Building on Fertile Ground in Burundi
Duration: January 2014 – April 2017. This project has been finalized.
Aim: Optimize the dosage of organic and inorganic fertilizers. The best assessed propositions – in terms of improved access to food/income, improved land and labour productivity, sustainability and adaptation to climate change – will be embedded in ZOA’s agricultural programs and in the government rural extension services. Embed innovations in local rural agriculture extension services.
Objective: Contribute to food security of vulnerable smallholder farmer communities.
Method: Identify different areas of soil fertility as identified by local farmers. Understand traditional methods for assessing soil fertility. Trial fertilizer recommendations combined with conservation agriculture as applied in normal local farmer practices. Provide tailored advice on dosage of fertilizers and conservation agriculture to farmers and extension services.
Dutch policy goal: Increase sustainable food production.
Key results: The original hypothesis of site-specific fertilizer applications maximising yield and return was not proven. Yield prediction tools, including QUEFTS, were of limited value in the trials. Insufficient data exists in Burundi to establish AEZs by normal methodology.
Burundi farmers’ selection of crops is based not only on maximizing yield but also on other sociological considerations.
Conservation agriculture which reduces labour inputs was rapidly adopted by farming households in Burundi, including the most vulnerable households. The method consists of: 1) use of herbicides to control perennial and persistent weeds and eliminating manual hoeing to prepare the ground for sowing; 2) the application of low doses of organic and inorganic fertilizers; and 3) the use of green manure (ground cover) so that herbicide are phased out. Farming households saved money and time needed for land preparation and weeding, yields increased and the resilience to climate extremes improved. Instead of intensive manual cultivation and weeding which leaves soils bare for part of the year, soils now remain undisturbed, covered and fertilized. Soil erosion is reduced or prevented and soil quality gradually improves.
Undergraduate studies indicated that the amount of fertilizer used by farmers is strongly influenced by distance from the collection point and that the most effective way of communicating new information to isolated and illiterate farmers is probably by radio broadcasts.