Green fertilizer at planting time
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CTA. 2004. Green fertilizer at planting time. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/03. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57184
Robin Mlolo, a farmer from Malawi?s lakeshore area, describes the many benefits to be gained from Faidherbia albida, the African winterthorn.
Green fertilizer at planting time Cue: Normally, when the rains end and the dry months begin, we expect trees to drop their leaves and for the landscape to become increasingly brown. But in the lakeshore areas of Malawi, one species of tree is breaking the rules. The African winterthorn is very unusual; it is covered with green leaves throughout the dry season, but sheds them at planting time, when the rains arrive. This characteristic makes it a very useful species for farmers, and as a result, this African tree has now been successfully introduced in Asia and South America. Grown together with cereal crops such as sorghum, millet and maize- and even in flooded rice fields - the tree is able to improve soil fertility and provide much needed shade for people and livestock during the hot months. To find out more about this unusual tree, Patrick Mphaka visited Salima district, an area where for generations farmers have been leaving these trees to grow in their fields. He sent us this report. IN: ?It is not the most beautiful.? OUT: ?. fast growing tree here in Salima, than to other places.? DUR?N 5?10? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Robin Mlolo ending that report from Salima district in Malawi. The African winterthorn, Faidherbia albida is in fact able to grow well in many different environments, from low lying areas to high savannahs and woodlands. Transcript Mphaka It is not the most beautiful of trees when you look at it. It has thorns. It sheds its leaves with the rains and is green during the dry season. When fully grown, it is a large deciduous tree to 30 metres high, crown wide and rounded. The list of its uses is endless. Welcome to the African winterthorn, also known as Acacia albida, or Faidherbia albida. Here, it is locally known as Msangu. Now that agroforestry, and Faidherbia albida in particular, is being promoted country-wide by the Ministry of Agriculture, this district has become a demonstration district. I came over to see what I never saw of the tree, and know what I never knew. I chatted with Mr. Robin Mlolo, a local farmer in Traditional Authority Maganga in the district. I found him working in his field. Mlolo These trees are most useful here. We use them as soil fertility trees. And in most times in our gardens, we don?t apply fertilizer. These trees act as fertilizer in our fields. Mphaka For other trees, we avoid the cover which the leaves of trees do give to the crops because sunlight does not reach the crops. What happens with these big trees, do you tolerate them to hinder sunlight from reaching the crops? What happens? Mlolo In other trees, there is a shading effect to our crops. But to this tree, which is Msangu, it is a special tree. This is how God has created it. In the beginning of the rains, is the time when it is shedding its leaves. Mphaka So it sheds the leaves, it doesn?t have the leaves? Mlolo Yes, during the cropping period, it doesn?t have leaves. Mphaka But the leaves are there when people have harvested? Mlolo Yes after harvesting, that is when it starts producing the leaves. Mphaka And you use the leaves as fertilizers? Mlolo As fertilizers. Mphaka These are very big trees and they are very old indeed. Is there anything which the people here are doing to make sure that these trees do not finish as we know that most people use the trees for firewood as well as for making charcoal? Mlolo Yes, there are many projects which are going on here in Salima, mainly in replanting this tree to other fields or other gardens. These projects are helping us also to maintain these species in our gardens. We know the usefulness of these trees, mainly the leaves. It?s hard for a farmer like me to cut down this big tree, Msangu. If I want, I can just cut the branches and leave the whole tree. Mphaka You do that because you know the usefulness of the trees? Mlolo Yes, the usefulness of the tree. Mphaka What are other uses which these trees are used for? Mlolo These trees are mainly useful to us, we can use it as a medicinal tree. And also we can use it as a shade to people like us, and our animals mainly during the hot season, it?s when it gives the leaves while other trees are shedding off the leaves. We can also use this tree for poles, building our houses, whatsoever. Firewood, and also the pods of this tree, if they fall down, it can be as feed to our livestock. Mphaka Oh I see. Like when I was coming over here, I saw that one of the big trees there has got a hole, and I found that there were some bees. Mlolo Okay, okay, I forgot. We can also harvest honey in our trees. That is my honey. We can also put some beehives on these trees. You can see one over there. But do not go near, because bees sting. Mphaka You use Msangu as we have seen, do you apply any amount of fertilizer in these fields? Mlolo No, no, no. We don?t apply any fertilizers. The funny thing is that when we are using these Msangu trees, we can raise our crop production from 50%-250%, which is similar to fertilizer application. Mphaka And maybe we can say higher because for the fertilizer, you have to buy and you use some money there? Mlolo Yes, yes, yes. Mphaka Whereas this one is almost free? Mlolo It?s almost free, yes. We do not use fertilizer here. Mphaka How easy or difficult is it to propagate or to plant Faidherbia albida in other areas other than this lakeshore area? Mlolo Here in our area, it?s a hot area. These trees favour hot areas. And you can see the soils are almost sandy. So it is a fast growing tree here in Salima, than to other places. End of track