Farmers in West Africa See the Power and Business Potential of Compost
August 21, 2017
When developing countries face disease and war that wipe out huge percentages of a population, generational knowledge is lost, and can no longer be passed down. Many times, outsiders with good intentions arrive to help. But in an effort to improve conditions quickly, the effects of their work are often short-lived.
Chemical fertilizers are an example of this. When they were introduced in areas where we work in West Africa, the initial results were promising. But without proper training on usage, the local people used more, thinking more synthetic fertilizer would produce more crops. As natural fertility dropped over time, more chemical fertilization was necessary. Then, when the aid ended, and farmers could no longer afford the chemical fertilizers they were dependent on, they struggled to feed their families.
Composting provides farmers with an affordable alternative to chemical fertilizers.
There are a variety of ways to improve soil fertility, but in the communities we serve, using compost is the least expensive and most sustainable. It relies mostly on materials that can be gathered freely from the land, which means farmers don’t have to spend money on fertilizer.
Compost is created by gathering a large pile of organic plant matter like leaves, grass, and fruit and vegetable waste, and allowing the natural process of bacterial and fungal decay to convert it into a soil amendment. This amendment can restore infertile soil to a thriving ecosystem that can once again support plant growth.
Farmers in Sierra Leone take a good idea and make it great.
When farmers in Bauya, Sierra Leone learned how making compost could improve soil fertility and save them money, they took it a step further. The process Just Hope teaches involves jump-starting the decomposition process with manure, because it is rich with nitrogen. But once the farmers understood the purpose of the manure, they suggested substituting urea instead. Urea offers the same nitrogen punch, but at a fraction of the cost of manure.
Compost can convert dead soil into a farm that feeds families and provides opportunities for generating income.
Once infertile soil has been resurrected with compost, proper care will ensure that it can continue to deliver food – food that can nourish a family and offer an agribusiness opportunity. And once the farmers become experts at compost-making, the compost itself represents a potential business enterprise. We look forward to walking alongside the entrepreneurial farmers who recognize the opportunity and run with it.