When our community survey highlighted that many farmers were not using the manure from their livestock or creating compost from waste materials we knew we had to address this. Continually taking from the soil without ever returning nutrients can only lead to poor soil leading to poor harvests, which this will simply perpetuate poverty.
Soil is made up from decayed matter such as leaves, twigs, branches, manure and eroded rocks. It can take up to 40 years to create 1mm of topsoil. Because 99% of our food comes from the soil we really need to look after it and ensure that it can carry on looking after us for years to come.
In order to grow, a plant needs carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur and it gets this from the soil. When the plant dies it returns these nutrients back to the soil. When a plant is harvested, it is taken away from the soil and the minerals in that plant are removed with it. If this process continues unabated after a period of time the soil will be depleted of nutrients and no longer able to support growth.
The nutrients can be returned artificially but this is expensive and can cause long term damage to the land as they do not improve the texture of the soil nor do they help the water retaining ability of the soil. Organic matter is much better for the soil and the animals that live in it.
Compost is one way to make the soil healthier. It strengthens the soil structure and makes it less susceptible to erosion and the organic matter holds water better and as it decomposes provides the nutrients plants need.
Compost is cheap to make as it uses waste material such as leaves, fruit skins, kitchen waste and animal manure, things that many families already have at home.
Another way of enriching the soil is to offer it Compost Tea, a nutritionally rich organic soil enhancer made from soaking aged compost in water. A pillow case (or something similar) half-filled with well-aged compost with animal manure included should be fully submerged in a water container (one with a lid) for 2-3 weeks. After this time the liquid needs to be diluted 1 part tea to 3 parts water before being used on a weekly basis at the base of any plant. A pump spray can be used on the leaves and young seedlings in the late afternoons. It is advisable to add extra water when doing this.
The compost tea not only feeds plants, it also helps control various plant diseases such as blight and mould. By encouraging the growth of beneficial soil bacteria, compost tea helps farmers to produce healthier, more stress-tolerant plants.
A Wormery is a very simple but highly effective and environmentally friendly method of turning dead organic matter (such as cooked and uncooked food and kitchen waste) into superbly high quality worm cast compost and a nutritious liquid feed, which can be used on the crops. Worm compost is often referred to as ‘black gold’ as it really is the best and most nutrient rich you can get.