Notes to broadcasters
Statistics show that 83% of Malians are farmers and make a living from their own production. But the techniques people use have always been different, depending on crops and location. Farmers who produce dry crops have always relied on fertilizers such as manure, compost, and poultry waste, while most farmers in irrigated areas usually use only chemical fertilizers. Some agronomists and farmers maintain that using these chemical fertilizers results in the soil becoming dependent on them. Despite difficulties relating to how to make compost, some farmers have decided to use only compost and to make it themselves from their livestock’s manure. They feel that this is the safest fertilizer, and one which helps them to regularly get good yields.
In this script, we meet Mr. Bilalay Tamboura from Bandjougou, in the Mopti Region of northeastern Mali. Mr. Tamboura makes his compost and uses it on his crops. He explains how he makes the compost and why it is important. We also speak with Mr. Oumar Diallo, an agronomy engineer who verifies the information provided by Mr. Tamboura.
You might choose to present this script as part of your regular farming program by using voice actors to represents the speakers. If this is the case, make sure you inform your listeners at the beginning of the program that these are the voices of these actors and not those of people with whom the original interviews were made.
You could also us this script as a research material or inspiration for creating your own programming on compost production or similar topics.
Talk to farmers and experts who make compost. You may ask them the following questions:
- What is the difference between compost and chemical fertilizer?
- What are the benefits of compost? What are the potential drawbacks?
Estimated running time: 25 minutes, with intro and extro music
Bandjougou is a village in northeastern Mali about 45 kilometres from Bandiagara. Farmers in this area consume their own harvests from both rainy season and off-season crops. Everybody in the village is convinced that making compost is one of the safest ways of getting good harvests without too much cost and without negative effects.
We are in Bandjougou’s weekly market, right in the centre of the village. There are about 20 straw sheds in the market, under which traders spread out their goods. Men, women, and children all conduct their own businesses. We are going to meet with Bilalay Tamboura, a farmer and compost maker.
My work is market gardening: I grow onions, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, sweet peppers, and many other things. I grow these products during the dry season. Market gardening starts in October and continues until March.
I come to the market every Saturday to buy onions and resell them. I also weigh merchandise for other traders, and they pay me for it.
To make compost, you need to choose your composting site wisely—preferably in the shade, near a water spring, and if possible near the place where you will use the compost.
There are three composting methods: in piles, in a closed pit, and in a covered pit. The method you use depends on what you need the compost for, the condition of the soil, and the availability of ingredients and equipment.
But the purpose is always to produce compost, which is a well-decayed organic fertilizer.
Ingredients for making compost include domestic waste, ash, clay, animal dung, bird droppings, plant residues, grass, straw, less woody branches, and other by-products which decay easily.
Note that it’s important to remove all glass, metal, plastic, hardwood, and stones. You should use one-third green vegetation and two-thirds dry matter.
You must ensure that the bottom part of the pit is waterproof. If not, spread a layer of clay 10 centimetres thick. This could be red earth from a termite mound.
Then spray the bottom part of the pit with water until it is soaked.
Begin by spreading three fingers’ width or five centimetres of manure, then water until it is soaked.
Then spread a layer of green vegetation—grass, fresh crop or kitchen residues. This should be twice the width of a hand, or 30-40 centimetres. Water this layer until it is soaked.
Then add a layer of farm manure about the width of a hand, or 15-20 centimetres.
Next, spread a thin layer of ash. This will act as a catalyst to the compost, keep termites away, and also stop the pit from smelling bad.
Continue to add layers of green vegetation, farm manure, and ash until the pit is filled to half a metre above the level of the soil. If you can’t fill the pit in one session, make sure you fill it within one week.
After filling the pit, cover it with a layer of earth which is twice the width of your hand. This will help maintain the heat of the pit while the composting process is working, and will help maintain the moisture in the pit.
Finally, cover everything with straw, old mats, and branches to minimize evaporation and protect the pit from animals.
Insert a stick about one-and-a-half metres long into the pile.
Three days later, remove the stick but leave the hole, which will serve as an air hole or chimney.
Within 15 days, the temperature of the compost will be high enough to start decomposition. During the rest of the composting process, the temperature will vary between 50 and 70oC.
>After seven days, check the temperature in the pit by introducing an iron bar or a wet stick. This should become warm.
If it does not heat up or if there is a bad smell, remove everything from the pit, take it apart, and let it dry for a few days. Then remake the compost pit.
The composting process should take two to three months, depending on the consistency and nature of the ingredients you use.
When you want to use the compost, remove it one layer at a time, and make sure that you thoroughly mix the various layers. Well-rotted compost is lukewarm, smells like wet earth, and has no negative impact on crops.
We use 15 to 20 tonnes of compost per hectare for cereals and 20 to 40 tonnes per hectare for vegetables.
If you add compost to furrows, you can add six to 10 tonnes per hectare. If you add it to planting holes, use four to five tonnes per hectare.
When possible, sift the compost before using it.
You can use the compost immediately after harvesting it. Or you can keep it in the shade, protected with old mats, empty bags, etc., against the wind and sun.
The compost contains lots of good micro-organisms, and enzymes, hormones, and trace elements which are good for the soil. It improves the structure of the soil, ensures a good food supply for plants, and increases their resistance to disease.
Crops grown with compost also store better.
Then you add 20 centimetres of humus, agricultural or domestic waste, mud or guano, and then 30 or 40 centimetres of animal manure.
You plant stakes around the pile to maintain and protect it.
You must water this pile twice a week. The first time is simple watering. But the second time, you should turn the pile over before watering it. After each watering period, cover the pile to conserve heat and moisture.
This process takes 60-75 days for finished compost. The frequent watering and turning are very important!
This method produces finished compost in 12 weeks.
But the choice between compost or chemical fertilizer is a matter of preference and financial resources. Anyway, one thing is certain: compost is cheaper and is cost-effective and beneficial in many ways. It conserves moisture in the soil, protects the soil from erosion, and is a complete food which is suitable for all types of soils and crops.
Usually, market gardeners have small plots, and we almost always need manure. This is why we prefer to have multiple compost pits. This reduces the length of composting to 45 days and allows farmers to produce compost continuously.
Grain producers who have large plots and use compost only once a year usually have just one pit.
Regarding the ingredients, some kinds of excrement must be handled with extra care, chicken feces, for instance. It’s very good but contains powerful substances that can destroy crops, if there’s just a slight error in handling. The best way to avoid the dangerous effects of compost is to respect the preparation time and allow all its ingredients to decompose completely.
What really must be regulated and controlled, in my opinion, is compost made by NGOs and the small processing businesses that are slowly beginning in the region, because we don’t know much about the ingredients in their products.
What many farmers don’t understand is that, in the soil, chemical fertilizers react more quickly than compost and can have positive effects on plants. But they can also have negative effects on both soil and plants. Good quality compost has a positive effect on the soil. So, all I wish for is that all farmers consider compost as a solution to the issue of soil fertility.
Dear listeners, today we learnt how farmers in the Mopti region make compost, simply by using different ingredients found locally. This shows that each of us can make his or her own compost. We also learned that using compost allows farmers to fertilize their soil without using chemical fertilizers.
We thank you for tuning in for our show and invite you to join us for the next show, when we will discuss another very important topic.
Thank you for your kind attention, and see you soon.
Contributed by: Boubacar Gakou, film maker and producer
Reviewed by: Daouda Koba Koné, agricultural and civil engineer, DRA, Mopti
Mouhoumoun Karembé, Dec. 10, 2016
Oumar Diallo, January 14, 2017
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from Save the Children and with financial support from USAID Technical and Operational Perfromance Support (TOPS).