Burkina: Microdosing of fertilizer increases farmers’ yields (by Seydou Nacro for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

| March 26, 2012

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Amidou Kafando is a farmer in Loumbila, 25 kilometres from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Mr. Kafando is happy. Despite the lack of rainfall, he has enough maize and millet to feed his family of 15 until the next harvest. This is not true for all farmers in Loumbila. Mr. Kafando owes his good yield to the practise of fertilizer microdosing. He has been using this technique for two years.

The soil is not fertile in M. Kafando’s region. But microdosing has allowed him to increase his yield while keeping his input costs affordable.  He explains that before the microdose, he could not harvest more than 200 kilograms of millet on one hectare.  His harvests did not allow him to fulfill his needs for the year. Now, he can harvest 800 kilograms of millet from one hectare.

Mahamoudou Sinaré is a farmer in Nagréongo, a neighboring town. His yields have also increased since he started microdosing his fields. He says: “From one hectare we harvested fifteen 100 kilogram bags of millet. Yet when the fertilizer was not used well, it was difficult to have 20 bags from three hectares. ”

Microdosing is a technique that uses minimal chemical fertilizer for maximum effect. Instead of spreading fertilizer across the entire field, farmers place a small amount  in each seed hole before planting. This significantly reduces the amount of fertilizer used.  But it demands extra labour, as farmers must place fertilizer in the individual planting holes.

Around 130,000 farm households throughout Burkina Faso use the technique. Each year, farmers attend a training  on microdosing organized by AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). Facilitators teach farmers how to use the technique on test farms.

The satisfaction of farmers who use microdosing contrasts with the dismay of those who do not. Loumbila and Nagréongo received insufficient rains in the 2010-2011 growing season. Many farmers are facing food shortages. Ablassé Kafando is one of them. He also farms in Loumbila, but he did not use the microdose technique. He explains: “With one hectare of sorghum, I harvested around 200 kg. Because of financial difficulties, I have not been able to acquire enough fertilizer to use the micro-dose technique. But I also doubted it would work.” The practice of microdosing reduces input costs for some farmers, but a 100 kilogram bag of chemical fertilizer still costs 35 US dollars. This is too costly for many small-scale farmers.

The recent increase in chemical fertilizer prices has put this input out of reach for many farmers. But Amidou Kafando has a suggestion. He and two of his brothers pool their cash to buy inputs. They share the fertilizer in equal parts among them. He says, “The microdosing has helped increase our yields. But without this arrangement, we would have had difficulties.”