The National Organic Fertilizer conference was held from 26th-27th April under the theme “Organic Fertilizers to Boost Safe and Nutritious Food Production” at the premises of the headquarters of the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers in Asmara. The conference brought together experts, policymakers and farmers to discuss the current state of organic farming in Eritrea and to share ideas and knowledge about organic fertilizers (OF).
The conference was attended by 140 participants, including representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), other international organizations, private businesses, and exemplary farmers. Participants came from a variety of nations, including Eritrea, Germany, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa.
The conference was held with the primary goals of appraising Eritrea’s accomplishments in the production and application of various forms of organic fertilizers; enabling the sharing of experiences from interactions with national, regional, and international experts in order to promote further collaboration among participants and relevant organizations; and enabling the proposition of future strategic plans on the production and use of organic inputs on agricultural land.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Semere Amlesom, Director General of the Agricultural Extension Department, acknowledged that the Ministries of Agriculture (MoA) and Marine Resources (MoMR) had taken the initiative to form a joint National Organic Fertilizer and Pesticide Committee in February 2021 with the primary goal of boosting both solid and liquid fertilizers. The project led to the production and testing of a sizable amount of liquid and solid fertilizers over the last two years in various agro-ecological zones. The tests have shown that organic fertilizers have very positive results.
In his keynote address, Minister of Agriculture Arefaine Berhe said that while inorganic fertilizers have nutritional elements that can be readily available to the plant and help boost production and productivity, they do not stay long enough and require constant replenishment, thus defeating the very purpose of rationality, efficiency, and profitability. Inorganic fertilizers, he added, contain salt and other substances that produce harmful waste and damage soil structure over time because they lack the nutrients required by the plant.
Speaking in favor of organic fertilizers, Mr. Arefaine said that they benefit greatly from being created from naturally occurring organic matter broken down or fermented by microbes and have several raw material sources, abundant nutrients, and significant effects. That is why, he explaned, both ministries decided to reach out to farmers broadly.
Mr. Arefaine added that the government has chosen to concentrate on organic fertilizers in order to provide safe and nutritious food to the population.
Eighteen research papers addressing organic fertilizers were presented by Eritrean professionals from research centers, academia, MOA (Technical committee), MoMR, and professionals from other organizations.
Thirteen national researchers presented their findings that primarily focus on adopted technologies, such as bokashi fermented organic fertilizer, compost from domestic wastes; and case studies evaluating the impact of compost on various crops in the Halhale, Merhano, and Gashinashim areas.
Research findings on the impact of tillage, farm yard manure, and mulch on the soil, as well as the application of green manure from specific shrub and tree species for small-scale farmers in Eritrea were presented.
The technical expertise in compost making gained in Eritrea over the last 15 years as well as the extensive experience gained in Sudan, which produces 50,000 metric tons of compost annually, were also highlighted.
Five research papers were also presented by expatriates on topics, including Cattle Dung Value Addition into Various Products (the cyclic system), Organic Fertilizers with Microorganisms to Boost BioNikPhos (Biofertilizer) on Growth and Yield on Selected Vegetables, NOGAMU’s Experiences in Addressing the Challenge of Low Production & Productivity to respond, and Promoting Sustainable Soil Management to Increase Production.
Panelists of researchers answered questions posed by participants, and significant lessons were drawn. Participants’ suggestions for comments and the lessons learned from their German and African colleagues were recorded.
Participants discussed potential organic fertilizers other than those discussed in the presentations; machines that can be used during the manufacturing of organic fertilizers; risks and challenges that must be considered in the process of making organic fertilizers; and the importance of working as a team because one person’s waste can be another person’s resource.
Organic matter must go through several stages before it turns to organic fertilizer, which means that standardization and certification are critical. It was, therefore, suggested at the conference that rules and policies on organic fertilizers be developed to ensure quality.
The two-day conference ended with the award of certificates by Minister of MoMR Tewelde Kelati and Minister of MoA Arefaine Berhe to exemplary farmers who have successfully applied organic fertilizer on their farmlands and have influenced others to adopt the new technology, as well as exemplary experts who received training abroad and applied their knowledge in producing organic fertilizers and have been able to influence farmers to adopt the technology.