Malawi: Young farmer succeeds through compost making (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

| August 8, 2011

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Ten years ago, Harry Keliyala viewed farming as a tradition and a practice from his ancestors.  He says, “I was brainwashed that farming was for the poor and for those who did not go to school.” Mr. Keliyala could not produce enough food for his wife and children. For him, farming was a burden.

But that all changed in November 2001. Mr. Keliyala says, “My attitude towards farming changed … when the extension worker visited this village and advised us to start making [compost] manure.” Mr. Keliyala, now aged 29, hails from Kamphampha village, in the northwest of Dowa District.

The extension worker guided Mr. Keliyala and other farmers to analyze the challenges they faced in farming. They determined that one of the problems was a decline in soil fertility.  They knew that to produce surplus food, they needed to fertilize the soil.

Following the extension worker’s recommendation, Mr. Keliyala made a lot of compost manure. This compost would complement the little chemical fertilizer he had. He explains, “I applied the manure in the maize garden and to my surprise I harvested more than what my family required for that year and I sold a few bags of maize.”

After experiencing a bumper harvest in 2002, Mr. Keliyala began to regard farming as a business. He shares the experience, “I witnessed myself that farming can sustain one’s life and can keep a family going.”

The following year, Mr. Keliyala increased the amount of compost manure he made.  He also started growing tobacco and diversified into livestock. He started with five goats, three chickens, and two cattle.

Mr. Keliyala explains that he learnt about diversification from the extension worker. He describes the benefits of diversifying: “Crops and animals complement each other. I use droppings of my animals for making manure and I use some crop residues as feed for animals.”

Raising livestock has improved Mr. Keliyala’s income and nutrition security.  He says, “I sell eggs and milk from the animals I rear and these give me more money to take care for my family. Milk, meat, and eggs also provide nutritious foods to my family.”

As the years passed, Mr. Keliyala’s life started changing for the better. He sold his tobacco for a good price, and noticed that other young farmers began to admire his success.

Advice from the extension worker was the turning point in Mr. Keliyala’s life. Today he boasts of assets which his community associates with rich people. He says, “I am now a model to many young farmers in my village. Currently I have 10 cattle, 73 goats, four pigs, a corrugated iron sheet house, two bicycles, a motor vehicle, and an ox-cart.”

Mr. Keliyala attributes his success not only to himself but also to extension workers, lead farmers, and fellow farmers. “I have benefited a lot from the advice of various stakeholders. I have learnt several agricultural technologies which have changed my farming beliefs, attitudes, and practices.”