The only option for the poor?
MetadataShow full item record
CTA. 2002. The only option for the poor?. Rural Radio Resource Pack 02/4. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57369
Organic fertilizer may be the only type available to poor farmers, but it can help to restore their land and keep their crops alive during drought. The report comes from Malawi.
The only option for the poor ? Cue: Organic farming is often associated with expensive, high quality foods sold to wealthy consumers or exported to European markets. But, as this next report shows, organic compost or manure is sometimes the only fertilizer available to poor farmers. The report comes from Malawi, one of several countries in southern Africa that has in recent months and years experienced severe food shortages. These have been partly caused by erratic rainfall and little use of farming inputs by poor farmers. In response, the Malawi government has undertaken a programme to encourage the use of organic fertilizer. Benedicto Thawe, of the organisation PROSCARP spoke to Excello Zidana about the benefits and problems associated with organic fertilizer use, and how poor farmers have been responding to the government?s advice. IN: ?For the past two years ? OUT: ? even apply either of these.? DUR?N 4?26? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Benedicto Thawe, on the benefits of organic fertilizer for poor farmers in Malawi. Transcript Thawe For the past two years we have really seen the declining trend of food production in this country, and one of the major causes has been actually failure of our rural masses to acquire some inorganic fertilizers for their production. And because of this the government thought of actually promoting the use of organic farming, and in this case we have mounted some campaigns whereby farmers are advised or encouraged to use organic manure as an alternative source for plant nutrients. Zidana What are the advantages of organic farming over inorganic chemicals or fertilizers? Thawe The most important one is its ability to improve the soil structure. This is very important, especially these days when you talk of unpredictable weather, when you have a lot of dry spells during the season, and when you use organic fertilizers, whether in the form of compost or khola manure, you actually improve the soil structure, and also it helps in the retention of soil moisture, when you have this situation of erratic rains. Another advantage is it supports living micro-organisms in the soil which are very crucial for crop productivity. It also provides other micro-nutrients which are not even available in these inorganic fertilizers. Most of our fertilizers which are readily available in the market, they only supply N, P, K nutrients, but when you use these organic fertilizers, you have got these other trace elements which are most crucial for proper development for any crop. Zidana When somebody talks of crop rotation, mixed farming, are these part of organic farming? Thawe In a way you would say yes, it is a form of organic farming, because actually in these sort of farming systems, what you are saying is, farmers should learn to recycle the crop residues back into the soil. And you know, each crop has got different nutrient content within itself, so when you use different form of crops, be it legumes or cereals, when you turn it and you get these things back into the soil you also promote humus build up within the soil. Zidana What are some of the problems or difficulties associated with organic farming? Thawe Yes of course, each technology has got its own disadvantages or demerits. For example, when it comes to compost making, you really need water supply, but you see most of our farming communities have got difficulties in getting this water. So one of the major problems we have is water availability for this compost making. But also, farmers have expressed concern that they don?t have enough materials in carrying these manures or organic fertilizers to their fields. You might find that a farmer has got a khola which is a little bit distant to his field, so he needs some ox-carts, wheelbarrows, to enable him to carry it from the khola to the field. Zidana How has been the response from the farmers? Thawe Yes, this year because of, possibly the situation we have had last year of very low production of maize in particular, this year I think we have seen very positive response from the farming communities. A lot of farmers have taken it up, and we expect this year to have a very good acreage, to be applied under organic manure, both from compost and khola manure. Zidana You yourself, as a technical man, do you really think that organic farming can help poor farmers in Malawi? Thawe Of course we don?t have any other alternative at present. That is the only answer we have at the moment. But of course we don?t completely deny them from getting some inorganic fertilizers. If a farmer can get a little inorganic fertilizer, and he combines it with organic fertilizer, that is even much better, because the response when you combine both is even much better. But for our current situation, a farmer is better off when he can go for organic fertilizers compared with the one who can not even apply either of these. End of track.