CASE STUDY KEBENA: FAMERS’ INDIGENOUS SOIL FERTILITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AS AN ENTRY POINT TO DESIGN AND INTRODUCE IMPROVED SOIL FERTILITY MANAGEMENT INTERVENTIONS. THE CASE OF KEBENA, GURAGIE ZONE, SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA
Soil fertility decline challenges crop production and productivity in Ethiopia. There are several soil fertility improving technologies but all of them can’t be applicable under all agro-ecologies and socioeconomic situations. This is because the state of soil fertility and causes of soil fertility decline are affected by agro-ecology, soil type and indigenous/local soil fertility management knowledge of farmers. Thus, it is important to know about the local soil fertility classes and fertility management practices. This will ultimately help to design appropriate soil fertility management practices specific to local situations.
Based on this background, a participatory survey was conducted at Fekadu kebele, Kebena district, Guragie zone, southern Ethiopia in June 2016 to explore indigenous soil fertility classification methods, to identify local soil fertility management methods, to know about crop enterprise allocation in different farm units and why, to know over all perception of farmers about the fertility status of their soils over time.
The result revealed that farmers of Fekadu kebele use three soil fertility classes viz. red soil, black soil and grey soil. Color and drainage status are the main criteria of classifying into fertility classes by farmers. According to farmers, black soil is fertile, red soil is medium fertile and grey soil is infertile. They further said that they grow cereal crops on black soil, perennial crops such as enset and fruit trees on red soil which is located around homestead areas; and on red soils they grow eucalyptus tree. The reason for growing cereals on black soil is that cereals relatively resist poor drainage and less subject to cracking characteristics of black soil. On the other hand, the reason for growing perennials on red soils is that red soil has no problem of cracking thus supports the growth of deep rooting perennials. Famers of the kebele said that they apply farm yard manure, house hold effuse and sometime compost to fertilize perennial crops whereas they apply inorganic fertilizers for cereals. In response to the question about their overall perception of soil fertility, they said that it is declining over time especially 5-7 years back and they further said that the problem is complicated by climate change events such as erratic rainfall distribution and sometimes flooding. We asked about compost and they said that they used to prepared compost sometime before, but these days only few of them are exercising it. This is because of the bad odor of compost that is emitted during compost turning. However, if they get training on improved methods of compost method, they will be happy to do it. They also said that if somebody prepare compost and supply it, they will be ready to buy.
Based on the outcomes from the survey we recommend actions to be taken to improve soil fertility in Fekadu kebele:
- Demonstration of Rhizobia inoculant in Fekadu kebele on grain legumes.
- Arrange the supply of inoculants to farmers to purchase and use them.
- Demonstrate compost production method using effective microorganisms (EMO).
- Arrange the supply of EMO to farmers to purchase.
- Train local unemployed youths on compost making so that they can produce compost locally and to sell to farmers of the kebele.
- Improve the soil organic matter content of soils through green manure, biomass transfer, compost etc.
- Introduction and verification of climate smart agriculture.