South African Journal of Agricultural Extension
Print version ISSN 0301-603X
MUSTAFA-MSUKWA, A. K.; MUTIMBA, J. K.; MASANGANO, C. and EDRISS, A. K.. An assessment of the adoption of compost manure by smallholder farmers in Balaka District, Malawi. S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. [online]. 2011, vol.39, n.1, pp. 17-25. ISSN 0301-603X.
The decline in soil fertility is widespread in Malawi and is threatening food security in the country. While the use of inorganic fertilizers to improve soil fertility has immediate results, the escalating prices make it impossible for the majority of smallholder farmers to use them. There is, therefore, need for alternative low-cost soil fertility enhancing technologies. Compost manure seems to be a viable option to be promoted. This study was designed to assess the adoption of compost manure making and utilization by smallholder farmers. The study was conducted through a combination of individual interviews and observation of 150 smallholder farmers as well as through focus group discussions. Key recommendations for compost manure technology were identified through consultations with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Based on the key recommendations, a knowledge test was constructed to assess knowledge of the technology and a checklist was designed to assess farmer practice. The study revealed that the most critical factor that affected the adoption of compost manure technology was knowledge. Given that knowledge is a pre-requisite to any technology adoption, farmers knowledge on composting will therefore need to be raised substantially before appreciable levels of adoption can be expected. The amounts of compost that farmers made fell far short of their annual needs because of the late timing of the actual compost manure making. However, farmers have a positive perception of the compost manure technology as they believe it improves soil productivity.