Proponents term it the long awaited messiah that food-insecure Africa has been yearning for! ‘Farming God’s way’ promises to end fertilizer woes of resource-poor farmers in the continent by providing a cheaper and less labour intensive farming method.
Food security remains the number one major challenge that citizens across the African continent contend with. While the Green Revolution of the 1960s allowed erstwhile food deficient regions of Asia and Latin America to triple crop yields, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has remained stagnant and in many instances it has even declined. According to IFPRI, among the factors fuelling the continent’s low agricultural outputs include poor resource endowments, minimal use of inputs (fertilizer, improved seeds and irrigation) and adverse policies undermining agriculture. Additionally, continuing environmental degradation, crop pests, high population growth and low levels of investment in agricultural infrastructure has further aggravated the resource limitations of agriculture in Africa.
In light of the aforementioned challenges facing SSA’s food security, a new or “business as unusual” model called “Farming God’s way” is being mooted as a possible saviour to a food insecure region. ‘Farming God’s way’ offers a fascinating model for Africa that is radically different from the conventional farming methods that place a lot of emphasis on farm inputs. ‘Farming God’s way’ is premised on three principles namely zero tillage, use of post-harvest crop residues for fertilizer and crop protection, and rotational cropping. Among the benefits provided by zero tillage to rural farmers include reduced labour costs and decreased soil erosion. The use of old crop residues to cover newly planted crops enable soils to retain moisture and protects emerging seedlings from adverse weather conditions. Crop rotations have great advantages over monocropping systems, including breaking disease and insect pest cycles and improving soil structure.
The technology was first introduced in Zimbabwe but has since been rolled out in other African countries including South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania and Kenya. In the North Rift region of Kenya, as it has been widely reported in the mainstream media, the technology is being fronted over the conventional farming due to its perceived impact on yield. According to Mr Chepkonga, an agricultural extension officer at AIC Cheptebo Rural Development Centre, following a trial carried out to compare maize yield from conventional farming and ‘Farming God’s way’, the farm that used conventional farming methods produced an average of 16 to 22 bags per acre while the farm using the new method produced 40 to 60 bags.
Notwithstanding the growing support for ‘Farming God’s way’, experts urge caution in the across-the-board rollout of this technology. Dr. Dora Kilalo, an agricultural entomologist and a lecturer at the University of Nairobi opines that the technology, inadvertently, provides an ideal habitat for insect pests such as thrips, white flies and leaf miner, thereby compounding pest challenges.
‘Farming God’s way’ may well be the long awaited messiah or not! Whichever the case, the current buzz generated on the technology provides fresh fodder for the research community to mull over.
Source: ‘New form of farming in Elgeyo Marakwet’ – KTN Kenya