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Changing Farmers Perceptions on Soil Fertility through Soil Fertility Management Training and Implementation

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A presentation done by Chisomo Kamchacha from Kusamala on day 3 of ACB August conference, 16-18 August 2016 at The Blue Waters Hotel, Durban

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Changing Farmers Perceptions on Soil Fertility through Soil Fertility Management Training and Implementation

  1. 1. August  16-­‐18th ,  2016 By  Chisomo  Kamchacha Changing  Farmer’s  Perceptions  on  Soil  Fertility  through   Soil  Fertility  Management  Training  and   Implementation. ACB  Regional  Conference  
  2. 2. 2 • Introduction   • Research  Questions • Study  Methodology • Technical  Description  -­‐ Permaculture • Findings • Challenges  and  Constraints • Implications  for  Development Presentation  Outline
  3. 3. 3 • Dominance  of  Maize  and  Tobacco  in  the  Agriculture  sector  resulting  in  nutrient   mining  – Nitrogen. • The  majority  of  smallholder  farmers  have  very  little  money  to  invest  in  fertility   management • 47.4%    of  the  farmers  in  the  study  were  earning  blow  $1.25/day  and  83%  are   earning  below  $2.50/day. • Overwhelmed  by  the  fear  of  a  complete  crop  failure,  and  challenges  associated   with  production,  farmers  often  condemn  their  soils  as  infertile  and  worthless. ü FISP  – high  fertilizer  prices,  Bad  weather,  soil  infertility,   • Little  emphasis  on  showing  farmers  how  soil  fertility  management  works  on  the   farm.   • Farmers  are  made  to  believe  that  the  only  solution  is  using  synthetic  fertilizers. Introduction
  4. 4. 4 This  study  endeavored  to  answer  the  following  questions  in  relations  to  soil   fertility  in  the  fields  of  the  participating  farmers: • How  do  farmers  perceive  the  soil  in  terms  of  quality  where  they  grow  their   staple  crops? • How  do  farmers  rate  soil  infertility  as  a  threat  to  agriculture  in  their  farms   against  other  threats?  (other  threats  include:  drought,  floods,  high  fertilizer  prices,  high  seed  prices,   poor  quality  seeds,  change  in  rainfall  patterns,  erosion,  lack  of  markets,  pests  and  disease,  animals,  land   grabbing  and  other  threats.) • What  agricultural  practices  have  farmers  been  implementing  before  and  after   soil  fertility  management  training? Research  Questions
  5. 5. 5 Study  site: • This  study  was  held  in  Dowa  District:  T/A  Dzoole  and  Mponela  in  Mndolera  and   Mponela  Extension  Planning  Area. Methodology • 192  respondents  who  were  randomly  selected  from  the  permaculture  farming  community  in   30  villages. • Data  was  collected  using  a  simple  questionnaire  on  agricultural  practices,  perceptions  of  soil   quality,  and  threats  to  agriculture  on  the  farmers’  farms. • Participant  observations  were  conducted  with  all  the  farmers  on  their  farms  to  check  what   agricultural  practices  are  they  implementing  and  the  outlook  of  the  soil.  Indicators  were   adapted  from  the  Rapid  Farmer-­‐friendly  Agroecological  Method  for  Estimating  Soil  and  Crop   Health.  (This  involved  the  use  of  tools  and  technics  like:  the  jar  test,  wires/iron  pegs,  hoe  etc.) Note:  Participant  observation  enabled  the  participants  to  actively  participate  in  the  data  collection  and  also  identify  how   important  the  soil  fertility  management  practices  are  to  them  as  seen  in  the  fields.
  6. 6. 6 Technical  Description  -­‐Permaculture   • Permaculture:  a  contraction  of  permanent  agriculture   • Permaculture  “is  the  conscious  design  and  maintenance  of   agriculturally  productive  ecosystems  which  have  the   diversity,  stability,  and  resilience  of  natural  ecosystems”   (Mollison  1988:ix).  
  7. 7. 7 Agricultural  Practices Agricultural  Practices Soil  Conservation  &  Fertility Agro-­‐biodiversity Water  Conservation  &  Harvesting • Compost  manure • Animal  manure • Intercropping  nitrogen   fixing  plants  and  trees • Mulching   • Permanent  no-­‐till  beds • No-­‐till  weeding  by  hand   • Intercropping  plants  from   different  families • Tree  planting • Cultivation  during  all   seasons • Mulching • Irrigating  with  reused  grey   water • Irrigating  from  rainwater   catchment   • Constructing  swales • Permanent  no-­‐till  beds
  8. 8. 8 Findings  -­‐ Agricultural  Practices • More  farmers  had  started  implementing  soil  fertility  management  practices.   • Permaculture  Farmers  began  to  see  beneficial  results  from  soil  conservation. • Over  time,  the  environmental  impacts  of  permaculture  increase  and  help  to  build  agro-­‐ ecosystems  and  environmental  resilience  in  household  farms  and  broader  communities. • Permaculture  Farmers  also  had  a  positive  impact  on  the  perception  of  soil  quality  and  crop   resilience  to  dry  spells  at  the  village  level. On  farm  Agricultural  Practices
  9. 9. 9 Finding  -­‐ Soil  Health  Outlook • Permaculture  Farmers’  staple  fields   were  still  going  through  a  transition   phase  – from  between  conventional   and  little  application  of  soil  fertility   management  practices  to   permaculture  farming. • The  visible  indicators  at  this  phase   motivate  the  farmers  to  continue   with  the  conservation  practices.
  10. 10. 10 Findings  -­‐Soil  Quality  Perceptions
  11. 11. 11 Findings  -­‐ Rating  Soil  Infertility  as  a  Threat • The  first  round  of  research  reported  high  fertilizer   prices,  rainfall  patterns,  high  seed  prices,  lack  of   markets,  and  soil  infertility  as  threats  to  Ag. • In  the  second  round–after  training  on  soil  fertility   management  techniques,  farmers  feel  that  soil   infertility  is  not  so  big  of  a  problem  compared  to   drought. • This  does  not  seems  so  very  big  of  a  difference,   but  given  that  farmers  are  now  able  to  identify   indicators  of  change  which  affect  their   perceptions  toward  their  soils,  these  farmer  can   then  be  said  to  be  better  positioned  to   consistently  participate  in,  and  adopt  soil  fertility   management  practices.
  12. 12. 12 There  are  some  social  challenges,  and  material,   environmental  and  information  constraints  that  the   Permaculture  Farmers  faced  when  implementing   permaculture. • When  the  farmers  first  started  implementing  the  soil   fertility  management  practices  in  their  staple  fields;   particularly  permanent  beds  and  mulching,  they  faced   social  stigma  for  making  those  significant  changes. • Land  ownership  was  the  main  material  constraint  for   practicing  soil  fertility  management. • Some  farmers  also  faced  challenges  with  livestock   (cattle). Challenges  and  Constraints  
  13. 13. 13 • Farmer  – Friendly  Agroecological  methods  for  assessing  soil  health  should  be   promoted  amongst  smallholder  farmer  in  Malawi.   • Farmers  can  play  an  active  role  in  identifying  problems  with  their  soils  and  the   onset  of  their  farming  season,  and  devise  means  of  dealing  with  the  problems. Implication  for  Development
  14. 14. 14 END THANK  YOU

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