Notes to broadcasters: Tied ridges and other soil and water conservation techniques

    | September 16, 2013

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    Boniface Meka Kasyoka discovered that his harvests were getting smaller because his soils were becoming degraded. He learned from a neighbour how to improve the situation by using soil conservation techniques, and by growing a wider variety of crops.

    Farmers in drought-prone parts of East and Central Africa now have a solution to the common problem of water scarcity in rain-fed agriculture. In ridge cultivation or ridge tillage, crops are planted on ridge tops, along ridge sides, or in the furrow. Read more about trials in Ethiopia via this link:

    Contour ridges and tied ridges are most suited to dry areas where it is not feasible to use cover crops, crop residues, or mulch to cover the soil and thereby enhance water infiltration and reduce runoff. The UN FAO has produced a wide-ranging document called Optimizing Soil Moisture for Plant Production, which covers many of the most basic methods for protecting at-risk soils. Chapter 4 is particularly useful. It is entitled Minimizing water stress and improving water resources and can be downloaded through FAO’s website at:

    Notes to broadcasters on conservation tillage were published in February 2013 (issue #235). They can be found by visiting this address:

    Soil has always been subjected to water and wind erosion, and to human actions which have negative effects. Soils are slowly eroded by water, and fine particles are carried away by wind. Farm Radio Resource Pack 91 (July 2010) contains a radio script which offers another remedy: stone barriers. You can access it through this address:

    Farm Radio Resource Pack #91 also contains an informative Issue Pack. Follow this link to read further information on soil health, practices for healthy soils, and ideas on how to produce a good radio program on the subject for your listeners:

    Build and maintain contour ridges, a script from Package # 37 (July 1995) offers another method for conserving soil. It is available here:

    This week’s story also touches on the benefits of choosing improved seeds, and growing a variety of crops. Notes to broadcasters on improved seeds from issue #28 (July 2008) can be read at this link:

    You could host a call-in program with an expert panel of local farmers and extension agents or researchers. You might start by asking them and your listeners the following questions:

    What kinds of improvements to soil fertility or to protecting the soil from erosion have proven successful in your country, your region, or your community?

    Are these approaches affordable and practical for small-scale farmers? If not, what barriers prevent their adoption? How can these barriers be overcome?

    Are there successful indigenous or traditional methods for improving soil fertility and conserving soil, ones which will help farmers adapt in the future?

    You could press extension agents and researchers to answer this question: How is information on successful approaches to soil conservation communicated to farmers?