Growing the future || Learners at Mbinzi produce eco-friendly compost
Posted by Karabo Kgophane on 05 April 2023, 10:10 SAST
Agriculture is the most important sector in Malawi’s economy. It employs over 80% of the population and contributes approximately 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. This means that the current price increase of chemical fertilizers has adversely affected a large part of Malawi’s population and has resulted in dire food shortages due to the poor harvests of many subsistence farmers.
Recognising this gap in the economy, and with the support from the FutureLife-Now! Programme, learners from Mbinzi Community Day Secondary School in the Lilongwe District have started producing low-cost and environmentally-friendly composted manure.
Mbinzi Community Day Secondary School learners mixing eco-friendly composted manure
Impressively, it was the learners of the Climate Change Club who initiated the project. They produce the composted manure from a mixture of ash, maize bran and water, adding only a small proportion of chemical fertilizer: the resultant product is very cost-effective since one bag of chemical fertiliser produces five bags of composite manure. Since the manure is produced at the school it is readily available, unlike other chemical fertilizers that are made in other countries that are therefore not consistently available due to a range of factors, including price fluctuation, logistical issues and unforeseeable geopolitics.
Augustine Soko, the Agriculture teacher at the school, provided technical assistance and guidance to the learners by providing the recipe and supervising the project. So far, the 37 learners who are actively involved in the project have produced five 50kg bags of the manure. It is being used in the school garden and woodlot, as well as to feed flower beds.
Through this project, learners have acquired skills in composite manure making and application, and many of them are planning to replicate the process in their homes. One such is Form 4 learner, Mordecai Katundu, who has been motivated by the project, “It has been an eye opener and now I want to establish a small-scale manure making plant at home. I will be using the manure in my family garden and I plan to sell some of it and make money from what I have learnt.” Another Form 4 learner, Albert Mpachika, has seen the advantages for the environment. He also expressed his excitement, “This project will help in mitigating climate change. Chemical fertilizers fix nitrogen in the soil, and when nitrogen reacts with oxygen, it forms nitrogen oxide which is a very dangerous greenhouse gas.”
The learners plan to increase the production and their plan is so sell the excess produce to small-scale farmers: the proceeds will be used to support fellow students with tuition fees, as well as for startup capital for other projects.
Impressed, the principal of Mbinzi, Florence Mulima, thanked the learners for designing and implementing the project.
Young people are key to tackling climate change. The creativity of young people is invaluable in the search for innovative solutions to climate change. We no longer buy fertiliser for our school gardens or our trees and flowers. We feel empowered.