“Manure the magic worker” and “Organic fertilizer within easy reach”

    | October 13, 2008

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    This week, we devote this section to the award-winning Farm Radio scripts that were produced as audio recordings and distributed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for World Food Day. As mentioned above, the scripts are: “Manure the magic worker,” written by Gladson Makowa of the Story Workshop in Malawi, and “Organic fertilizer within easy reach,” written by Adama Zongo of Radio Rurale in Burkina Faso. You can listen to the audio recordings by clicking on the links above, and read the full text of the scripts below. Although “Manure the magic worker” is recorded in English only and “Organic fertilizer within easy reach” is recorded in French only, the text versions of both scripts are available in both languages. Follow along. You may get some great ideas on transforming scripts into entertaining audio productions!

    Manure the magic worker
    Notes to Broadcaster
    Floods and drought are becoming the order of the day. These are significant signs of climate change. Farmers are finding it difficult to choose good varieties of crops to suit these climatic changes. This script gives a general solution for adapting to climatic changes. Manure works for both early-maturing and late-maturing crops. It retains water in the soil when there is drought and removes excess water when there is too much water in the soil, since it makes soil permeable. This script, therefore, can be used in any country and for every crop to reduce the effect of climatic change.


    Signature tune

    Presenter: Welcome, dear listeners, to Farmers Parade. In this program, we document some of the marvellous discoveries and achievements of smallholder farmers in Africa. Today as usual, you are with me, Gladson Makowa, your presenter.

    Signature tune up and out under presenter

    Presenter: Do you know that farmers are good researchers? Imagine how useful it can be to you to discover a thing on your own, on your farm. Why don’t you start researching one of the issues you hear on the radio?

    Pause. Signature tune up, then fade up under presenter.

    Presenter: The Story Workshop, a non governmental media organization in Malawi, in its European Union-funded Project from 2002 to 2006, worked in six villages which were called Radio Research Gardens. Each village chose one research issue to verify what they heard on the radio in the program called Mwana Alirenji (self-sufficiency). This research was broadcast once every month. Today we will hear some of the findings from one of these Radio Research Gardens. Stay tuned to hear all about the magic of manure!

    Traditional music recorded in villages

    Presenter: For rains to stop when crops like maize still need rain is not a rare scenario these days. Msanjama village, one of the Radio Research Gardens, discovered some wonderful magic to solve this dry spell problem. Msanjama village is located on the western side of Mulanje district in Traditional Authority Juma. Like many villages in Malawi, many villagers are poor. Very few farmers can afford a bag of expensive inorganic fertilizer. To make matters worse, Msanjama lies in the rain shadow of Mulanje Mountain. This is the highest mountain in Malawi and the third highest in Africa. Often, the rains stop early, just when the maize is developing cobs but not yet mature. As if that was not enough, their soils are sandy and lose moisture quickly. But a light appeared at the end of the tunnel when the villagers heard on the radio about a magic substance called manure. A fellow farmer was giving a testimony on how much he yields using only manure. The villagers did not hesitate to start their research comparing manure to inorganic fertilizer. But in the first year of research, manure could not beat fertilizer in yield. It was a flop. (Pause) What went wrong? Do you think manure can beat inorganic fertilizer in the way it helps crops?

    Traditional music recorded in villages

    FX: Village ambience (sound of goats and chickens in distance)

    Village headman: (Angrily, while another man is saying “yes” in the background) Mr. Chairman… it is clear that manure is a useless burden to us farmers. Give me back the plot I rented you to conduct research. I want to use it for other purposes.

    Chairman: Wait, wait chief…

    Headman: Wait! Wait! Wait for what? Isn’t the difficulty we have gone through enough, Mr. Chairman? Mrs. Jumbe, you wanted to comment. What do you want to say?

    Mrs. Jumbe: Yes, chief, that was…

    Chairman: (Interrupts her) People, please give me the benefit of the doubt. Let us try manure once more. We need solutions that can help us cope with the changing climate, which dries our crops and hurts our soil! (Protests) Mr. Jumbe, why are you supporting the village headman’s idea of stopping the research? Aren’t you the one who brought this idea?

    Mr. Jumbe: Yes, I am the one. I was blinded by the sweet talk of that farmer on the radio.

    Mrs. Jumbe: (Calmly and sarcastically) Ehee, manure is very deceiving. At first, we had a very healthy crop, but later it lost energy. But remember how inorganic fertilizer did. After we used the second application, it was just fine until we harvested.

    Headman: Mrs. Jumbe, you are right. At first, manure was indeed deceptive, as if it would work. But unfortunately, it gave up on the way.

    Chairman: Listen to me first. We applied fertilizer twice, right?

    All: Yes.

    Chairman: Why can’t we also apply manure twice to level the playing field?

    Total silence from the group

    Mr. Jumbe: What have you just said, Mr. Chairman?

    Mr. Chairman: (Calm and emphatic. People are now interested in what he is saying.) Remember we applied fertilizer twice for maize to do well. Can’t we try to apply manure twice too?

    Mrs. Jumbe: I think Mr. Chairman has a good idea. There was indeed a very good crop with manure before it started losing energy. Why can’t we try applying manure twice, the same way we applied fertilizer?

    People: (Many agree) Yes, let’s try it twice.

    Headman: Well, if it’s everyone’s idea to try once more, then I will leave the garden to the group for this season again.

    All: (Some laugh, some clap hands, and some comment) That is our courageous chair…. Make sure it will not fail this time.

    Traditional music recorded in villages

    Presenter: The villagers agreed to apply manure twice during the next growing season. They made enough composted manure for two applications, like the fertilizer. They divided their land into two plots – the fertilizer side and the manure side. They applied manure and fertilizer for the second time on the same day. People could hardly tell which side had manure and which one had fertilizer.

    Then the unthinkable happened. When the maize had just produced tassels and was developing cobs, the rains stopped. The fertilizer side started showing moisture deficiency. It withered and then died. What happened to the manure side? Stay tuned.

    Traditional music recorded in villages

    FX: Sound of shelled maize being winnowed and put in a pail

    Chairman: (Loudly) Come closer everyone. Let’s compare manure and inorganic fertilizer at the end of a fair competition.

    FX: Sound of shelled maize under sounds of people admiring one type of maize as compared to the other. Some blame the rains.

    Chairman: Let’s count these pails of shelled maize from the area on which we applied fertilizer. Mrs. Jumbe, can you lead us?

    All: (FX of maize pouring into pails) One…two…three …four …five.

    Mrs. Jumbe: Now let’s count from the area on which we applied manure. One…All: (FX of maize pouring into pails) … two…three…four…five … six … seven … eight. (All laugh and chant) Manure! Manure! (And sing) You have shaken buffalo beans; it is going to irritate you. (Editor’s note: This is a Malawian song about a variety of buffalo beans which irritates people’s skin. It’s a very well known song in Malawi. Please replace with any traditional song which is sung when your football team which was being rated as an underdog has won the match.)

    Chairman: (Tries to silence them) Quiet! Quiet!

    Mrs. Jumbe: Mr. Jumbe, my husband, look how fat and good looking the maize grains from the manure side are.

    All: Laugh and make noise again

    Mr. Jumbe: (Shouting at the top of his voice) You are lucky that the rains stopped before the maize had matured. There would have been no difference in harvest between the two sides.

    All: (Laugh and shout) Haa, you!

    Chairman: (Shouts too) The rains did not stop on the fertilizer side only. It stopped on the manure side too. Isn’t it true?

    All people: Yes! (Chant again) Manure! Manure!

    Chairman: It means that, although you called manure a burden, it makes better quality soil.

    All: (Murmur)

    Chairman: Wait, does the village headman have anything to say?

    FX: As the chief comes, the people clap hands to honour him.

    Headman: (They chant “yes” in the background, agreeing with what he says) I do not have much to say…. Everyone has seen that, as well as improving yield, manure retains moisture too. Do you remember how we applied manure? The first application we just spread in between the ridges before ridging? A gallon-sized pail full of manure spread along the fallow in between the ridges. Then the second application two hands full at the base of the plants and covered with soil after the second weeding. Go do it in your gardens. Chase hunger out of my village!

    All: Yeaaaaaa!


    Presenter: Manure adds fertility to the soil and keeps moisture. If you have dry spells, manure keeps the crop strong. Beat the side effects of climatic changes by using manure. Remember the side that had manure did not wilt in the same way the other side did. Do not forget that you need to compost the animal manure by mixing it with grass residues. Well-decomposed composted manure does not burn the crops, but releases all the necessary nutrients to our crops and keeps moisture in the soil. Try it. Farmers need to be clever and determined. Remember our friends failed to achieve what they wanted in the first year. They did not give up, but thought of modifying the method. They decided to apply manure twice. Don’t give up.

    The facts to remember are that some kinds of manure have more nutrients than others. Composted manure made from a mixture of nitrogen-fixing plants, legumes such as cowpeas, or bean leaves, groundnut leaves, leaves and animal dung is richer in nutrients. Chicken, pig and rabbit dung have higher nitrogen content than dung from cattle and goats. Do not store manure too long uncovered and exposed to rain and sun – like more than two months – before using it, because manure loses some nutrients as time goes by. For more information, ask any agricultural worker or your fellow farmer who uses manure to teach you.

    Signature tune

    Presenter: We have come to the end of today’s program, Farmers Parade. Until next week at 6:30 pm on Tuesday on your lovely radio station MBC, I Gladson Makowa say … endurance pays! Try manure! Beat climate change.

    Signature tune up and out


    Contributed by: Gladson Makowa, Story Workshop, Blantyre, Malawi.
    Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.

    Organic fertilizer within easy reach

    Notes to Broadcaster
    Tinga is a farmer who has just been trained in the construction of a compost ditch. Bila, his cousin who likes to joke around, comes to pay him a visit while he is digging the ditch with a few members of his family. The two farmers from the village of Godin, where soil fertility has become a real concern for the inhabitants, start up a dialogue.

    The phenomenon of desertification has been exacerbated by drought during the past three decades. In Sahelian countries, land is considerably degraded and rainfall has decreased. Heat and evaporation are increasingly strong. Indeed, crop yields have noticeably decreased, year after year. Today, to cope with this situation, farmers have developed new techniques. The compost ditch is one of those methods that can help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.


    Words and the noise of picks and shovels

    Bila: Good morning! (Joking) Don’t tell me you’re digging your grandfather’s grave? When did he leave you?

    Tinga: (Joking as well) It’s really for your grandmother who’s a real old fogey. This “grave” as you call it, is going to let me nourish my land and have good harvests. Today, an offering of some chicken and dolo beer (Editor’s note: millet beer) isn’t enough for our ancestors to answer our prayers.

    Bila: This looks like a crazy idea. You haven’t even finished feeding your children and you’re busy worrying about the land. Can you tell me how you intend to nourish it?

    Tinga: Which one of the two of us is crazy? Our land is worn out after years of production. It has become poor. The crops are getting smaller from year to year. Access to farm inputs is more and more difficult. It rains less and less. Can’t you see what I see? The land is hungry and thirsty and can’t satisfy our needs. It is grateful to us when it is well-nourished. The land needs as much food as we can give it. Do you understand that? The compost can help the soil to better retain water and help crops to resist the droughts that are increasingly frequent.

    Bila: Yes, I understand that, but I still want an answer to my question.

    Noise of picks and shovels in the background

    Tinga: What you think is a grave is actually a compost ditch that I am in the process of building. This ditch is going to provide me with organic fertilizer for the crops in my fields.

    Bila: Tinga, I’ve always blamed you for your selfishness. If I hadn’t come by just now, I wouldn’t know anything about this ditch. Why don’t you like to share what you know with others?

    Tinga: Come on, be serious. I’m talking to you about it now. And I’m very happy to be doing just that. So, to answer your question, I’m going to repeat the instructions we got from the agricultural technician who trained us. There were 25 farmers who received this training, and we are supposed to share what we learned in our villages. I am going to get everyone in the village together in the next little while and teach the technique to those who want to learn it.

    Bila: Go straight to the point. Until now, you have not told me what I expect to hear.

    Tinga: So, to get back to your question. To get nutrients for the soil, you dig a hole like the one you see. It has to be three metres long by three metres wide. It should be no more than one and a half metres deep. In other words, the length and width of the ditch is equal to at least three times the length of a long arm and the depth is about one and a half times the length of an arm.

    You put millet stems in the hole to form the first layer. Then you add ash, household waste, and animal dung, and water. You repeat the same process until you fill the ditch. The compost must remain moist but not wet. Don’t put material such as plastic that won’t decompose into the ditch. Keep children away from the ditch to keep them safe.

    Bila: What does this garbage provide for the earth?

    Tinga: This garbage is going to create food for the earth. The millet stems, the household garbage, the animal dung and ash are going to decompose to become nutrients for the soil. This waste material becomes what we call organic compost, and is going to make the soil easy to till. It will allow the soil to recapture the fertility it has lost and to hold lots of water. This way we are going to nourish the earth.

    Bila: So what do I get for doing all this work?

    Tinga: That’s a foolish question.

    Bila: You don’t have to insult me!

    Tinga: (Laughter) How can you ask me what you can expect from all this work after the speech I just made? Prick up your ears and listen to me. You will have organic fertilizer in large quantities – 10 tons of it when the ditch is full – and within easy reach. Your farmlands will be more fertile, plants will flourish, and your field will provide you with large ears of maize and good seeds. You will have products with good taste and quality. Your yields will be improved. The organic fertilizer is going to considerably reduce your dependence on chemical fertilizers. It will save you money that can be used for something else. The compost ditch provides us with priceless advantages. Do you understand that?

    Bila: I would surely be a fool if I said no. In my opinion, it’s a technique which can save us from a situation that is becoming more and more worrisome: the depletion of our soils. And it isn’t complicated. Tell me, when will you start the training sessions in the village? I’ll be one of the first to sign up.

    Tinga: I know you will. May God watch over us!

    Bila: Now that you have explained everything to me, you can get back to digging your grave. I’m on my way.

    Tinga: Say hello to your grandmother, the old bag. Have a good day.

    Bicycle horn


    Contributed by: Adama G. Zongo, Head of Editorial Services, Head Office, Radio Rurale du Burkina.
    Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.
    Proofreading: Alexis Télesphore Bagre, retired journalist.
    Information sources
    Toula Dialla, Head of the 50,000 compost ditches project (Ministère de l’agriculture, de l’hydraulique et des ressources halieutiques, Burkina Faso)
    Serge Alfred Sedogo, Executive Secretary of the MARP/BURKINA Network
    Bobodo Blaise Sawadogo, Communication on national policies with regard to climate change, January 30, 2008, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.