News

Zambian Fertilizer Trees Improve Soil, Maize Production

Small scale farmers and researchers from the University of Zambia are implementing a project to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed to grow crops – using what they call “fertilizer trees.”  From Lusaka, Voice of America English to Africa reporter Sanday Chongo Kabange tells us the growing price of organic fertilizer has sparked a new innovation for Zambia’s small scale farmers who have little money.

Fertilizer trees are varieties of shrubs that capture nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil, a process known as nitrogen-fixing. This restores nutrients and increases crop productivity, with the potential to double or triple harvests.

The trees are already common in Zambia and are said to be affordable to small scale farmers. They can be planted among crops for up to three years before being cut and left to decompose, providing fuel and more fertilizer.

Dr. Olusegun Yerokun is a soil scientist and senior lecturer at the University Of Zambia School Of Agriculture Sciences. He says, “The concept of fertilizer trees is having trees which are able to accumulate nutrients whether from the soil or the air, and these nutrients are then recycled into soil for food crops to make use of.  Where crops don’t have  roots that are deep enough to access some of the nutrients these trees can go deeper, mine the soil and then food crops can use the nutrients (brought up to) the surface (by the tree roots).”

Policymakers and agricultural scientists drew up plans for implementing the program at a conference in Malawi last February.  The project is targeting 200, 000 farmers -- about 10 per cent of the agricultural sector.

Yerokun says two centers in Zambia are already implementing the project at Chalimbana farming bloc and Musekera Research Center in Eastern Zambia, about 300 kilometers from the Lusaka city center.  Both Chalimbana farming bloc and Musekera Research Center are run by the Zambian government and are supported by the International Center for Research in Agro-forestry based in the United Kingdom.

Yerokun says farmers receive free tree seedlings, an information kit and training on the system as well as associated crop husbandry.

The fertilizer trees begin to improve the soil as they decompose – a process that takes about three weeks.  The trees are replanted every 3 years alongside food crops.  

The soil scientist says, “People like ICRAF and even the government of the republic of Zambia -- through the Ministry of Agriculture -- have done quite a lot to produce seeds or seedlings which are distributed to farmers, and so they are able to access seeds from those who produce them and distribute seedlings amongst the farmers.”

According to Jeffrey Sachs, director of the United Nations Millennium Project, fertilizer trees are among the most promising means for achieving the Millennium Development Goal set up by the United Nations of halving global hunger by 2015.

There are four fertilizer tree systems all of which are based on the idea of improving soil by recovering lost nutrients.

The first system is sequential planting of nitrogen-fixing trees such as Sesbania, sesban and Tephrosia vogelli with maize, shortening the amount of time land needs to lie fallow.

In the second, Gliricidia sepium is planted among the rows of maize but heavily pruned so it does not overtake the food crop. The trees are grown between the plants.

The third involves planting nitrogen-fixing trees a few weeks after maize is harvested.  This takes approximately six months before new maize is planted to reduce competition between the plants.  After six months, the trees are pruned and left to decompose and the new maize is then planted.

In the fourth, tree leaves are used to fertilize vegetable crops in the wetlands or swamps as well as maize produced in the uplands or hilly areas.

More than 300,000 farmers are currently using fertilizer trees in five SADC countries -- Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Yerokun says the fertilizer tree initiative is nearly doubling annual maize yields in Zambia, the first country in the drought hit region to start implementing the initiative.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs