It’s labor-intensive but an effective weapon against desertification: the Zai system. This farming method is introduced in Ghana. Yields increase by 500 percent.
One of the major constraints to agriculture development in the Upper East Region of Ghana is land degradation. This is due to desertification and, according to Mr Asher Nkegbe, due to high population densities which make fallowing impossible and virtually all lands are cultivated continuously every year.
Mr Asher Nkegbe is the Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He introduces a new sustainable land and water management intervention in the region. This provides a window of opportunity for farmers to improve crop performance in this harsh and changing climate. The future seems brighter for the farmers and their families, says mr. Nkegbe.
Increase food production
Since the Regional Director introduced the Zai Concept, the crops of the farmers involved are doing better than before. It is expected that those who started the concept would harvest higher yields and be able to feed their households so as to attract more farmers to the new farming technology to increase food production and ensure food security in the region.
The system originates from West-Africa. Farmers are empowered with the necessary skills and capacity of digging planting pits in crusted soils which used to produce high runoff.
The zai pits have a diameter of 15 to 30 cm and a depth of 10 to 15 cm to collect rainfall and runoff. This means that more water infiltrates so that water will be available to plant roots. Farmers put a handful of organic matter in each pit (ranging from about 300 gram per pit).
The Zai concept captures rainfall and runoffs, promotes the efficient use of limited quantities of organic matter and ensures the concentration of water and soil fertility at the beginning of the rainy season.
The use of the Zai method increases the amount of water stored in the soil profile by trapping rain water. It retains moisture in-situ and holds water long enough to allow it to infiltrate.
Pits are sometimes dug during the dry season, which alleviates the labour burden for land preparation at the onset of the rains. Besides, Zai improves soil fertility in completely barren soils where nothing could grow before. They also protect seeds and organic matter against being washed away, in addition to conserving nutrients.
Even though they are labour intensive, experts say they increase yields by up to 500 percent if properly executed. Zaï technology also reactivates biological activities in the soil and eventually leads to an improvement in soil structure. This eventually leads to less desertification.
Farmers across the Upper East Region of Uganda adopt the Zai technology. Some 150 farmers expect to get higher yields than before. It is hoped that in the next farming seasons many farmers would adopt the concept to help contribute to food security in the Region.