Notes to broadcasters
Many farmers choose organic fertilizers, including compost manure, rather than or in addition to chemical fertilizers. When made from locally available materials such as crop residues, animal waste and kitchen refuse, compost manure is an effective and affordable way to improve soil fertility.
Compost manure maintains and improves soil texture, reduces soil erosion, helps kill weeds and keeps moisture in the field. But despite these advantages, there are challenges to making and using compost manure.
In Malawi, these challenges are widespread. For example, farmers in Nkhotakota District on the shores of Lake Malawi used little compost manure because they perceived making compost as time-consuming and difficult because of a lack of materials.
Farmers may also hold misconceptions, for example that compost manure is not as effective as chemical fertilizer. But many agriculture experts and farmers who have used compost manure over long periods feel that its advantages far outweigh these challenges.
In this script, we hear how a radio campaign spearheaded by Farm Radio Trust changed the minds of some farmers in Nkhotakota District about compost manure. Farmers report on what they learned about compost manure, and the benefits and challenges they experienced.
The script is based on interviews with members of radio listening clubs involved in the radio campaign, a government agricultural officer, and a radio producer.
You could use this script as inspiration to research and develop a radio program on compost manure or other ways to promote soil fertility.
If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you might consider asking the following questions:
• Is compost manure used in your area? What challenges do farmers face in making and using it?
• What solutions have farmers created to meet these challenges?
• Is there evidence that compost manure has raised yields or had other benefits in your area?
Apart from speaking directly to farmers and other key players in the local agriculture sector, you could also use these questions as the basis of a phone-in or text-in program.
If you choose to produce this script on your station, you could use voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
Estimated running time: 20 minutes, with intro and outro music.
Editor’s note: “Compost manure” is the name used in Malawi for a substance which may be called “composted manure” or simply “compost” in other locations.
Field reporter (George Kalungwe)
Farmers (members of radio listening clubs)
• Chrissie Joe
• Newton Mkundiza
• Rene Banda
• Maria Chande
• Kingwell D. Banda
• Hadija Chitunzu
• Maria Chande
Radio presenter/producer at Nkhotakota Community Radio Station: John Kisewe Mpakani Agricultural Extension Development Coordinator: Ethel Mwase
With climate change and the increasing cost of inputs, farmers face many challenges. To deal with these issues, they are being encouraged to adopt climate-smart farming practices, which include using compost manure. Compost manure is an attractive alternative to chemical fertilizer for low-income farmers, particularly female farmers, because it can be made with locally available materials.
Over a 15-month period, Farm Radio Trust worked with farmers, radio stations and other partners to increase small-scale farmers’ use of compost manure.
My colleague, George Kalungwe, talks to some farmers from Traditional Authority Malengachanzi.
After we were trained, each of us made compost manure and applied it in our fields. My harvest improved. I noticed that compost manure helps to keep moisture in the field, so even when you have only a little rain, you can still harvest enough.
The radio campaign encouraged farmers to start making and using compost manure. Previously, local farmers made compost manure but did not follow the proper methods. This project taught farmers the right materials to use, the right methods, and the right time to apply compost manure.
The radio campaign started broadcasts in early June 2013 and ran until December.
Later we will hear from farmers on how the program helped increase their harvest, and also about the challenges of using compost manure and how best to deal with them. But now, my colleague George Kalungwe speaks to Ethel Mwase, the Agricultural Extension Development Coordinator for Linga Extension Planning Area
And most farmers didn’t know the other benefits of compost manure, like the fact that it helps keep moisture in the soil.
Anyway, we keep on stacking the maize stalks and animal waste and adding some water until we fill the pit. Then it’s finished. Make sure you add the right amount of water – not too little and not too much. After that, we insert a stick into the middle of the pit. After a few days, we remove the stick to see if it is hot. If it’s hot, we know that the manure is decomposing.
When we insert the stick, we add a layer of soil on the top of the pit to seal it. This helps heat to circulate through the layers and speed up decomposition.
INSERT SONG ABOUT COMPOST MANURE OR OTHER MUSIC
There was also a shortage of materials. Most of the farmers believed that the best way to clear their gardens was with fire. So they burnt the residues of maize, rice, groundnuts, and beans, and ended up having no material for making manure.
Some farmers thought they did not have to use chemical fertilizer in the first year they start using compost manure. We advised them to use both compost manure and chemical fertilizer for one or two years.
The farmers had problems finding animal waste because no one is willing to provide it for free anymore – and it’s difficult to find money in a rural area like this. We told the farmers that they can use soil from underneath banana plants or any other place that still has virgin soil.
Water is also a problem. In some villages, farmers were actually denied access to boreholes. They were showered with insults by people who thought it was a waste to use a scarce commodity like water for making compost manure rather than drinking.
Gender inequalities were also a problem. For example, some people laughed at women digging pits to make pit manure because they thought that was a man’s role.
We encourage farmers to share animal waste with their friends and to use soil from manure trees like msangu (Editor’s note: The scientific name of the tree is Faidherbia albida). This works just as well as animal waste.
I want to make more compost manure this year so that I harvest more crops than last year. I have already made eight heaps of box manure and now I want to dig ten pits so that I have enough compost manure this year.
Contributed by: George Kalungwe, Chief Sub-editor/Producer, Zodiak Broadcasting
Station, Malawi, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: Ethel Mwase, Agricultural Extension Development Coordinator for Linga EPA, Nkhotakota District Agricultural Office, Nkhotakota, Malawi
Interviews with farmers, extension worker and radio producer: June 20, 2014
This script was written with the support of Irish Aid.
Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)