Ghana: Using guinea fowl to manage pests and fertilize the soil

December 08, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

Domovir Bagolo whistles her favourite tune as she carefully weeds grass in her maize field. The 52-year-old farmer is holding a hoe in one hand and carrying weeds in the other. Her maize is growing well, and she doesn’t use chemical fertilizer.

Mrs. Bagolo applies guinea fowl droppings on her three-acre piece of land to boost soil fertility. She says, “The farmer must constantly gather the manure from the guinea fowl house every morning.”

Her flock of guinea fowl also help her manage pests such as stem borers. Because the guinea fowl eat the stem borers, she no longer uses pesticides.

Mrs. Bagolo lives in Lassia-Tuolu village in the Wa West district of the Upper West region of Ghana. She started using guinea fowl to improve soil fertility and manage stem borers three years ago.

Mrs. Bagolo applies the guinea fowl droppings as manure on her farm, which saves her from buying chemical fertilizer, which costs 435 Ghanaian Cedi ($84 US) for nine bags. She dries and stores the droppings in bags until it is time to spread the manure, three months before ploughing.

To manage stem borers, Mrs. Bagolo says that when she notices pests, she simply introduces her guinea fowl flock into the farm and they eat the stem borers that are attacking the maize.

She learned about this practice by accident. She explains, “I discovered this method the day I forgot to lock my guinea fowl house gate. The guinea fowl just escaped to the farm and started eating the stem borers.”

Mrs. Bagolo used to spray pesticides to manage stem borers. But, she says, the pesticides were not only expensive but hazardous. She adds: “It costs 25 Ghanaian Cedi ($5 US) to get a bottle of pesticide and I was buying four bottles to spray my entire farm. Besides, it’s harmful to human beings. It is also time-consuming to spray the entire farm.”

Paul Daabayire is the extension officer in the area. He says: “The guinea fowl droppings contain appropriate nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to give the soil the needed nutrients. The two practices of using the droppings as manure and the birds to control stem borers are easy, attractive, and less expensive. It does not require much knowledge for farmers to carry out the two practices.”

However, Mr. Daabayire advises farmers to regularly vaccinate guinea fowl because they are exposed to the open environment when managing stem borers. He says, “The common disease in poultry which is Newcastle is very dangerous and much attention is needed to keep the guinea fowl healthy.”

Gbabura Frank is another maize farmer in Wa West district who rears guinea fowl and is considering following Mrs. Bagolo’s practices. Mr. Frank has 13 guinea fowl.

He says: “I have been growing maize for four years now, but I face problems of stem borer. I also don’t apply chemical fertilizer on my land because I can’t afford buying. I have decided to adopt the guinea fowl technique in the next farming season to increase my maize yield.”

Farmers pay about 25 Ghanaian Cedi (US $5) to buy a guinea fowl and need about 30 birds per acre to get enough manure and manage stem borers.

Since she started using guinea fowl manure, Mrs. Bagolo’s yield has more than doubled. She says, “For the past three years, I have increased [my] yield from three to seven 50-kilogram bags of maize per acre.”

This project was implemented by Farm Radio International Ghana through Uniterra, a program of WUSC and CECI. Uniterra is funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca