Acid Soils Management Field Day in Jeldu, Oromia Region
On November 10, the Jeldu Woreda Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources Experts and Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources, organized the Acid Soils Management Field Day in Jeldu, West Shewa Zone, Oromia Region.
The soil in the Jeldu woreda is highly acidic, with pH commonly ranging between 4.5 and 5.5. Jeldu features several acid tolerant crops such as potato, because acidic soils cannot support other higher value crops. Farmers are highly concerned because they have seen their crops decline as the acidity in their soil increases; land has even been abandoned due to declining fertility with increasing acidification over time.
Use of lime
Due to declining fertility, Mr. Bekele Ararsa stoped farming on his two hectares almost 4 years ago. This year, he tested his soil and found it to have a pH of 4.6. With technical support from the Jeldu Woreda staff, he used lime to treat the acidity in his soil. His previously abandoned land now has a healthy crop of malt barley maturing in the wind. It is possible to see a stark difference between the part of his land where lime was applied and the same crop growing where lime was not applied. Beside his limed area, there is a very thin crop of struggling malt barley that was planted with the same seed at the same time, but it hardly grows at all in the acid soil. Beside that, abandoned land covered in weeds is found. On the other side of his limed plot, a neighboring farmer grows acid-resistant, low-yielding tritikale.
Ato Kuma, also in Chilanko kebele of Jeldu woreda, tested his soil at the Nekemt Laboratory with support from the Jeldu woreda, and found his soil to have a pH of 5.11. Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources supported him to access different inputs for integrated soil fertility management to treat his soil acidity. On his land he applied lime three weeks before planting. Then, in rows parallel to the contour of the land, he sowed improved malt barley seed, together with vermicompost as well as chemical fertilizer. Prior to this season he was growing potato, but thanks to correcting the pH of his soil he was able to grow another crop. Crop rotation is also an important part of integrated soil fertility management.
Management field day
The acid soils management field day was attended by 27 woreda staff, 17 agriculture experts, 40 members of the Jeldu farming community, 3 communications experts and 10 visitors from other areas interested in the acid soils issue.
After visiting the field, a moment for discussion was shared by field day participants. Farmers had some Q&A with one another and with technical experts, and GIZ-ISFM+ information sheets on integrated soil fertility management were shared. A local agrodealer in the Jeldu woreda, Mr. Krosso explained his readiness to provide lime to the farmers in the area, estimating a high demand of about 5,000 farmers requiring acid soil treatment. Mr. Elias Kedir, Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources' Soil Fertility Head promised to support farmers with vermicpompost tecnology if they do their part to prepare boxes for vermicompost preparation. He also encouraged farmers in the area to test the pH of their soil in the nearby Holeta Agricultural Research Center so they would know the proper lime amendment required by their soil.
Threat to agricultural sector
Jeldu's acid problems are typical of several areas in Ethiopia, where high rainfall and steep slopes allow the neutralizing cations that stabilize soil pH to be easily washed out of the soil, leaving acid-causing anions in acidified soil. Country wide, the issue of soil acidity is common and increasing. As a result, the productivity of land in production declines, as does the quantity of land in production. Due to the prevalence and importance of the issue of acid soils, it is important that different stakeholders meet and learn from one-another and foster opportunities for collaborations to address the common threat to our agricultural sector.
Many thanks for the farmers and agricultural experts from Jeldu Woreda and the Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources for sharing their valuable experience regarding the critical issue of acid soils management. Thanks also to the technical support provided by GIZ-ISFM+ in the community. ICCO and Edukans, members of the Civic Engagement Alliance, supported the part that AgriProFocus played to promote some learning around the practical experience of lead organizers and partners.
Author: Sarah Assefa, AgriProFocus Ethiopia
I shared some of my lime with my neighbors, because many of them need it. I got good technical support from the woreda experts to apply lime correctly in my field and so it had a big impact on my land. My neighbors need lime supply and they also need good technical support to use their lime correctly.