An effective rat trap

I farm ostriches in Zimbabwe. Recently I have had such a plague of rats, which even began attacking adult ostriches. Poison proved very expensive and I also lost some young ostriches that may have eaten the poison. In desperation I tried to make a rat trap which I had heard about in Mozambique. In 21 days with 9 traps I have caught 934 rats!!

To make the trap you need a 20 litre bucket or large clay pot which holds water. Bury this in the ground near known rat holes or feeding sites. Take a dry corn cob and cut off the ends. Push through a thick wire 1 metre long. Make sure the cob can spin freely. Fasten the cob in position in the centre of the wire with some small pieces of wire wrapped around. Bend the wire as shown and push firmly into the ground either side of the bucket. Put a depth of about 15cm of water in the bucket. Each evening, coat the corn cob with peanut butter, posho, mealie meal or some other kind of food which will stick to the cob. Remove drowned rats each morning. The trap works best during a new moon.


Nick Dexter, PO Box AC 158, Ascot, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Networking in West Africa

We have created a liaison and information bulletin for our region of French-speaking West Africa, which is at present suffering financially. We would like to establish contact with other similar groups. We are interested in networking and encouraging training, seminars and conferences. For example we recently took part in a training conference held in Lomé on ‘The role of NGOs in reinforcing democracy and promoting human rights’.

Mr Ignace Djagnikpo, ONG-FAST-ENFANCE-VIE, BP 4019, Lomé, Togo.

Animals as fertilising agents

The farmers of Babanki Tungo, in the north-west of Cameroon, use animals to improve the fertility of their soil. A farmer who wants to start cultivating a piece of infertile land surrounds it by a fence. Inside the plot, he builds a hut for the guard responsible for looking after the livestock. If this farmer does not have cattle, he negotiates an agreement with a cattle farmer to allow his cattle to stay on the plot every night. Then, each day after grazing, the cowherd leads them to the enclosed plot for the night.

Farmers estimate it takes three months for fifty cattle on a one hectare plot to provide enough urine and manure for the plot to remain fertile for three to four years.

This technique has many advantages:

  • The natural environment of the farmer provides all the required resources, apart from a salt lick, which he has to buy.
  • Soil structure, texture, water-holding ability and resistance to erosion all increase.
  • A lot of organic fertiliser is spread onto the field. The farmer’s yield is doubled, even tripled, compared to other farmers.
  • It was proved that farmers using this technique get higher yields than one who applies 17 sacks of mineral fertiliser per hectare per year.

These advantages justify the interest that CIPCRE gives to promoting this technique. Its greatest merit is that it has been developed by the farmers themselves, without the intervention of rural advisers.

Magloire Ndjang, CIPCRE, BP 1256, Bafoussam, Cameroon.
Fax: (237) 44 66 69 E-mail: CIPCRE@geod.geonet.de
(From Ecovox No.11 Jan–March 1997)

A giant guava

When visiting Lokando Village in South West Cameroon last year, Takwi Ndiche, an Agricultural Assistant, showed us a most remarkable example of ‘companion’ or ‘guild’ planting at the compound of Otte Aaron, the village chief. A leucaena seed had by chance fallen into and germinated in the same pot as a guava seedling in the nursery, and when planted out together they both grew vigorously. In just 7 months, that particular guava tree had reached a height of over 2 metres, twice the size of other guava tree seedlings planted in the village at the same time.

Bob Mann, Methodist Relief and Development Fund, 8 Upper Manor Road, Milford, Surrey, GU8 5JW, UK.

Children and smoking

Some time ago Footsteps published a letter from Richard Kandonga of Zambia saying how difficult he was finding it to get information to warn people of the dangers of smoking.

This has been a subject of concern for TALC, particularly at the present time when tobacco companies are making such great efforts to sell their products in developing countries.

So we are pleased to announce that we have recently brought onto the market a new slide set entitled Children and Smoking which describes the development of smoking at an early age and provides suggestions on how to stop children smoking.

TALC is also planning to produce a book specially written for people in developing countries on the dangers to health caused by smoking, which is expected in late 1998.

Dick Dawson, TALC, PO Box 49, St Albans, Herts, AL1 5TX, UK.

Church-based community development

Thanks for sending your magazine Footsteps to us. To my surprise I saw the opening article on Church-based Community Development in Issue 31. This concept is very new in this part of the world. People believe development is only carried out by NGOs (often foreign and with a lot of money) or the government. Recently I have been teaching a course on church-based community development in a bible training institute to give future church leaders a vision for this vital topic. If people are interested in this topic, they are welcome to contact me.

Willem R Klaassen, Rural Ministries, PO Box 387, Veni, Swaziland, Africa.

Baby milk campaigns

Advertising by baby milk manufacturers has obviously led to some mothers stopping breast feeding. However, a great deal has been done to promote ‘breast is best’, focusing on the negative results of bottle feeding. But in many parts of the world – particularly as a result of the AIDS and other epidemics – there are many orphans who can only survive through bottle feeding. Bottle feeding, however undesirable, cannot be avoided, but maybe the number of babies dying as a result of diarrhoea (often through bottle feeds prepared with dirty water) could be reduced.

Can we suggest that baby milk manufacturers are challenged on the wider issues of improving water supplies, better sanitation and training mothers on how to prepare bottle feeds safely?

Ronald and Theresa Watts, Ngwelezana Hospital, P/Bag X20021, Empangeni 3880, South Africa.

Build stone houses

A serious problem which adds to deforestation is the clearing of woods for house building. Here in Merhabete, each house requires about 400 poles, clearing about a quarter of a hectare.

We are encouraging people to build houses out of stone, using mud mortar, with some success, hand in hand with an afforestation programme.

Bekele Millian, PO Box 36, Alem Ketema, North Shoa, Ethiopia.

Passion fruit

Just in case readers have begun growing passion fruit (Footsteps 31), they may be interested to know that it contains plenty of vitamin C, iron and niacin. Each fruit contains about 90 calories.

Marilyn Gustafson, 2690 No Oxford St #205, St Paul, MN 55113-2027, USA.

Protecting stored grains and seeds

In order to discourage insects from attacking stored grain or seeds, dried hot peppers can be used. First of all, dry the peppers in the sun. When they are completely dry, reduce them to a fine powder and mix with the seeds. Be careful not to get the powder in your eyes, nose or mouth. Instead of crushing them, some farmers mix whole peppers with their seeds. Wash the grain before you cook it.

A L’Affut Paysans
From Rural Radio Network No 34