Developement news | 14 May 2012
Bafut farmers unite to improve yields and livelihood
Bafut farmers hope thatcoming together will show their true potentials
Known as the Bafut Confederation of Integrated Poultry and Agroforestry Organisations (BACIPAO), the group has 10 Federations, 35 Unions and 180 Common Initiative Groups, according to figures provided by the Pioneer President Fuh Stanley Numfor.
During the launching of BACIPAO recently, in the Palace of the Fon of Bafut, Fuh said the groups were specialised in the production of cassava, maize, plantains, palms, cocoa, coffee, cocoyam, yams, beans, rice, groundnuts, pigs, poultry, fisheries and cattle.
The confederation will then have to look for markets for these products since “it will yield no fruit to producing without a market.”
The Fon of Bafut, Fon Abumbi II said Bafut farmers have not been able to benefit from any support because they have not been organised and insisted that the new confederation was going to cause a turn around;
“Bafut farmers are many but they do not benefit from grants and loans because they are not organised. This powerful farmers’ confederation will bring much from government, NGOs and funding bodies. I am talking because I am a farmer myself. We have to be patient because a lot will come.”
The Fon regretted that politicians from that area were conspicuously absent from the event but warned that any politician who failed to support the farmers will no more receive their votes.
“People who neglect farmers will not go anywhere. We will not give them our votes.”
Fuh Stanley said their dreams were to professionalize agriculture so as to increase output, carry out specialised agriculture to become big business farmers living well with a high per capita income.
“We have a dream to see our farmers create their own “America” here in Bafut by living in decent houses and riding in decent cars.
These dreams are coming at a time when yields are dwindling do to degrading soils and agric technicians are warning that if farmers do not improve on their soils such dreams will just be wishful thinking.
However, BACIPAO has taken a first step by calling for an end to the destruction of the soil commonly called “ankara.” Fuh told TFV in Bamenda that HEIFER has promised to train members on how to improve on the soil and boost production.
He claimed that they are proposing and training farmers to incorporate the grass in the ridges because that would give them better yields in the long term.
He said the Bafut traditional council would punish any farmer caught burning ankara stressing that the punishment will be so harsh that it will deter any other farmer from doing the same thing.
Following the launching of BACIPAO, the president is installing the executives of the different federations that make up the confederation.
In Nforya, he told the farmers that they have started receiving support and if they continue to be organised more will come.
“Already, the regional Delegation has given us 10 bags of fertilizers which cost at least 200000 Cfa Frs. More will come since we are well structured but we must be practically there.” Ful Joy
Fertilizer Tree Systems enrich soils naturally
Among the most challenging long-term barriers to agricultural production and sustainability in Africa is poor and degrading soil quality.
According to “Agricultural success from Africa: the case of fertilizer tree systems in southern Africa (Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe),” a report from the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, simple “Fertilizer Tree Systems” (FTS) can double maize production in soil that is low in nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient. A type of agroforestry, FTS incorporate nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs into agricultural fields, usually inter-planted with food crops. These trees take in atmospheric nitrogen and return it to the soil, where it serves as a nutrient for plants.
Soil analyses by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and others in the 1980s revealed nitrogen to be a limiting factor in many African soils. In response, on-farm studies in the 1990s showed that FTS with the right species could increase crop yields with or without mineral fertilizers. FTS are much cheaper for farmers to implement than buying fertilizer inputs, and represent a more holistic approach to soil management. FTS scaling-up programs were broadly implemented about ten years ago, and in that time the number of small-holder farmers using these techniques has ballooned from a few hundred to more than 250,000 in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
FTS have proven most effective for small farmers who are able to devote the necessary labor and land more easily than the money needed for commercial fertilizer. By relying on naturally occurring systems rather than imports, agroforestry improves food security, bolsters biodiversity, and reinforces local economies. The introduction of a wider variety of plants to fields, for example, has been shown to increase diversity of the local ecosystem, which further augments the soil.
According to the report, FTS have generally been successful, but they are subject to regional variation. Some areas have found more suitable native nitrogen-fixers than others, and many regions have had little or no research to identify the best plants to use. The report also stresses that FTS do not provide all nutrients required by crops, so external inputs are frequently necessary to boost phosphorus and potassium. However, as nitrogen has been shown to be a limiting nutrient in much of southern Africa, sustainable production can be improved through the use of FTS, even without other fertilizers.
Farmers in southern Africa have shown themselves keen to embrace new innovations, like the FTS programs. As research and training continue, more small farmers will be able to produce more food in sustainable ways.
By Isaac Hopkins Nourishing the Planet