Managing community waste to improve food security

Soil Fertility Decline

“We were constantly using chemical fertilizers for farming. Not only was this expensive, but it also affected the soil fertility to the extent that when we do not apply fertilizer to our crops in a particular farming season, we get very low yields”, words from Kwabena Owusu, a subsistence farmer with a farm size of 5.5 hectares in Forikrom in the Bono East Region of Ghana.

As narrated by Kwabena, soil fertility decline is a major challenge to crop productivity in many developing countries. In Ghana, the agriculture sector employs about 57% of the population and it is the major source of income for many rural households. Despite the sector’s significant contribution to livelihoods improvement, smallholder farmers like Kwabena often face major constraints including erratic rainfall and poor soils, resulting in low crop yields. Factors such as bush fires, over cultivation and erosions, mostly deplete nutrients from the soil, impacting negatively on farming productivity.

In the past, farmers used to replenish the soil with nutrients by practicing shifting cultivation, where they move to another plot to allow the land to revert to its natural vegetation; or by planting different types of crops. However, due to increase in populations, there is pressure on land use, making it difficult for farmers to sustain this practice. Farmers who have the means resort to the application of chemical fertilizers, whiles others who cannot afford wallow in abject poverty.

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