Business is booming.

Going Organic: Promoting Bio Fertilizers and Bio Pesticides

Milka Teklom

Bio fertilizers, selected strains of beneficial soil microorganisms cultured in a laboratory, have gained in popularity over the last few decades because of their nutrients and environmental benefits. They are used for seed treatment or soil application and generate plant nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus through their activities in the soil and make them available to plants in a gradual manner.

As in other places, in Eritrea, the nutrients in soil have been experiencing degradation, over the years, due to many factors, including the mismanagement of soil and crops. Efforts have been made by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) to address the problem by promoting the use of compost and by introducing farmers to different techniques of making compost.

It is true that chemical fertilizers have played an important role in boosting agricultural production. However, their long-term application has contributed to the loss of soil fertility and an increase in the contents of salt of soil. And crop pests and diseases are still a major threat to agricultural production and productivity, causing tremendous damage to crops and threatening the food security and livelihoods of farmers. Unfortunately, plant protection and disease control are predominantly based on the use of conventional (synthesized) chemical pesticides, and most farmers tend to use synthetic pesticides as their first choice to control crop pests. But this practice has negatively impacted human health and the environment, and the use of bio pesticides is recommended as an alternative solution to overcome the negative impacts.

Mr. Dermas Sultan

According to Mr. Dermas Sultan, Chairman of the national committee of securing bio fertilizers and bio pesticides, the MoA, along with the Ministry of Marine Resources (MoMR), began in February 2021 the process of introducing bio fertilizers (BF) and bio pesticides (BP). Experts from various institutions, including the private sector, came together to establish the national technical committee. After properly introducing the organic products, small and medium private enterprises will take charge to produce and distribute the products to farmers.

 

The objectives of the national committee are: to reduce and eradicate the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and gradually transition to organic farming; to give commercial and subsistence farmers training on the production and application of BF and BP; to make a strong link with MoA regional experts in the six regions and draw the potential map of the resources useful for the production in a year; to conduct research on the production of BF and BP; to prepare brochures that give guidelines on the application of the production; to prepare guidelines and standards for BF and BP production for quality assurance; to scale up the production of BF and BP at national level; to promote the use of garlic and other spices as botanical pesticides; and to ensure the documentation and promotion of the production, application and output of the activities.

The committee holds weekly and extraordinary meetings with regional representatives to share experiences. It conducted a couple of field trips to monitor farmers’ level of understanding of compost preparation and its continued use. Samples of compost made by commercial farmers and experts from the central and regional offices of the MoA were taken for laboratory analysis to be certified by the Regulatory Services Department of the MoA before their wide application on farms.

In the initial trials at the National Agriculture Research Institute’s (NARI) research station and farmers’ fields, the compost applied on cereal crop farms has shown good results. This will help produce standard compost in large quantities. The compost, which will initially be applied on identified farms of medium and large scale farmers, will be gradually applied on all farms until farming practices become organic at a national level.

Another method of making compost, known as Bokashi, has also been introduced by an expert trained in Japan. It is a method of making fertilizer using biodegradable wastes, mainly household garbage. The fertilizer, which comes in both solid and liquefied forms, was tested on a variety of crops at the MoA’s compound in Gejeret, and the result was so encouraging that it will be tested all over the country to determine its effectiveness. These new technologies of making compost have been introduced in all the regions and can now be produced by the experts in the regions and made available for farmers to use on their farms.

A study on fish amino acid (FAA) and sea weed extract (SWE) fertilizers, generally known as liquid biological fertilizers, is also in progress. About 200 liters of FAA and SWE as well as bio pesticides extracted from the Neem leaf have been distributed to four regions (Central, Anseba, Gash-Barka and Southern regions) and applied on vegetables such as potatoes, okra and cabbage, which have delivered promising results.

Encouraged by the results, the MoA has collaborated with MoMR to proceeded to mass production. A machine that can chop 1000 kg of fish in an hour has been developed and can produce sufficient biological liquid fertilizers. Samples of the fertilizers are sent to Sudan for nutrient content analysis, and safety control is regularly performed by the National Laboratory for Plant and Animal Health section of the MoA. Biological liquid fertilizers are given to farmers all over the country free of charge.

Studies have shown the harmful effects of artificial pesticides, and the way forward is the adoption of bio pesticides. The MoA has set up a technical sub-committee on bio-pesticides to promote organic farming by developing and introducing bio-pesticides as an effective pest management strategy. Promoting integrated pest management strategies is crucial to address the problems caused by chemical pesticides. Neem-based pesticides are among the most important botanical pesticides widely used for pest management. About 840 litres of botanical pesticides made from extracts of neem, aloe and chili pepper have been distributed to four regions for demonstration on farmers’ fields.

By avoiding the use of synthesized fertilizers and pesticides, organic farming offers prospects of sustaining crop yields and maintaining the health of soil. Organic farming does not only recover the loss of depleted nutrients in the soil but it also improves the soil structure and its water holding capacity, reduces soil erosion, and yields healthy agricultural products. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers pollute the environment and cause imbalance in the ecosystem, loss of soil fertility, and harmful and serious effects to human and animal health.

The recognition of the problems associated with the widespread application of chemical pesticides and fertilizers led to the development of safe alternatives with emphasis on the promotion of low cost and locally available products that are safe to humans, animals and the environment as a whole. Thus, the promotion of the use of bio fertilizers and bio pesticides as part of integrated crop and pest management strategies is crucial to addressing the problems caused by chemical pesticides and fertilizers. And one of the main strategies of the MoA is to encourage the production and use of bio pesticides and bio fertilizers to produce healthy food and maintain safe environment.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More