Friday, 10 February 2012

Compost manures for sustainable agriculture and food security in Kenya

Compost manure is decayed organic matter that’s normally used to improve soil fertility, reduce weeds and control soil erosion. Small-scale farmers in Kenya and the entire African continent can improve yields by up to 100% through combining fertilizer micro dosing and manures application. Compost making and sustainable agriculture are inseparable. Compost manure helps dry soil to absorb and retain more water, compacted soils to regain their elasticity and poor soils to bring forth abundant farm produce;  they provide your plants with nutrients which they require to grow to their full potential. Simple Compost making involves piling up recycled garden and kitchen waste outdoors, and waiting for the materials to decompose which takes 6-8 weeks. For Successful composting you will need organic matter, such as kitchen waste, leaves, grass trimmings and produce as well as water and air.

Pile up your carefully selected materials and keep the heap well-aerated and moisturized, so as to attract rotting bacteria and fungi, which will breakdown the organic materials into compost.The pile should be kept moist but not wet in order for the microbes to work effectively. As the microbes break down the organic material they give off a lot of heat. You will need to make sure that the pile temperatures do not exceed 42º C .High temperatures would kill the microbes and stop the process. The pile is normally warmer in the middle than on the outside. Turning the compost with a digging fork or a shovel will help the trapped heat to escape. Turn the organic matter pile to ensure the materials in the middle are brought to the outside and vice-versa. This aerates and cools the pile availing fresh air to the microbes. The microbes required for decomposition process requires air to live. Monitor the temperature of the compost heap regularly, keeping it moist and turning it as necessary. The finished compost should be ready after about three turns which takes about 7 weeks. Well made compost doesn't have any recognizable parent material when finished. The finished product is dark, rich, crumbly and sweet-smelling. However with some extra attention you can produce more compost in a short time of guaranteed quality.  The process of Modern commercial compost making is a step by step closely monitored process, with measured inputs of water, air, carbon and nitrogen rich materials. The decomposition process is quickened by chopping plant matter into small pieces, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning of the mixture. Smaller size particles allow more surface area bacterial action leading to faster decomposition as waste is converted to riches for food security and sustainable agriculture. Manures today are in high and growing demand due to current trend of organic farming, and minimization of chemical fertilizers usage around the globe.

Today most agricultural soils are depleted and can hardly produce to their potential leading to practice of unsustainable agriculture. This has been caused by soil erosion and intensive cultivation practices. Soil fertility improvement and maintenance using manures like compost manure is therefore a requirement for sustainable agriculture development. Soil fertility can be defined as the measure of the capacity of the land to provide essential plant nutrients. Soil fertility management endeavors to achieve maximum profit and enhanced efficiency, while maintaining good environmental stewardship. Sustainable agriculture is the way forward for the developing countries with agricultural economies in Africa and globally, for poverty reduction and livelihood improvement. Sustainable agriculture as defined by FAO refers to farming that conserves land, environment, water, plant and animal genetic characteristics, in addition to being economically affordable and socially acceptable. Sustainable agriculture employs soil fertility management practices like compost manure application which enable the land resource to meet the needs of the current and the future generations.