“Farming is not just a job, it’s a way of life.”
In one of my visits to small holder farmers in Batibo, I noticed they don’t sell maize in their markets but they have them in their farms. I was curious why maize is only cultivated for consumption and not for the market. “it never does well, so we can’t take it to the market” says Denise, a young woman making a living out of selling yams, groundnuts and beans cultivated on a small piece of land 500m from home. She took me to see her farm and on the way we were discussing and I wanted to know why maize doesn’t do well in this village. I mean, I always thought maize does well anywhere. What I saw in the farms was strange to me; maize looking stunted and retarded. She said even when they plant maize in Ankara, its still the same results they get; poor yield.
‘Ankara’ is the local way of improving soil fertility which entails burning of grass covered in soil; and has been a common practice carried out for years by smallholder farmers and passed down to generation. But a new and improved technique to this method is the Biochar. Biochar is a name given to charcoal when its used as a fertiliser for soil amendment. It is produced by burning biomass such as animal manure, crop waste (rice husk, corn cobs, coconut shells etc) in the absence of oxygen. This whole process is called Pyrolysis.
Independently, biochar can be increase soil fertility of acidic soil (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity and provide protection against some foliar and soil borne diseases. The good thing with boichar is, it is good for any kind of crop; vegetables as well as cereals. Unfortunately, the small holder farmers in this region have never heard of Biochar.
Old farming techniques are outdated; for farmers to increase their yield they have to adopt new and improved farm techniques. My friend Samuel is currently working on a project aimed at enhancing the efficient use of natural resources to improve food security using the boiochar. He tells me they are currently testing in Ghana, then will move to Mali, Burkina Faso then Cameroon. When he comes to Cameroon, I want him to meet the farmers in Efah.