Some of the participants being taken through a step-by-step process of compost and biochar preparation
Some of the participants being taken through a step-by-step process of compost and biochar preparation

CSIR-SARI promotes compost, biochar technology among smallholder farmers

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) has encouraged smallholder farmers, particularly women, to adopt the use of compost and biochar in their farming activities.


It said the two technologies would save farmers from the excessive cost of buying chemical fertilizer for their fields, enhance the soil structure, texture and improve crop yield.

While compost is a mixture of decomposed organic materials, including animal droppings to produce manure, biochar is a carbon-rich organic matter produced under pyrolysis - burning organic materials without oxygen.

The CSIR-SARI gave the advice at a training for smallholder farmers, mostly women in northern Ghana, on compost and biochar production with four communities in the Balazu and Zine communities in the Wa East District, and Nimbare and Boi communities in the Jirapa Municipality in the Upper West Region.

About 120 smallholder farmers, mostly women in the four communities, participated in the intensive and practical biochar and compost preparation training.


Speaking to farmers at the Balazu and Zine communities during the training, an Agricultural Economist at the CSIR-SARI, Nyankpala, Alhassan Nuhu Jinbaani, said the training formed part of a project that sought to promote Bambara groundnut cultivation among smallholder farmers.

Grow Further, a USA-based organisation, is funding the three-year project, titled: "Promoting Bambara groundnuts production, adoption and utilisation for food and nutrition security and increased income for smallholder farmers in northern Ghana" and implemented by the CSIR-SARI.

It was aimed at improving food and nutrition security, climate adaptation and increased income among smallholder farmers through cultivating and utilising Bambara groundnut.

Improving variety

Mr Jinbaani, the project's Principal Investigator, explained that there was currently no improved variety of bambara groundnut compared to other crops such as maize, rice and sorghum.

He observed that studies showed declining soil fertility in northern Ghana but there were no technologies extended to farmers as far as improving soil fertility was concerned. He said that informed their decision to train smallholder farmers on biochar and compost preparation as viable options for improving their soil fertility.

Mr Jinbaani indicated that preparing biochar and compost depended on local materials, and that it was less time-consuming compared to travelling long distances to buy chemical fertilizer.

A Soil Scientist and Assistant Research Scientist with the CSIR-SARI, Nyankpala, Rashidatu Abdulai,  said the training targeted women smallholder farmers since they were saddled with unproductive lands coupled with financial constraints in buying chemical fertiliser for their farms.

"A lot of women cultivate bambara groundnuts and mostly the men leave the lands that are less fertile for them and because bambara groundnut is resilient, it can do well on those lands", Madam Abdulai explained.

She took the farmers through step-by-step processes of compost and biochar preparation. Also, a Soil Scientist with the CSIR-SARI, Wa station,  Godwin Opoku, said soil nutrient analysis conducted in the Upper West Region over the years showed declining soil nutrients, which called for efforts to improve the soil to support crop production.

He explained that using biochar as a soil amendment would help improve the soil nutrients and restore degraded soil. Another officer at the CSIR-SARI, Wa station, Hashim Ibrahim, a Biometrician said using biochar and compost for farming was economical compared to the use of chemical fertilizers.

He said with the high cost of fertilizer in recent times, using biochar and compost to cultivate was less costly and could produce more yield, and advised the women to take advantage of those technologies.

Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to the Ghana News Agency thanked the CSIR-SARI and its partners for the intervention since it would take off their burden of struggling to get fertiliser for their crops.

A beneficiary at Balazu community, Rebecca Vitus,  said: "It will help me a lot because I find it difficult getting fertilizer, so with this, I will not have to worry about getting money to buy fertilizer."

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