Good soils, good yields
According to science, and as testified by a recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statement, soil management could make or break climate change efforts since it holds the biggest potential for capturing and storing the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which exacerbate global warming.
It is in the soil that crops and pasture are anchored and it is where they derive nourishment. Therefore any activities to mitigate climate change and its ravages should begin with committed soil nourishment efforts.
According to Dmitry Konyaev, chairman of the International Fertiliser Association’s Communications and Public Affairs Committee, nowhere in the world are soils as degraded as they are in Africa. He has written, “It is estimated that around 65 per cent of Africa’s soils are degraded, and despite being home to 10 per cent of the world’s population, Africa accounts for just 3 per cent of global fertiliser use. Without a good balance of organic and mineral fertilisers, soils are unable to nourish healthy food crops. When soils starve, so do people.”
He recommends concerted effort to get fertilisers into the hands of smallholder farmers and equipping them with information on their proper use. The recently introduced Agriculture Cluster Development Project by the Uganda government is a good step in the right direction. Soil testing must however be carried out to make sure that the farmers use the right kind of fertilisers for the soil in their individual gardens. Farmers who keep livestock should be taught how to apply the droppings as manure for their crops. We are however challenged with lack of sufficient animals per hectare to produce enough manure for the job since manure is also used for other purposes such as cooking and building.
The farmers must also be equipped with skills to fight soil erosion. They should be assisted to learn the importance of mulching and digging trenches across gardens located on slopes. Other ways of enhancing soil fertility such as burying weeds and crop residues into the soil should also be encouraged. Planting some trees that act as wind breakers must also be emphasised to reduce the risk of wind soil erosion.