What we do
The Salt Doctors often work as a knowledge provider to make crop cultivation under saline conditions not only possible but also profitable. Salinity assessments, providing crop cultivation strategies (including crop/soil/water), teaching, training-of-trainers (in the field), assistance during the crop season, setting up demo trials, implement open-field (hydroponic) cultivation under saline conditions, assist with research and breeding, and making sure that all the right input materials (such as seeds) are available, are part of the services.
Salinity assessments and mapping of opportunities
Understanding the local conditions is vital for the development of resilient and sustainable solutions. The first step is often to perform a salinity assessment. The Salt Doctors have developed a toolkit and specific protocols that give direct insights into the current salinity status. The salinity assessments often focus on specific fields or farms, but it can also include a regional approach. The subsequent mapping and monitoring in time is important to provide an overview and a detailed understanding of the overall challenges. Together with the needs of the local stakeholders and the market opportunities we can start mapping the opportunities for the next steps.
Research, training (of trainers) and capacity building
We work on various aspects of research, training and capacity building. Together with universities and research institutes we are involved in research that often results in scientific publications (see “publications”). This provides us with science-based solutions and helps with the further understanding of the effects of salinity on crops and soil, among others. We also collaborate with the private sector for the identification and development of salt tolerant crops and the development of cultivation strategies to improve crop yield under saline conditions. For several projects we have assisted with controlled field trails and setting up R&D stations for the research of salt tolerant crops and suitable cultivation strategies. One of our main activities is staff training for universities, research institutes, extension officers and NGO’s, among others. This Training-of-Trainers helps us to reach a much bigger group of stakeholders to maximize our impact. These trainings can have a more scientific or a more practical approach, depending on the local needs.
Developing, demonstrating and implementing scalable solutions
All farmers are entrepreneurs. This often means that they are not willing to take too much risk, but if they are convinced of the market opportunities, they are able to change quickly. This usually means that by local demonstration of specific crop (varieties) and cultivation practices (seeing is believing) the first farmers can be convinced of the opportunities. Developing the best cultivation strategies for the local conditions (by integrating crop/soil/water management) and showcasing this at field level are part of the services that The Salt Doctors can provide. Also, these solutions should be sustainable for the long-term and larger scale. So, based on the field level demonstrations it should be possible to implement regional solutions. In short, all activities focus on identifying, developing and implementing scalable solutions (technically feasible, environmentally sustainable, cost-effective, market driven solutions, embedded in regional or national policy) in order to provide practical solutions for farmers and work towards large-scale impact.
We often realize this by setting up a regional field location where the cultivation strategy can be developed and validated. Then, lead farmers can be trained and assisted with the implementation at their own farms. Based on these results, the cultivation strategy can be further fine-tuned and shared with a larger group of farmers via farmer-field-days/schools to maximize the impact. Among others, our project in Bangladesh used this approach and many of the positive results can be linked directly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
Together with partners, we also work on regional solutions that include sustainable landscapes (restoring and improving saline ecosystems, improve biodiversity, improve soil fertility, link to carbon credits), green infrastructure (rainwater harvesting) and food systems (climate-resilient agriculture, regenerative agriculture, agroforestry), all with a focus on the social-economic conditions of the local communities.