Conservation farming hailed

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IN 1982 the concept of farming God’s way was born, a brainchild of Brian Oldrieve in Matepatepa, Bindura. The idea was later known as Foundations for Farming and Gardening and it entails the traditional methods of farming that include zero tillage as the primary factor and what they believe to be the biblical principles of land conservation. Foundations for Farming and Gardening member Craig Deall said there was no scientific reason for people to plough. Their justification is that when the land is ploughed there are aerobic organisms that survive on oxygen and when the soil is overturned they are deprived of it. From the deeper layer of the soil there are the anaerobic organisms that do not need oxygen hence when the soil is ploughed they are exposed. These organisms help in creating and maintaining a nutritional balance in the soil. Under this scheme, after the harvest, they do not burn the stover rather they leave it on the land and this in turn will serve as the mulch that keeps the moisture in the ground. Their research shows that huge amounts of water and soil are washed away. Up to 28,5 tonnes of top soil is eroded and the top soil is where nutrients are and plants grow. Instead of ploughing they simply dig holes and sow the seed without much disturbance to the soil. On the question of whether this method can be used on a large scale, Craig told The Patriot that: “Indeed it can be done and it has been done on 3500 hectares and produced very good yields.” He, however, admitted it would require a lot of work so their primary focus has been on small- to medium-scale farmers or gardens. He said they have been trying to rely less on chemicals like fertilisers and pesticides hence they have resorted to the use of old methods of making compost to make organic fertilisers. This method is also being practised in South Africa and America on a large scale since the use of machinery helps maintain these composts on a large scale. Those who have seen the success of this method have been advocating its use in the production of organic foods. In Bindura at Katsande Farm, Shingi Masvaure bears witness to the effectiveness of this method. One would need about US$300 to till one hectare of land and if the farmer decides to use the Foundations for Farming method they will use compost which will cost them very little. Other ways would be to add the soil from an anthill and cattle dung along with the seeds when planting. Chicken droppings and the comfrey plant provide good nitrogen to the plant. The idea of this scheme is not only to save money, but to produce quality food that is not tainted by chemicals found in fertilisers or pesticides. The peri-peri plant is also an excellent pesticide. The idea has produced results and yields such that the Ministry of Education is working on including it in the curriculum. They have also been teaching Agritex officers and communities about farming that cuts costs and produces results. Owners of Mbizi Game Park have confirmed the effectiveness of this method and in their case they do not use any chemicals and over the past years their customers have commented on how different their products taste. This year they harvested 34 bags of maize on one hectare and this was after several attacks from baboons, porcupine and cane rats. Right now according to Craig over 500 farmers are practising organic farming and looks forward to the day we will not need to use fertilisers.

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