Switching from chemical to organic fertiliser can make a big difference to small-scale farmers. Before he received training from RURCON, a Tearfund partner in Nigeria, Godwin’s farming was not very fruitful. Fertilisers and pesticides were expensive. Farming tomatoes, which were his main cash crop, was risky. He suffered high losses as a result of the tomatoes getting spoilt and very poor prices during harvest. ‘As a result, I could hardly make ends meet,’ says Godwin.
Then Godwin learnt how to make compost manure and was trained in biocide production. ‘At the time of the training I had three goats. Gradually I added more goats so that I could use their droppings for compost.’ He now has 18 animals that provide enough compost for his tomato and maize farms. ‘It’s taken four years but farming with compost manure and using the biocides, which I make myself, has helped me to make big cuts to my production costs. There is also less spoilage. This has increased my income from farming compared to what it used to be.’
What’s more, he says, the maize tastes better and is more economical. ‘A little of the maize flour makes enough for the family meal compared to the larger quantity I was using when the maize was produced with chemical fertiliser.’
In the same district of the Plateau State, Joy tells a similar story. She has worked on her family’s land since she left school. In the past she used expensive chemical fertiliser and threw manure away. So she was really surprised to learn about the value of animal droppings. ‘Now I use goat, sheep and chicken manure – they are all my own animals,’ says Joy.
Joy explains how to make the manure: dig a hole and mix animal droppings with water, then add dried grass cuttings. Cover the hole with dry vegetation such as banana leaves to reduce moisture loss. Make sure there is space for air to reach the manure. After two to three weeks, turn the pile. Compost is ready after six to nine weeks, depending on the type of material used. Check the compost is warm and use a stick to test that the centre of the pile is moist but not wet. Spread the manure over the maize and crops as they are growing.
It wasn’t long before Joy noticed that her food started to taste better. So she decided to keep on using the organic fertiliser to see if it could help her grow more and expand the farm. ‘It is going very, very well. I used to have to spend money on fertiliser. But now, I save that money [as I make my own fertiliser], so I can use it to buy bread for my children and pay for them to go to school. I feel so happy, because I have some change in my hand.’
Joy is passing on her skills to her wider family. ‘I am teaching them how to do it, so they are learning too.’ This includes her children, who have a small patch of land for themselves where they grow cabbages and other vegetables.
You can read more about the importance of soil and other effective farming strategies in Footsteps 110.
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