Paballong has a small farm comprised of livestock (layers, broilers, rabbits, dairy cows, geese, ducks, indigenous chickens and pigs), vegetable gardens and an orchard. The vegetable garden and orchard occupy 4.1 hectares of arable land. The fruit trees are planted on terraces and different vegetables are grown between the rows. The main objectives of the farm are to:
- provide a nutritious, balanced lunch for Paballong’s patients and the children at the Day Care Centre;
- train patients and their caregivers on different agricultural practices, to enable them to provide food for themselves in a sustainable manner (the farm, therefore, also functions as a practical demonstration site for sustainable farming); and
- contribute to the overall running costs of the Centre by selling surplus produce to the public and local community in the area where Paballong is located.
Paballong has a borehole water system operated by solar energy. However, the water table is insufficient to provide for both the Centre and the farm particularly during the dry season (winter and spring. Water shortages on the farm therefore make it difficult to produce vegetables all year round. Nevertheless, the patients attending the Centre as well as the children at the Day Care Centre need properly balanced meals on a daily basis. Healthy people need to eat several vegetables a day; people living with HIV/AIDS, whose immune systems are already compromised, need fresh vegetables even more if they are to live healthy lives.
In order to meet the three objectives above, we need a more stable water system so that we can farm throughout the year, regardless of the availability of rain. Paballong has therefore installed drip irrigation as the main intervention so that vegetables can be produced all year round. Drip irrigation is more cost-effective, in contrast to other ways of watering crops. It uses water efficiently ie. evaporation and soil erosion do not take place, especially when it is combined with conservation agriculture which is already practiced on the farm. It is a simple and environmentally-friendly way of farming, and drip irrigation is a good fit with what we do on the farm, and what we want to promote with our patients, their caregivers and the local community.