How I Turned Abandoned Farm Land Into Good Soil


Notes to broadcasters

A success story by Uzoma Nwaogwugwu, Development Worker, Lagos, Nigeria

Content: Uzoma Nwaogwugwu improved an unproductive heavy red clay soil. He used the double digging method of soil preparation, and heavy mulching with chicken litter and manure.

Length: 512 words; 3 minutes, 30 seconds (approx.)


The double digging method of soil preparation is mentioned in this item. It is described in more detail in:

More vegetables from your garden – Package 15, Item 10

Copies of this item may be obtained by return mail from DCFRN, 595 Bay St., 9th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M5G 2C3.


When I came to teach at a school here in southern Nigeria, I soon noticed the heavy red clay soil. The staff members told me that the school farm had very poor soil and that crops would not grow on it. I disagreed with them because I had learned about soils like this in university.

When I went out to work with the soil I first observed that when it rains and the soil is wet, it swells and it sticks to tools and shoes or boots. In dry conditions it hardens, it develops cracks and is very difficult to plow or cultivate. Because of this, very few grasses were able to grow in this soil and so the farm land had been abandoned at this school.

I decided to do something about the soil and I started to work on it. I bought poultry manure, and poultry litter mixed with sawdust and wood shavings from a nearby poultry farm and put them on the soil surface as a mulch.

At the beginning of the rains, I asked my students to plough the land and to make beds for growing vegetables using the double digging method. Double digging is done by turning over the top soil and mixing it loosely with compost or mulch, and by loosening the subsoil at the same time. This provides a good loose soil structure for growing vegetables. The students ploughed in the surface mulch and mixed it with the clay soil. This organic matter made the soil lighter so it would not stick together as much. I planted vegetables (including telfairia) in the soil and they grew very well.

The following season I grew maize and cassava and got a tremendous yield to the admiration of the staff and students who thought it was a miracle. Furthermore, I leave crop residues on the land after harvest. These residues and other plant materials decay, and they add organic matter to the soil. This helps to improve both the colour and structure of the soil and makes the soil easier to cultivate.

Now the soil is as good and rich in nutrients as other good soils. For example, I am now able to grow the best local variety of cassava. In this improved soil it now grows with a dense canopy and produces a lot of tubers and my telfairia (vegetable) regrowth after harvest is very rapid.

It is interesting that I now have an improved soil, dark brown in colour which neither swells when it is wet nor hardens when it is dry.

During a recent conference of agricultural science teachers in our area, some of the participants complained about problems with heavy clay soils, both red and grey clay soils. I discussed the topic. With my experience I convincingly explained to the participants the solution to the problem I have just outlined to you. Some of them are now ready to adopt my method. It really works very well.

Serving Agriculture, the “Basic Industry”, I am Uzoma Nwaogwugwu, reporting from Lagos State, Nigeria.



The information in this item was sent in as a radio script by DCFRN participant Uzoma Nwaogwugwu, Nigeria.