How the use of compost manure helps farmers increase yields, and income

26 August 2020

Each year, the government of Malawi - through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) - promotes use of compost manure by conducting a Manure Making Launch event. The event encourages farmers to make more manure and apply it in their crop fields to regain fertility and boost harvests. Because soils have been heavily depleted over many years of cropping with almost no replenishment efforts made, yields of maize, staple food crop have lowered to between 0.6 to 1.7 tons per hectare.

Despite this annual effort by the MoAIWD, use of compost manure has been a great challenge in many smallholder farmer fields. Most farmers continue to depend on inorganic fertilisers to increase yields. But the high cost of accessing and procuring these chemical fertilisers is beyond the buying power of most Malawian smallholder farmers - 60% of the population living below US$1 per day. Most smallholder farmers can't afford chemical fertilizer and the small number supported by government through the Farm Input Subsidy programme is too small to have any meaningful contribution to improving the average livelihoods and food security at household level. In addition, it's harder to build sustainable fertility using inorganic fertilisers.

So, the question is, “How can more smallholder farmers be encouraged to make more organic manure and apply it in their fields, to increase crop yields?” Tiyeni Malawi have discovered what it takes to achieve just that. Tiyeni promotes Deep Bed Farming (DBF) a package of recommended husbandry practices which has organic manure making as one of its major components. Tiyeni administers a piglet pass-on scheme amongst smallholder farmer groups aimed to provide raw materials (dung) for manure making. The pigs' offspring are passed-on to nearby farmers as part of the program. All farmers who adopt DBF make organic manure more than before. And the more farmers adopt DBF, the more manure they make and the more yields they realise.

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