B4SS farmer field days in Jimma (September 2017)

Every September, Jimma University organises the annual farmer field days. In September 2017, the main focus of the field days was on the Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) project. Prof Berhanu Belay and Milkiyas Ahmed led the activities, which started at the auditorium with presentations of the B4SS project achievements and a poster session. The B4SS supported four Master students to conduct biochar field experiments at Jimma University, and this was an opportunity for them to talk about their positive findings. About 100 people, including 60 farmers, participated.

The farmers, agricultural extension staff, students and academics showed interest in the various technologies that Jimma University has used to produce biochar from different feedstocks. The Kon Tiki kiln attracted special attention due to its low cost and simplicity.

After the demonstration of the biochar production methods, we went to visit the field trials, in which the effects of biochar on maize and soybeans are evaluated. Jimma University has produced different biochar formulations, and, on average, the formulation that consists of biochar from coffee husk co-composted with animal manure has resulted in savings of about 40% NPK fertiliser compared with the application of 100% NPK fertiliser. Some farmers had several questions about how to produce the biochar formulation themselves.

In order to connect with the farmers and increase their confidence in adopting biochar technologies, we went to the house of champion farmer Ibrahim Aba Fita, whose biochar story has been published in UNEP’s website. Ibrahim and family hosted us enthusiastically and showed us their agricultural practices, including biochar production, formulation and use. He produces biochar from wood and enset  (false banana) leaves in a Kon Tiki soil pit kiln and also mixes the biochar with animal manure prior to application to soil. He reports improved soil structure and increased crop yields.

Finally, we went to have our farewell dinner with delicious Ethiopian food and, of course, lots of coffee at the beautiful gardens of Jimma University.

Amasegenalo to Milkiyas and Berhanu for organising the B4SS farmer field days. They were a success!