Over the years, there have been drastic changes in agricultural production, processing and storage compared to ancient Agriculture. Agrarian Revolution sparked the new era of industrial Farming which has raised the debate for sustainable agriculture. Excessive application of inorganic fertilizer has been on increasing scale in Kenya. The farming communities are left on their own to decide on the quantities and frequency of application. This creates disequilibrium between the health of their soils and profit margins for agribusiness companies.
The concept of the law of diminishing returns needs to be emulsified for farmers to safeguard land as a factor of production, reduce cost of production and enhance agricultural sustainability. The quality of land determines the growth of crops based on PH levels, build-up of diseases, soil structure and texture, ion exchange capacity, water, retention capacity, aeration and drainage. In addition, the use of inorganic fertilizers increases the cost of production. This directly reduces the gross margin for their farming.The hope lies in empowering farmers to use locally available agri-inputs to improve the fertility of their soil. This will contribute to realization of a green agriculture.
Anchoring agricultural production on a sustainable concept is required in an ideal farming system in Kenya. The country is held at cross-road; increasing food production for increasing population (45 Million) and maintaining the health of soils. Thus production pressure is mounted on a fixed resource of production (Land) which leads to excessive use of inorganic fertilizers and average production below the desired and expected yields. Increased fertilizer rates also affect the availability of other nutrients and accumulated levels affects the water intake of crops due to salinization.
According to National Accelerated Agricultural Inputs Access Program 2014 report, there is a general decline in land productivity due to declining soil fertility arising from the following factors; Continuous mining of soil nutrients by crops without adequate replenishment; Inappropriate farming practices such as lack of crop rotation, cultivation down the slope; Land degradation due to erosion of fertile top soils; Continuous use of acidifying fertilizers by farmers; Inadequate knowledge on crop requirements and soil characteristics; Inadequate use of farm inputs; Blanket fertilizer recommendations; among others
An organic fertilizer offers long-term solutions in solving this problem. Inherent properties make a buffer to reduce acidity in the soil, improve water holding capacity of the soil, improve soil structure thus minimizing rate of wind erosion, improves soil fertility by supplying nutrients to the crops naturally and enhances agricultural production sustainability.
In addition,(Geert,2014) indicated that The use of compost or organic manure is currently being advocated as an option for improving soil fertility conditions for poor farmers.The use of organic fertilizers increases the soil organic carbon pool and soil pH, improves the soil structure, decreases bulk density, provides macro-and micro-nutrients and enhances microbial activity.
Seed Savers Network strives to reach more farmers to apply organic fertilizers in their farms to derive the benefits.
Through farmers outreach programme farmers are trained on soil health and fertility as foundation of crop production, various crops useful in improving the fertility of soil especially legumes for inter-cropping, Comfrey and Tithonia for making liquid manure for use as organic foliar, Compost manure, Bokashi and farmyard manure which through extension work experience we learnt farmers viewed it as ‘an old way of farming.’In addition, through organization’s soil testing services the findings have been low organic carbon and low soil PH (Acidic soils. The solution squarely lies in adding organic matter in the soil. More farmers need to get the training and manage their farms as a closed system in supply of farm inputs.