The vast majority of farmers in Malawi use their backs and a hoe to cultivate their land. This is backbreaking, slow work. We at BTM have embarked on a program to provide a pair of cattle and a plough (that’s the British spelling and Malawi is a former British colony) for groups of about 18 farmers who share them to till their fields. This means faster cultivation, milk, manure, transport of many more crops to markets much farther away, and planting of more than one crop a year. In addition, we have invested in breeding stock, so there will be a pass on program. We hope that someday, there will be enough milk production in the area to warrant construction of a milk processing plant; in other words, we hope to establish a whole new industry in the area long term.
As part of this program we plan to stop purchasing the ploughs customarily used in the area and replace them with the Magoye Ripper, a kind of cultivator which disturbs the earth in a minimal fashion (narrow straight line). We hope to find a local blacksmith to help produce these. We will begin to encourage all of our partner farmers to adopt a no- or minimal-till approach to their planting as well as the extensive use of mulching which hopefully will help improve crop yields by encouraging nutrient and moisture retention. To this end, we will train local community motivators in these techniques and identify interested farmers. We will then, to help convince the local farmers of he wisdom of these techniques, conduct a kind of field experiment. We will plant 4 different plots at each participating farm right next to each other. Each plot will be 10x 20 meters in area. The first plot will be planted/cultivated in the usual way, but half will be mulched and half not. The second plot will be cultivated with a Magoye Ripper and again only half mulched. The 3rd plot will be planted with dug basins 35cm in diameter by 15cm deep every 1 meter without disturbing the ground otherwise. Again half mulched and half not. The final field will be planted using a “diddle stick” which pokes a single hole in the otherwise undisturbed ground (if the ground is newly under cultivation. The seed will be dropped in the hole and then covered over with compost. Again half the field will be mulched and half not. Fertilizer and compost will be applied as appropriate locally to the seeded/cultivated area. Crop yields will be compared to see what works best. The participating farmers will receive seed and farm tools from BTM for their efforts.
- 18 Cows and 9 Ploughs Donated to help over 1100 People in 6 villages providing milk, manure, improved cultivation, and transport of goods to market. (Above picture shows 2 cows donated to a group of 18 farm families in Chikanda.)