Integrated soil fertility
Picture 2. Sharing knowledge on integrated soil fertility management. Picture by Douglas Gumbo:
Integration of cover crop and multiple purpose, woody and herbaceous legumes in existing
cropping systems to increase the availability of organic resources and consequently to improve
Improved sustainability of nutrient cycles through integration of livestock with arable
Soil conservation methods to control soil loss and improve water capture and use efficiency
Actually soil fertility is built up by rural communities through progressive and steady
modification of the natural resource base (soils, vegetation, slopes, water flows…) by crop
fallowing, grazing, selecting crop species, deep ploughing to break the plough pan, sub-soiling,
organic fertilising, transferring crop residues and fodder. Soil fertility is also strongly
influenced by the accumulation of organic wastes, ashes and various by-products close to
living areas and by the long-term rotation of these living areas. Farmers need to be empowered
through farmer's organisations and networks which can contribute to the planning and
implementation of improved practices, and which are fully involved in bidding for funds and in
managing them toward more beneficial land management.
Advantages of integrated soil fertility management
‘Waste lands’ are converted into productive land.
Allows farmers to continuously achieve high yields on the same land for many years,
eliminating the need for clearing new lands, which is rarely available.
Low external input agriculture is based on making better use of organic materials available
on-farm to build up soil organic matter.
Farmers share knowledge by working in groups
Improved soil moisture retention
Disadvantages of soil fertility management
This long term, labour intensive approach is often used to create small plots of high value
land, or gardens. However, the low nutrient concentration of many organic materials
means that a very large amount of material must be transported and applied to attain any
reasonable yield. High levels of labour invested in transport and application are likely only
to be feasible where the crops grown can fetch a good price, such as for vegetables around
a major town.