Lime: Smallholder Farmers’ Restorative Gem

The Government of Zanzibar taps into the SAGCOT Way
September 30, 2018
Kilimo Picha: SAGCOT Centre in Pictures – September 2018
September 30, 2018

Farmer's liming the soil in Iringa Region courtesy of the support of the SAGCOT Centre Soil Health Partnership programme

Smallholder farmers spend copious amounts of money annually on fertilizer to improve the yield of their crops. But more often than not the yield either stagnates or decreases for one core reason; acidity in the soil.

Most smallholder farmers are not conversant with soil health which is the backbone of successful crop yields. To bridge this gap, the SAGCOT Centre established the Soil Health Partnership; consisting of partner agencies focused on the education, research, distribution of information and supply of soil products and expertise to improve soil health within the SAGCOT Corridor.

This September, the Njombe Region Local government authorities and SAGCOT soil specialists trained farmers in Lusitu and Mtwango villages. It was a practical training applying lime directly to smallholder farmers’ fields; further educating the farmers on regular soil testing to maintain nutrients of the soil.

Lime increases the pH of the acidic soil, making the soil more alkaline and suitable for the growth of crops such as Irish potatoes. Liming further provides nutrients such as calcium and magnesium for plants, improved water penetration and improves the uptake of major plant nutrients.

“There is a need to improve crop production, but this cannot be achieved without farmers appreciating the importance of soil health. Not knowing how to reduce soil acidity and understanding how to use the right tools; the right amount of fertilizers and the right time to apply lime; nothing will be achieved.”  Adam Ndatulu, SAGCOT Centre Partner Coordinator, pointed out during the liming exercise.

He further explained that assessing soil health and using agriculture lime in Iringa region commenced in 2017 which has seen a stark improvement in the pilot test farms. These pilot plots identified by the Soil Health Partnership were cultivated by 130 smallholder farmers who are part of the World Food Programme (WFP) Farm to Market Alliance programme, and NAFAKA II USAID programme.

Yara International led the demonstrations of lime application technologies through knowledge sharing and hands-on demos on the farm.

Neema Mwinuka, a potato farmer from Lusitu village was surprised by the notable increase in potato yield in her plot used as a demonstration plot in the previous planting season.

“I was always told to use a lot of fertilizer but my harvest was always poor. I discovered through the demonstration plots that the low yield was because my plot’s soil pH had deteriorated. But since lime was applied on my farm, production has increased immensely.” Mwinuka enthused.

 

Anthony Msanga, another smallholder farmer who was involved in the exercise was beside himself when he saw the difference in his crop yield. He is now determined to ensure he protects his soil health, “we shall no longer plough our plots without testing our soils because now we know why we have been harvesting low quantity.” Msanga enthused.

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