Ethiopia: Crop rotation, intercropping, and mulching help farmers improve soil fertility and productivity
Bashay village nestles in a large, 1,500 square kilometre valley. Apolinari Haari is a 35-year-old farmer who grows beans here, just outside the town of Mbulu, in northern Tanzania’s Manyara Region.
Mr. Haari used to grow local bean varieties, but two years ago he switched to improved varieties. He’s happy because he is harvesting more than when he used local seeds. He says he planted local seeds because he had no other option. Farmers in his area were unaware of improved bean seeds, and so they saved seeds for the next planting season. Mr. Haari explains: “We had been planting one [type of] seed for about five farming seasons. We would harvest and dry seeds, and replant them again and again…. We were not aware of improved bean seeds, and we had no such seeds in our village.”
Mr. Haari learned about improved seeds from the local extension officer, Elifadhili Manahiri. Mr. Manahiri held a meeting with farmers in the area to discuss the advantages of improved seeds.
Mr. Haari says, “The harvest is good. If you maintain the field, you will get five to eight sacks weighing 100 kilograms from one acre.”
Mr. Manahiri says many farmers switched to improved seeds when the government and Seliani Research Institute started to promote these varieties, which include Lyamungo 90, Jeska, and Seliani 94.
The improved varieties can yield five to eight 100-kilogram sacks from a one-acre field, unlike local seeds which yield just two sacks. They are also drought-tolerant and resistant to disease, and produce beans that are uniform in size, which is attractive in the market.
While the improved varieties are higher-yielding, they can only be planted once. This means farmers must buy new seeds every season.
Some farmers have been replanting improved seeds after harvest, but are not getting great results. Sometimes, they couldn’t find improved seeds in the market. They may also have been unaware that improved seeds shouldn’t be replanted. The result was that the farmers harvested only two or three sacks from replanted improved seeds, and that the bean plants were vulnerable to pests.
Rose Wema is a mother of two who lives and farms in Bashay. She learned about improved bean seeds when she visited her sister in Arusha, 180 kilometres east of Mbulu. She is thankful to be planting the improved seeds as they are higher-yielding and have a good market.
She adds, “It has only been two years since we started to plant improved bean seeds. [The] beans look good on the farm and even customers in the market like to buy them.”
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, www.idrc.ca, and with financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca