At Modern Farming Technology (MFT), we are working to reduce the amount of chemical fertiliser and pesticides that we use. This is a pretty new area for me, so it has been really encouraging to see several pilot projects that are being led by the staff.
Next to our office, there is a chicken farm and we are making great use of the chicken poop. Firstly, it is going through a bio-digester and we collect the methane that results from this. The methane goes back to the chicken houses to provide overnight heat where required and is used for cooking staff meals at our office (as are the chickens, to be fair!). The bio-digester may not look much, but that whole bag is full of gas.
The process is not finished there – the slurry that is left from the biogas production is then used to make “Tea Manure”, a liquid fertiliser that is great in place of existing chemical fertilisers.
My education continued, with an explanation about how we can improve soils using a mix of ash and rabbit urine. I did ask the obvious question, and my suggestion that you pick up the rabbit and squeeze it, was met with a very thoughtful, “No, I don’t think that would work.” Anyway, it’s something to do with corrugated iron and old coke bottles, but suffice to say, the ingredients can be safely harvested!
In my suitcase, and still to be unpacked, I have a probe thermometer and hydrometer and a comprehensive set of instructions from our agri-Consultant Dr. Charles Howie. With these, we will soon be experimenting with ‘hot composting’ as a means for processing tomato plants from the greenhouses and producing another product which will improve crops without damaging the soil.
Many of you will know that we have an ongoing research programme with Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and the Department of Agriculture here in Malawi where we are testing the efficacy of vermicompost – another slightly bizarre process of making compost from cow dung and abattoir waste which is processed by worms to produce a rich compost.
In these days of heightened awareness about our need to care for the earth which feeds us, it’s great to see our staff enthusiastic to learn and develop new products (for Malawi) so they can share that knowledge with the farmers. Our focus is very much on bringing Good News to the poor by increasing farmer incomes and these organic solutions save money – they have to buy fewer chemical products – but they also would impress most COP 26 delegates.