Behind some weeds in Mr. Bah’s field are his recently harvested vegetables, including a particularly high-yielding variety of eggplant.
In the forested area of southern Guinea, Mr. Bah has adopted new techniques and a new variety of eggplant to give his farming business the best chance of success. With the help of his son, who is an agricultural expert, he is farming to support his family while also protecting the environment.
Mr. Bah’s son, Mamath Seydou, is supporting his father’s efforts. He also taught him a planting technique known as “no-till.” Mr. Seydou explains: “We use no-till. This is what institutions fighting climate change are recommending…. Agriculture contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions…. Tillage causes a loss of carbon in the soil. So it is important to keep the soil intact.”
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization defines “no-till” as “a simple seeding technique with little or no preparation of the ground.” No-till is a critical part of conservation agriculture, a farming system which aims to promote and maintain agricultural production while preserving and improving soil, water, and biological resources.
No-till is used by farmers around the world, including in Africa. It helps prevent erosion by ensuring that the soil is permanently covered. It also saves farmers time and effort.
Mr. Bah goes through his field only once at planting time, placing seeds and some fertilizer in holes left after the previous harvest.
No-till often results in better soil fertility and can be less expensive, but the technique is the subject of much debate. Some experts are unsure it will work in Africa for many reasons, including soil structure.
Mr. Marcel Nwalodzie is an expert with the West African Council for Agricultural Research and Development. He wishes that more research could be done to understand how no-till could be adapted to the wide variety of farming contexts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr. Bah uses no-till in his vegetable field, hoping it will boost his harvest. He is also growing a highly productive variety of eggplant known as Kalenda. The most common variety in Guinea is Black beauty, but Kalenda is very profitable. It can be harvested over several months or even the whole year, whereas Black beauty is only harvested for 80-90 days a year. Mr. Bah adds, “It’s very, very profitable, and you can harvest it for six months.”
In addition, Kalenda is resistant to anthracnose, a widespread disease. It also has a high tolerance to bacterial wilt. Kalenda’s resistance to disease helps farmers harvest better quality vegetables, even as the climate changes and temperatures rise.
For now, despite its benefits, Mr. Bah is one of only a few Guinean farmers practicing no-till.
To listen to the audio report on which this story was based, go to: http://www.rfi.fr/emission/
Photo credit: Remi Nono-Womdim, FAO