The KOPIA(Korea Program for international cooperation in Agricultural Technology) Horticulture project is implementing a Participatory Action Research program designed for on-farm testing and adoption of Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) technologies to improve vegetable production in resource poor farming systems. The 3 year pilot program is working with farmer groups comprising 10 Lead Farmers each in Chinyika scheme and Chishaka community gardens (Goromonzi and Wedza Districts respectively) with potential multiplier effects. The ultimate goal is to achieve food and nutrition security and sustain household incomes for improved livelihoods while managing soil health.
A key objective is to sustainably overcome the problem of low productivity linked to soil fertility degradation, poor water management practices and production of low value crops with limited market demand. Soils are depleted due to mining of soil nutrients from continuous cropping with little or no addition of chemical fertilisers. Whilst organic resources (manure, composts, leaf litter etc.) are readily available on-farm, they are poor in both quantity and quality (fertilizer value) and cannot meet crop nutrient requirements.
The project is exploring modalities to develop integrated nutrient management (INM) technologies which can improve soil fertility and sustain market oriented vegetable production for improved household incomes. Adoption of INM offers good options and economic choices to supply plants with sufficient amounts of nutrients and also reduce total costs by replacing a part of inorganic (chemical fertiliser) with organic resources. This is achieved through combined application of a minimum effective dose of balanced quantities of organic and inorganic fertilisers.
Participatory Learning Action Research (PLAR) approaches
PLAR approaches including on-farm trials/demonstrations and Farmer Fields Schools (FFS) are being used to adapt, adopt and promote INM technologies. These approaches make research more relevant to farmers and instill ownership of outputs through their involvement and participation throughout the project cycle. This will also result in improved uptake and utilization of research results, hence reducing soil fertility degradation and sustainably increasing productivity.
Experimental Design for INM trials
At inception, farmers identified their soil fertility management challenges and resource endowments resulting in formulation of INM options for farmer-managed trials. This calculated a research spirit by letting farmers participate in the research design. Farmers are currently experimenting with the following treatments:
- Full recommended Chemical Fertilizer (RCF) package
- Manure only (basal as cattle manure, top dressing with poultry or goat manure
- INM (farm yard manure plus ½ RCF
- Compost plus ½ RCF
- Control (Zero)
Evaluation to assess the benefits of INM options and overall goal of rural livelihood improvement using participatory approaches is still under way. Farmer participatory monitoring and evaluation of treatments will empower farmers to adopt INM by
- Increasing their technical expertise and decision making capacity in efficient resource utilization through action research on-farm
- Enabling the identification and implementation of robust INM packages and systems that can be further integrated into farming systems to improve soil fertility and productivity.
Farmer to farmer exchange visit and facilitation by scientists and extension services