Malawians and Kenyans have emerged outstanding performers in integrated soil fertility management amid dwindling yields due to effects of climate change.
The struggle to improve soil fertility and texture involves use of a variety of farming practices including crop rotation, timely application of chemical fertilizer and use of manure.
Kenya’s International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) soil scientist Dr James Mutegi told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that Malawian and Kenyan smallholder farmers have benefited a lot by taking this path.
“There are two countries that are doing really well in terms of integrated soil fertility, Malawi and Kenya. In Malawi, farmers are specifically benefiting from the assistance they are getting from the government like the subsidy program.
“In Kenya, because the current government came to power on the premise of improving agriculture, the government is engaging the scientists, people in extension and communication to roll out necessary technologies. Maize is a staple crop in Kenya and yields have improved from 1.5 to 4 tonnes per hectare, which is good for farming families,” said Mutegi.
Concurringly, Soil Health Consortium of Malawi coordinator Dr Vernon Kabambe said maize yield has been improving significantly since the introduction of affordable farm inputs starter packs in the mid 1990s.
“Before the introduction of the starter-pack initiative, maize yields had been at 1.1 tonnes per hectare. Afterwards, it improved to around 2.5 tonnes per hectare following the introduction of Farm Input Subsidy Programme [Fisp],” said the specialist based at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar).
For the past two years, maize harvest has slumped due to dry spells, floods, breached soil fertility and other effects of climate change as rapid population growth keeps piling pressure on farmers with low land holding size.
Kabambe urged farmers to conserve the soil by rotating maize and legumes to improve their yields by up to 1.5 tonnes.
Mutegi and Kabambe were speaking at the end of a four-day workshop at Mponela in Dowa. The event was organised by Soil Health Consortium of Malawi in collaboration with Africa Soil Health Consortium.
“The ordinary person cannot understand vital message developed in a laboratory by scientists. People in communication like the media are very crucial in digesting this information so that a smallholder farmer understands,” Mutegi said.