As a network of NGOs that are working to advance food security and environmental sustainability in farming systems, we realize that this requires an integrated soil fertility management approach that maximizes crop production while minimizing the mining of soil nutrient reserves and the degradation of the physical and chemical properties of soil that can lead to land degradation, including soil erosion.
Based on this understanding, we hosted a soil fertility training at the Mbabane Urban Garden, which was facilitated by Mr. John Weatherson from Action Four Africa who has vast experience in soil fertility and organic composting methods.
He highlighted that to improve soil fertility, plants and herbs can be quite useful. Participants were particularly interested in learning about the different plants that can be used to improve soil fertility such as pigeon peas, lab-lab, and jack beans which were said to be a good source of nitrogen for our crops and vegetables we grow. He also mentioned about Lippia javanica (umsutane), a good repellent plant to insects which can be used in organic fields.
The workshop was half theoretical with the other half being practical whereby participants assisted in the compost-making process using ingredients such as eggshells, mulch, dried leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds, fresh green leaves, maize stover, manure ( goat, cow, chicken).
Weatherson added that if you are intent on making good compost, the ingredients should be collected in the correct quantities before doing the layering process.
Participants were advised that the materials must be placed in layers repeatedly until the heap reaches the desired size/height and that one must remember to water the heap after each level placed on the compost until the last top layer.