Collaborative action on soil fertility in South Asia: Experiences from Bangladesh and Nepal
This working paper (PDF) by IIED and Practical Action, describes recent initiatives in Bangladesh and Nepal to reverse declining soil fertility and promote sustainable agricultural practices by increasing the use of organic fertilizer – from both commercial and household sources. The authors state that to break the vicious cycle whereby intensive agriculture in both countries depletes soil organic matter and increases vulnerability to drought, an integrated approach is required which balances applications of organic and chemical fertilizers and promotes agronomic practices that enhance soil fertility. Research is needed to develop cost-effective agronomic and market-based strategies adapted to the countries’ wide range of circumstances and kinds of farmers. Ensuring large enough quantities of organic matter will require policies that raise awareness of soil fertility problems, encourage and support organic matter value chains, simplify licensing procedures and unrealistic standards, build capacity among companies, secure sufficient quantities of raw materials from multiple sources, and stimulate demand. One of the key lessons of this case study is that such value chains for commodities such as organic fertilizer do not simply materialist by themselves. They need to be nurtured over time, and require action by multiple stakeholders. This includes the private sector, NGOs, government agencies and farmers. Knowledgeable and well-respected civil society organisations have a crucial role to play in facilitating collaborative mechanisms and building momentum. Awareness of the problem is on the increase and small-scale solutions – from urban waste recycling to vermi-compost production – are proving that the potential exists. Policy support is now needed to scale these up.