Conservation Farming

In Uganda, the poor are getting poorer. 86% of Ugandans rely on growing their own food, yet most never have enough to eat, no matter how hard they work.

While there are many factors contributing to the dwindling success of farming techniques, the combination of war and an HIV pandemic have resulted in traditional, effective farming techniques being lost and replaced with less effective farming practices that offer not only a reduced crop yield, but which decimate the soil and damage the environment.

It's all about the topsoil

Topsoil is just what it says - the top layer of soil – anything from 5-30cm deep. It is rich in nutrients and has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms. This nutrient-rich soil is a perfect environment for seedlings and seeds to flourish and is essential for successful farming.

Whilst it takes 1,000 years to form three centimetres of topsoil, modern farming techniques can decimate the soil in years - as soon as you disturb the soil, the sun’s UV rays destroy precious microorganisms and nutrients, making the soil more prone to degradation. In fact, the UN predicts that if we don’t find a way of saving our soils, with the current rate of soil degradation all the world's topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

This is a particular problem for Ugandans and other developing countries who don’t have the resources to buy additional food to support themselves and their communities. And for Ugandans, who are turning to quick-fix farming techniques, loss of topsoil is a serious problem; thanks to erosion and wash off, Uganda loses over 70 million tonnes of topsoil every year.

This is a problem. But we have the solution.

Conservation farming

Conservation farming inspires the poor to help themselves. It is efficient, environmentally friendly and gets incredible results; many farmers double their crop yield even in the first year and the yields increase further in subsequent years.

This simple practice has remarkable results - we are regularly seeing 85% of the farmers we train doubling their crop yield, with 20% at least trebling them.

Kira Farm trainees and members of our Sustainable Community Development Programmes learn four simple principles to save their topsoil and see their land flourish:

  1. Zero tillage - fields that are not ploughed contain sub-soil fungi, microorganisms and plants with roots that allow the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere
  2. Mulch – mulching retains moisture, stops erosion, enriches soil structure, and suppresses weed growth
  3. Composting - enriches soils, helps retain moisture, produces bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter, creates a rich nutrient-filled growing material
  4. Crop rotation - helps to create a healthy biodiverse soil structures, fixes nitrogen so reducing the use of fertilisers and combined with zero tillage, will lead to higher soil-carbon content that combats climate change.

In addition to these sustainable farming practices, we don’t recommend the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides as they result in hardened, less fertile soil, air and water pollution, and reduced biodiversity.

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