Ethiopia: Crop rotation, intercropping, and mulching help farmers improve soil fertility and productivity
It rained cats and dogs yesterday, a sign to farmers of the beginning of the rainy season. But today is cloudy and the weather is cold. Grace Chioza is busy tilling ridges in her three-acre field so that she can grow her commercial crop. She says, “I always plant my groundnuts with the first rains.”
The 43-year-old widow and mother of three has been growing groundnuts since the death of her husband nine years ago. She says, “I was very poor after my husband died because I couldn’t manage to support my family.”
But Mrs. Chioza says that, since 2010, she has been planting groundnuts in two rows per ridge in order to boost her harvest.
She explains: “I plant one seed per planting station…. I measure 10 centimetre by 10 centimetre planting spaces between plants and rows on a ridge. This technique is good because I harvest more groundnuts.”
Mrs. Chioza lives in Chilonje village, about 45 kilometres east of Ntchisi district in the central region of Malawi. Groundnuts are her main source of income and she earns about 500,000 Malawi kwacha ($675 US) per year.
She says, “I harvest 70 to 80 50-kilogram bags of unshelled groundnuts per year. I advise others to start using the technique of planting groundnuts in two rows per ridge.”
Mrs. Chioza has little contact with extension workers who could help her with advice on how to grow groundnuts. Instead, she relies on knowledge from her farmers’ group and from radio programs on Maziko Community Radio and Zodiak Radio, which are sponsored by Farm Radio Trust.
She explains: “When I listen to the radio, I ensure that I use the expert knowledge provided and it has really helped me. For example, I now know how to take care of groundnuts before, during, and after harvest.”
One of the challenges she used to face was contamination of the groundnuts with aflatoxin, which can make them hard to sell. Mrs. Chioza says, “As I have been advised, I keep my dried groundnuts away from water and wet conditions to avoid aflatoxin.”
Alice Kawaye is a farmer who hails from Tandwe village in Ntchisi district. She started growing groundnuts in 2015 and also plants two rows per ridge to maximize yield and profit.
Mrs. Kawaye says: “Planting groundnuts in two rows on one ridge has benefitted me a lot. I harvest 25 50-kilogram bags of unshelled groundnuts per year, and I get 90,000 Malawi kwacha (about $120 US) per season.”
Jesimon Kansengwa grows groundnuts in Tendwa village in the same district. Like Mrs. Chioza, he also listens to radio programs to learn techniques for growing groundnuts. He remembers the advice from the radio programs so he can implement it when the growing season comes.
Mr. Kansengwa says, “Radio programs have helped me a lot on good agricultural practices. Overall, my groundnut farming is going very well because of the radio messages I get when I listen.”
He adds: “I earn almost 80,000 kwacha [$110 US] from groundnuts per year, which is a good thing to celebrate. Through this money, I bought pigs and rear chickens that are also multiplying [to] make my household abundant in food and other necessities.”
Gloria Lidamlendo is a crop protection expert in Ntchisi district. She says farmers are encouraged to plant groundnuts in two rows per ridge to boost yields from small pieces of land.
She explains: “We advise them to take care of their crop each and every time. Before and after harvest, we also come in with advice about controlling aflatoxin which … [occurs] because of warmth or water that could come close to it [the crop].”
Ms. Lidamlendo adds, “We advise all farmers to avoid pouring water on already-dried groundnuts. That’s the only way to keep groundnuts safe.”
Mrs. Chioza has benefitted a lot by planting two rows of groundnuts per ridge, and has built a burnt brick fence and a house for her family. With her income from groundnuts, she is also able to take care of her very old parents and pay school fees for her children.
Uniterra Malawi works with local partners in the tea, legumes, and dairy sectors to help young people and women access better economic opportunities. Uniterra provided funding for this story. Uniterra receives financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca. Learn more and follow Uniterra Malawi on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/wuscmw