Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
Abstract Agricultural production in the densely populated highlands of Rwanda is subject to serious soil fertility constraints. As the use of imported mineral fertilizers is beyond the economic means of resource-poor farmers, research and extension efforts of several projects, institutes and organizations concentrated during the last 15 years on the development and promotion of improved fallows with woody and herbaceous legumes, like Tephrosia sp., Cajanus sp., Crotalaria sp., Sesbania sp., Mucuna sp., and Mimosa sp., planted over one or more seasons as pure green manure, in hedgerows (alley cropping), or on fields as seasonal inter- or relay-crop. Green manuring proved to be a risky enterprise, due to highly variable biomass production and residual effects. Yield increments on-farm of up to 74% in the first season and 46% in the second season did not compensate loss of yields and labour investments during green manuring. Even where biomass production was sufficient, residual effects were in most cases unsatisfactory, due to rapid nutrient leaching (N, K) or inappropriate foliage incorporation on-farm. In researcher-managed trials, residual effects were in general somewhat higher, but more than a mere compensation of lost yields was not possible and farmers' adoption of these labour-intensive technologies was rather low. Due to acute land shortage, farmers were reluctant in allocating land to fallows or hedgerows also, with the exception of fields already out of production. Consequently, the concept of improving soil fertility and crop yields with the help of planted fallows or green manure in rotation failed. Woody legumes might have a future on abandoned fields and in wide spaced contour hedges, mainly for the production of firewood and bean stakes. For soil fertility management, the production and availability of farmyard manure and country-own mineral fertilizers, such as travertin and volcanic ashes should be supported. The question is raised as to whether sustainable agricultural development is possible without a credit system for small farmers, reallocating land and creating off-farm employment.
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