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Business News of Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Source: B&FT

Farmers record higher yields with Biochar

Some farmers within the savannah ecological zones have commended Switzerland for Abokobi Society (SAS), a non-governmental organisation, for its intervention to ensure good maize yield.

Their appreciation stems from their difficulty in applying agro-chemicals on their farms in the region.

The NGO has introduced ‘Biochar’ compost -- a natural fertiliser made from rice husk, chicken droppings and charcoal, which are mixed to form compost -- and also pesticide to the farmers so as to boost their crop production in a cost-effective way.

The NGO has been assisting farmers with free organic compost, which has an extra advantage of holding water and nutrients needed by the crops.

According to the farmers, there is a need to intensify public education on the various chemicals introduced to them to prevent putting the health status of consumers at risk.

They contended that most of the farmers are illiterate and ignorant, making it difficult for them to read and apply the chemicals resulting to low yields.

Some of the farmers expressed their satisfaction when the organisation led by Peter Billa, the Project Coordinator of Biochar Compost, paid a working visit to some farms of the beneficiaries to ascertain the rate of their yield during the harvesting season.

Dr. Mathias Fosu, a research scientist and Consultant for SAS, noted that introduction of the compost has really helped to increase yields.

He said the compost does not contain any chemical harmful to human health, but helps to fertilise the soil by increasing the organic carbon -- thus ensuring farmers harvest the quantity of produce needed to increase their revenue.

The application of biochar and other fertiliser help the soil to be stay fertile for a longer period, making it possible to cultivate other crops after the season main.

He, however, explained that the timing of the planting was very crucial to the growth of crops since wrong timing could make one’s farm unsuccessful.

He urged farmers to always consider the size of their farms and the kind of produce before applying the biochar.

Mr. Peter Billa said farmers across the country, and most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, mostly use only one kind of fertiliser that has been recommended to them -- irrespective of their soil fertility and agro-ecology -- but this is not helping in improvements of yields.

“These blanket fertiliser recommendations concentrate on the macronutrients -- nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium -- and usually do not include the secondary nutrients of sulphur, magnesium and calcium, nor micronutrients, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, boron and molybdenum,” he said.

"Soil fertility in Ghana and most parts of Africa has reduced, leading to poor yields. The situation is worsened by the broadcasting application method of fertiliser, which yields only about a third of its intended results.”

However, he said Biochar is one of the most appropriate for providing needed nutrients to the food crops, with only 10 percent going to waste.

Mr. Billa explained that each year farmers within the deprived communities are given a hundred bags of the compost as a way for his outfit to contribute to the economy and complement government's quest toward attaining food sufficiency.

So far, about 150 farmers have been supported with the Biochar amidst high demand of the compost by farmers.

He said farmers only contribute GH?1 per bag to ensure the project’s sustainability.

Mr. Moses Mumuni, a farmer and beneficiary, said the compost helped to boost his harvest by 14 bags last year, and he hopes to harvest more this year compared to the 4-5 bags previously harvested.