Problems and Challenges: The Dry Zone covers approximately 677,000 km2, where about 11 million people live. The landscape is broadly undulating covered with scattered shrubs and poor quality grasses. It has the characteristics of very low and erratic rainfall over time and space, shallow soils with low fertility and low moisture holding capacity. In most areas, land degradation and erosion rates are severe leading to chronic food insecurity and poverty. The improper cultural practices of farmers in their cropping patterns, land preparation, and soil and water management systems enhance the deterioration of the fragile ecosystems. As fuel wood and animal feed are in scarcity, it is often substituted by plant residues, which leads to decrease in organic matter and fertility of the soil.
Cropping pattern research : A diagnostic survey was done at the 12 Agricultural Extension villages in Kyaukpadaung township during April, 2002 to March, 2003. This base line study was primarily aimed at the identification of stable cropping systems relevant to small farmers operating under serious labor and capital constraints. Small land holdings and high labor-land ratios make the complex multi-crop production systems possible in most parts of the study sites. Multiple cropping patterns such as mixed cropping, intercropping, relay cropping and crop rotation are generally practiced with the objective of reducing the crop losses. The Dry Zone stands as “main-surplus-producing area” of pulses and oil seed crops. Pulses have been an enormous increase in production since the liberalization in legume export market in 1990. Oil seed crops are grown as sole, however, in most areas, monsoon sesame or peanut is broadcast between pigeon pea rows. After the harvest, mung bean or cowpea were planted between the rows as the sequential crops.
Since there is no functioning policy to cover crop failure, farmers are not motivated by higher input and better management. To increase the agricultural products, the land has been used extensively and beyond its capacity. The productivity of current farming systems and the protection of environmental quality cannot be sustained for long if we continue such practices as the application of very few nutrients, and inefficient utilization of crop residues. Ways need to be sought to increase the use of compost, improve soil fertility, harvest more rain water, and enhance farm productivity.