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Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Fertilizer tree" triples Malawi, Zambia yields

Scientists have managed to triple maize yields on smallholder farms in Zambia and Malawi by simple "evergreen agriculture" techniques. Planting acacia trees among the crops automatically fertilised the fields.

Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre now call for a scaling-up of the use of so-called "fertilizer trees" in fields throughout Africa to fight climate change and increase food security.
The unique acacia known as a "fertilizer tree" had typically led to "a doubling or tripling of maize yields in smallholder agriculture in Zambia and Malawi," according to evidence presented at a conference in The Hague this week.

The findings were central to the arguments of agroforestry experts at the conference, who urged decision-makers to spread this technology more widely throughout the African nations most vulnerable to climate change and food shortages, and to think differently about more practical ways to solve the problems that are most pressing to smallholder farmers.

Speaking at conference, Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (WAC), said that evergreen agriculture - or the integration of fertilizer trees into crop and livestock-holding farms - "is rapidly emerging as an affordable and accessible solution to improving production on Africa's farms."

"Doubling food production by mid-century, particularly in Africa, will require non-conventional approaches, particularly since so many of the continent's soils are depleted, and farmers are faced with a changing climate," Dr Garrity said. "We need to reinvent agriculture in a sustainable and affordable way, so that it can reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases and be adapted to climate change."

In a recent article in the scientific magazine 'Food Security', Mr Garrity and co-authors had highlighted how evergreen agriculture has already provided benefits to several million farmers in Zambia, Malawi, Niger and Burkina Faso. 

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