop, growth season, etc. are carefully considered. The cropping practice is not always suited to a mechanized farming system and often faces huge competition from large-scale, intensive monocrop farming. However, in rural production areas (often without large mechanization equipment), NEI has many advantages as it meet food preference and/or cultural demands, increases efficient use of the available resources, reduce weed infestation and acts as an insurance against failure of crops in an abnormal year.
The main objectives are therefore to introduce the establishment of indigenous/indigenized crops to communities and to determine the viability of intercropping and crop rotation strategies for improved crop production, utilization of resources and nutritional food security.