Progress is being made in crop improvement and seed systems, with fewer crop diseases posing a major problem. But poor soil fertility and constant nutrient depletion continue to represent huge obstacles to agriculture and aren’t given the priority they deserve by governments and many NGOs addressing food insecurity.
Buying expensive chemicals often isn’t an option for smallholder farmers because many simply can’t afford it. And even if they can afford to buy them, this further depletes their soils, and they thus continue to be dependent on costly chemicals – money they would rather spend on medicine, school fees or other necessities. It does not ensure sustainability either.
SOFDI promotes Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) to address the challenge of poor soil fertility. We have a wholesome approach to ISFM through a strong focus on organic/sustainable farming which prioritizes the use of organic, on-farm available resources in combination with indigenous agro-minerals and, depending on the severity of the soil depletion, a cautious use of fertilizers for a limited period of time.
We teach our farmers good soil management to improve their depleted soils, which are a fundamental root cause of their declining food production. This can only be addressed by advocating more integrated problem-solving approaches to optimize the farmers’ agricultural resource basis – fertile, healthy soils.
Important features of ISFM are :
- The efficient management of available organic resources
- Wider integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes into cropping system
- Conservation of the soil and its biota and organic matter
- Careful application of chemical fertilizers if needed
Specific practices include:
- Crop rotation with legume crops
- Agroforestry (planting of legume trees such as Calliandra, Sesbania, Grevillea on farms, intercropping with vegetables and other crops)
- Conservation Agriculture (CA), with minimum tillage by basin use, residue retention for conserving and adding nutrients to the soil, mulching for soil erosion and leaching control of nutrients, with the decomposing materials adding nutrients to the soils.
- Maize and soya intercropping
- Planting cover crops (sweet potatoes and soya), which help conserve the nutrients and moisture, while the decomposing leaves add nutrients to the soils.
- Use of various forms of raised beds to control soil erosion and leaching
- Crop diversification, which reduces the pressure of crops as different crops add/fix nutrients that will be used by other crops
- Integration of animal husbandry
We combine these different elements in a manner that is both site-specific and environmentally/ecologically acceptable. Amplifying ISFM isn’t a quick fix because it needs concerted efforts and time for sustainability
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT (IPM)
IPM is another ecologically sound approach we teach farmers. IPM is beneficial for soil health and applied on farms in various forms.
SOFDI’s recent implementation of a newly introduced technology of SOIL TESTING enables farmers and schools to analyze the condition of their soils and to take immediate action to improve them sustainably.