Agroecological agriculture in Tanzania

Crop productionEnvironment and climate change

Notes to broadcasters

Adapting ecologically sustainable agricultural (agroecological) practices can help at least two million men, women and youth in Tanzania to be food secure and resilient to climate change.

In these radio spots, listeners will learn about different ecologically sustainable practices and how they can adopt them on their farms. The topics of the spots include:

  1. Using agroecological farm inputs
  2.  Making and applying manure
  3.  Making plant tea or foliar booster
  4.  Preparing the farm ecologically
  5.  Intercropping
  6.  Mixed farming
  7.  Crop mutualism
  8.  Ecological pest and disease management
  9.  Agroforestry practices
  10.  Cover crops
  11.  Water harvesting techniques
  12.  Agroecological farming
  13.  Maintaining soil fertility in agroecological ways
  14.  Benefits of compost manure
  15.  Reducing soil erosion
  16.  Recommended manure management and application

The spots vary in length from about 45-60 seconds and could be played multiple times during all programs related to farming.

They could also be played at other times when farmers are listening, especially during important times in the farming calendar.

Please note that the individual spots stand alone, and farmers can choose the practices they prefer on their farms. These spots are based on information from Tanzania, but can be adapted and broadcast in any farming area.



Spot #1:
Using agroecological farm inputs


Farmers! To get high yields and enhance your farm’s environment at the same time, it’s important to know how to prepare farm inputs agroecologically. Here are five tips!

First, get all the information possible on the farm inputs you need.

Second, research all possible sources of indigenous seeds. Compare price, quality, planting season, maturity, cost, and yield before buying.

Third, look for compost or livestock manure for this season.

Fourth, search for knowledge and skills about storing inputs.

And finally, buy your inputs after you are satisfied with the price, the quality, and all other important qualities.

Good preparation makes good results!



Spot #2:
Making and applying manure


Farmers! To grow healthy and chemical-free foods while protecting the environment, apply compost manure or any other kind of manure.

Livestock produce the best manure when their feed includes crop residues of legumes like beans, and also peas like cowpeas or pigeon peas. Here are seven steps for making compost manure.

First, gather both dry and green leaves, crop stalks, ashes, soil, water, and a long stick.

Second, cut the dry leaves in small pieces.

Third, dig a hole 1.5 metres long, 1.5 metres wide, and 25- 50 centimetres deep. Alternatively, you could build a compost pile above ground and use tree poles or wire mesh to shape the pile and cover it with a black polythene sheet.

Fourth, place crop stalks that are 15-25 centimetres thick at the bottom of the hole and sprinkle water on them.

Fifth, add a layer of dry leaves and another layer of green leaves.

Sixth, spread ashes on top of the leaves.

Seven, add a layer of soil, about five or ten kilograms in weight. Make sure you spray a little water on top of each layer.

Repeat adding layers in the same way until the heap is one and a half metres high, then leave the heap to decompose.

After two days, check the temperature of the heap by inserting the long stick into the middle of the heap. If the stick is warm, the composting is going well. If it isn’t warm, sprinkle more water.

Your compost will be ready in three to seven weeks, depending on what types of materials you use and how long it takes them to break down.

Making compost manure is easy. And it boosts your yields.



Spot #3:
Making manure tea


Farmers! Have you ever made organic plant tea or foliar booster for top-dressing your crops? It’s a great way to boost your yields. And you don’t need anything except what you already have on your own farm!

Here’s how to make plant tea or foliar booster.

First, fill a bag with 50 kilograms of manure that was collected no more than 14 days ago and tie the top with a rope. Then, using a pole, suspend the bag and immerse it in a 200-litre drum of water. Make sure you do this in a shaded area. You can use cattle, chicken, goat, sheep, or rabbit manure.

Second, cover the drum tightly with a polythene sheet to stop any gases from escaping.

Third, every three to five days, lift the bag partly out of the water and stir the mixture in the drum with a pole.

The water will get dark green after two or three weeks. The darker the colour, the more concentrated the mixture. Now it’s ready to use.

Remove the bag and dilute the manure tea. For every part of manure tea, add two parts of water. If the manure tea is very dark, use three parts of water to one part of manure tea.

Two to three weeks after planting your crops, apply a quarter to half a litre of the diluted manure tea per plant.

Reapply the same quantity three to four weeks later.

Apply the plant tea or foliar booster around the stems of your crops.

Always apply plant tea in the early morning or on cloudy days. Applying when the sun is full risks burning the leaves and losing the nutrients.

Plant tea is easy to make and great for your crops!



Spot #4:
Preparing the farm ecologically


Farmers! Here are five ecologically sustainable practices you can use on your farm to get high yields.

First, ensure there is minimal soil disturbance by reducing tillage or using a ripper.

Second, leave crop residues on the soil surface as mulch after harvest or pruning. This prevents soil erosion and reduces weed growth.

Third, grow beneficial plants like fruit or nut trees. Or nutrient-rich leguminous shrubs like Gliricidia sepium that add nitrogen to the soil.

Fourth, slash weeds or crop residues instead of burning or spraying chemicals that harm beneficial soil organisms.

Fifth, till by hand or with an animal-drawn plough instead of using mechanized tools that produce smoke and pollute the environment.

When you farm ecologically, you reap healthy foods!



Spot #5:


Farmers, do you know that intercropping with the right combination of crops can boost your yields?

What is intercropping? Intercropping is growing two or more crops together in one field.

Sometimes intercrops are grown close together, and sometimes in different rows.

Sometimes fast- and slow-growing crops are planted together. The fast-growing crop is harvested first and the slow-growing crop continues maturing.

And sometimes you can plant a second crop after the first crop produces fruit.

Intercropping improves soil health and environmental biodiversity. It also attracts beneficial insects that control pests and increase yields.

To start with, why not plant a deep-rooted crop with a shallow-rooted crop? Or plant a tall crop with a shorter crop that needs shade?

Farmers! Intercrop to increase your yields and eat healthy.



Spot #6:
Mixed farming


Farmers! You can diversify your sources of income, make best use of your available land, and ensure your family eats a nutritious diet by practicing mixed farming.

Mixed farming is when two or more different kinds of farming activities happen at the same time on the farm. For example, a farmer might grow crops, keep livestock or bees, and plant trees and shrubs on the same land.

Mixed farming has three main benefits:

First, farm families always have a variety of foods to eat instead of relying on only one crop or one type of farming.

Second, raising livestock and applying livestock manure to farmed fields improves soil fertility and crop yields.

Third, by growing a variety of crops and raising livestock, farmers can diversify their income and reduce financial risk.

So try mixed farming. It can improve your income and your family’s well-being.



Spot #7:
Crop mutualism


Farmers, sometimes planting two crops close together can improve the health and increase the yields of both crops.

Here are some examples:

Some tall crops can be tipped over by wind or their stems may bend or break. Why not grow a crop beside them that supports them? For example, climbing beans can support maize.

And why not train climbing crops like black pepper on jackfruit, coconut, or vanilla trees.

When planted close to crops like maize that need a lot of nitrogen, leguminous cover crops can add nitrogen to the soil, helping maize and suppressing weeds.

Some crops are very sensitive to light and heat. For instance, you can plant bananas to shade-sensitive collard greens and cabbages. Fruit trees like coconuts and pawpaw and leguminous trees can also shade sensitive crops.

Planting crops that help each other—can help you!



Spot #8:
Ecological pest and disease management


Farmers! By growing trap crops and repellent crops, you can keep pests away from your main crop, which increases your yield and income!

In trap cropping, a farmer plants a crop that pests prefer to your main crop. You can either plant a trap crop right alongside your main crop or, more often, as a row of plants on the edge of the field. The pest will prefer feeding on the trap crop and stay away from the main crop.

Other plants actively repel pests with their scent. If you plant repellent plants near your main crop, you can keep pests away. For example, onions repel the aphids and flea beetles that attack cabbages, while marigold repels the white flies that attack tomatoes.

In push-pull cropping, farmers plant both a trap crop and a repellent crop. The repellent crop pushes the pest away from the main crop, while the trap crop attracts or pulls the pest away from the main crop.

These ecological methods for managing pests are affordable and not difficult. And they work!



Spot #9:
Agroforestry practices


Farmers! When you combine farming with forestry, you’re practicing agroforestry! In agroforestry, trees and shrubs are grown on the same land as crops, or at field boundaries.

Here’s are four ways you can benefit from agroforestry.

First, trees protect crops and livestock from the harmful effects of strong winds by acting a windbreak.

Second, farmers can increase the income they receive from selling crops by also selling tree products, including timber, nuts, firewood, and fruit.

Third, agroforestry helps conserve natural resources and minimize soil erosion and pollution.

Finally, planting leguminous trees or shrubs improves soil fertility by adding nitrogen to the soil, boosting crop yields, and improving soil.

Trees and crops together. Think about it!



Spot #10:
Cover crops


Farmers! Do you know how cover crops can help your farming business?

Cover crops ensure that your soil is covered. And that has five main benefits.

First, it controls soil erosion, maintains and conserves soil moisture, and slows evaporation.

Second, leguminous cover crops add nitrogen to the soil, improving soil fertility and yields.

Third, many cover crops grow quickly and can mature during the short rains.

Fourth, cover crops reduce weed growth, decreasing the need for constant weeding and reducing labour costs.

Finally, some cover crops are food for both humans and livestock.

Cover crops can work for you!



Spot #11:
Water harvesting techniques


Harvesting rainwater helps when the rains fail or when there’s not enough rain to meet crop demand. It can also help you grow lucrative out-of-season crops with big market demand. And harvesting rainwater reduces the time you spend fetching water for the household.

Here are three ways to harvest water.

First, you can catch rain in roofs and gutters that redirect water into tanks.

Second, you can collect rain and groundwater run-off in water pans, ponds, or earth dams.

Third, in semi-arid areas, you can dig holes such as zai pits that catch water and hold crops. Also, runoff water from roads can be diverted to the nearest farm.

Don’t waste precious rainwater. Store it and use it when you need it.



Spot #12:
Agroecological farming


(Name of farmer 2), do you know what agroecological farming is? And do you know why you should practice it?

I’ve heard of it, but it sounds complicated. Can you explain it in simple words?

Sure. In agroecological farming, farmers improve soil fertility with organic inputs so that crops yield well in a healthy environment.

That’s interesting. But how do you actually do ecological farming?

I was waiting for that question. Here’s how.

Farm inputs are quite minimal in agroecological farming, and are non-toxic.

Agroecological farming is easy to practice and farmers often grow a variety of crops.

Ecological farming focuses strongly on building soil fertility with organic manures.

It also focuses on conserving water, especially in dry areas.

In ecological farming, farmers decide for themselves what type of seeds they wish to plant, depending on environmental factors and traditions.

All in all, ecological farming produces food crops in a non-toxic way that is safe for humans and other living organisms.

That’s good to hear. But if I’m going to grow agroecologically, how will I control those pesky pests?

Great question. While growing the main crop, you can plant other crops in the same field that attract or repel pests from the main crop. For instance, onions repel pests like aphids that attack cabbages. Kitchen ash, neem (mwarubaini), and pepper also help manage pests. You can make your own organic pesticides that are safe for the environment.

Thank you so much. Can you teach me all that?

Glad you asked. Let’s go to my farm and I’ll show you how.



Spot #13:
Maintaining soil fertility in ecological ways


Farmers, here are three organic methods to maintain and build soil fertility on your farm!

First, you can boost soil organic matter by mulching, planting cover crops, and using zero or minimum tillage.

Second, you can apply livestock manure and compost manure made from crop residues and the leaves and branches of growing trees by digging it into the soil.

The third method is to have an expert test your soil. If your soil is deficient in any nutrients or if you have problems like high soil acidity, apply soil amendments that address these problems. These amendments can include homemade manure tea, soil amenders like lime that lower acidity, soil nitrogen boosters, commercial organic fertilizers, and mineral fertilizers that address specific nutrient deficiencies.

Fertile soil leads to food-secure households.



Spot #14:
Benefits of compost manure


Farmers, here are four ways that compost manure canbenefit your soil.

First, compost manure improves the fertility of your soil, and therefore your crop yields.

Second, compost manure improves soil aeration. This helps gases such as oxygen reach and feed the roots of growing crops.

Third, compost manure allows your soil to hold more water.

Fourth, compost manure improves the structure of your soil, which helps it hold and retain more soil nutrients.

Farmers! Compost manure makes healthy soil. Healthy soil is productive soil. And productive soil means high yields.



Spot #15:
Reducing soil erosion


Soil erosion is a big and increasing problem in many areas. And it’s a problem that’s worsened by climate change and poor farming practices. But there are solutions!

Farmers, here are five farming practices that can help prevent soil erosion.

First, practice zero or minimal tillage of soil. It’s especially important to avoid heavy farm machinery that disturbs and compacts soil.

Second, use agroforestry practices to reduce erosion. You could plant leguminous trees such as Calliandra calothyrsus and Gliricidia sepium, or shrubs like leucaena in gullies, on field boundaries, or along terraces.

Third, plant strips of tall grasses or other vegetation to act as a fence or windbreak to prevent wind erosion.

Fourth, practice crop rotation, especially on sloping land. This ensures that land is not left bare, improves soil organic matter, and helps soil retain water.

Fifth, early planting and mixed cropping ensures that soil is covered for the maximum length of time and reduces losses of soil and water.

Famers can also practice water harvesting techniques to reduce the speed of runoff water and control erosion through methods such as contour farming, tied-ridges, semi-circular bunds, and ditches.

Farmers! Take care of your soil and your soil will take care of your crops.



Spot #16:
Recommended manure management and application


Farmers, for livestock manure to benefit your farm, it needs to be good quality. But how can you improve the quality of your livestock manure?

Here are seven ways to make sure that your livestock manure is high quality and improves the fertility of your soil.

First, always shield farmyard manure from sun, rain, and wind.

Second, ensure that manure is not waterlogged, as water dilutes nutrients.

Third, if there are white spots or threads in your manure, it’s too dry. Add water or urine.

Fourth, if manure is yellow-green and smells pungent, it’s too wet and needs more aeration. Good quality manure is brown to black in colour.

Fifth, in dry regions or in dry seasons, store manure in pits to minimize the chances of it drying out. And ensure that the pits drain well to prevent manure from getting waterlogged.

Sixth, when you pour raw dung to make livestock manure, pour it over a bed of straw or dry grass to trap it.

Seventh and finally, ensure that animal housing efficiently catches livestock dung and urine for making manure.

Good quality livestock manure makes healthy crops—and high yields.


Contributed by: James Karuga, Agricultural journalist, Kenya

Reviewed by: Eliud M. A. Letungaa, field officer in agriculture and livestock, Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima na wafugaji Mkoa wa Arusha (MVIWAARUSHA).

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Biovision Foundation.