Malawi is losing 30 tonnes of soil nutrients to erosion per hectare annually, a development that threatens the future of agricultural food production for the next generations as soils become acidic.
Poor soil management practices, including overreliance on chemical fertilizer, are some of the factors contributing to erosion.
Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) Executive Director, Herbert Mwalukomo, said there is a need for the farmers and their stakeholders to develop waste-to-compost systems for soil organic matter restoration.
Mwalukomo made the remarks in Lilongwe during the launch of a project called ‘Promoting organic Systems of Soil Improvement to Build a Lasting Economy (POSSIBLE)’.
CEPA is implementing in partnership with WASTE Advisers and Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences is implementing POSSIBLE Project with financial support from the European Union.
Quoting International Fertilizer Development Centre, Mwalukomo said Malawi has reached a tipping point where soil organic matter is below a minimum threshold to support crop productivity.
He warned that although the government has put in deliberate mechanisms to support resource-constrained farmers through Agriculture Input Programme (AIP), which provides chemical fertilizers at subsidised prices to farmers, yields will continue to drop as soil health depreciates.
“Research has shown that more holistic agricultural practices, including provisions for farmers to access organic matter inputs like compost. Otherwise, yields and food security rates will continue to drop,” he narrated.
Mwalukomo disclosed that Malawi generating enough waste to use as raw materials for making organic fertilizers.
“With rapid population growth and urbanisation, waste management is the biggest problem for our cities and urban settings exacerbating this dilemma. Out of this waste, the organic waste fractions are 75 percent of the waste stream. Less than 1 percent of this organic waste is currently properly treated; the rest is either burned, left on roadsides, dumped into waterways like rivers and streams, or shifted to unsanitary landfills,” he stated.
Mwalukomo said CEPA will, among others, mobilize small-scale farmers to participate in soil organic matter restoration by making available compost to farmers in a way that would make it easy for the government to adopt the practice at a highly reduced cost.
The project will also establish organic waste management and processing system, which includes production and distribution channels of the compost.
In her remarks, the Director of Land Resources Conservation in the Ministry of Agriculture, Madam Gertrude Kambauwa, welcomed the project, stressing that it is in line with what the ministry is currently doing in its efforts to restore soil health.
Kambauwa said the POSSIBLE Project will therefore complement their efforts in promoting organic manure utilization.
“For us in the ministry, this project is very important, especially on the organic manure part because that’s what we are encouraging farmers to use in agriculture production. So, on our part, our interest will be on the volumes of manure that will be produced so that are easily accessible to all farmers. We hope this project will help to increase volumes so that our farmers will be accessing them easily,” she said.
Mayor for Lilongwe City Council, Councillor Richard Banda, pledged that the council will have a big role in the implementation of the project.
Banda cited the collection of the garbage and make it available to the people who will be recycling it.
“As such, we need to work hand in hand with the ministry of agriculture so that most farmers should also be part of the team in collecting the wastes in the cities and do compost manure,” he said.