Nelly Bassily | June 17, 2013
Soil fertility, or lack of fertility, is an issue for all farmers. Much of a farmer’s effort is devoted to ensuring the soil has the nutrients it needs to produce crops through both traditional methods – such as mulching and fallowing – and newer methods such as applying chemical fertilizer.
The story from Niger features women taking part in land restoration schemes. For more information about land restoration, follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_restoration
The story also mentions “half-moon ditches.” Read more about them in this Radio Resource Pack (#42, Script 6, October 1996): http://www.farmradio.org/archived-radio-scripts/?rscript=42-8script_en
Farm Radio Weekly has covered this subject before. “Farmers restore soil fertility to boost yields” (Issue #217, September 2012) can be found here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/09/17/farmers-restore-soil-fertility-to-boost-yields-by-johanna-absalom-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-namibia/
An age-old practice to improve soil fertility is crop rotation, which often involves a fallow period designed to allow soils to recover naturally. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_rotation
Agricultural practices that improve soil fertility can help farmers address other common problems. For example, mulching (spreading organic matter on the soil around plants) helps with water management by decreasing evaporation of moisture from the soil.
Farm Radio International explored many aspects of soil health in a Resource Pack published in July 2010: (see scripts 91.1-91.9)
You may wish to host a call-in show inviting farmers to discuss methods they find most effective in boosting soil fertility.
-What materials (such as manure, crop residues, or chemical fertilizers) do they add to the soil on a regular basis to maintain or improve soil fertility?
-Can they describe any application techniques (for example, preparing compost from available materials, or microdosing chemical fertilizer) that they find particularly effective?
-What other methods (such as rotating crops, intercropping, or growing crops like Tithonia a plant with leaves that increase soil fertility when incorporated into the soil or made into compost) have local farmers found helpful in improving or maintaining soil fertility?
-For each technique, what is the cost in terms of time and money, and what is the payoff in terms of increased production and value of crops produced?