Plantains, otherwise known as cooking bananas, are an important food crop in Tanzania and require fertile soil for a good harvest. For around four centuries now, banana-growing land has been enriched by supplements of manure from cattle grazing on nearby pastures. The strongly increasing population pressure in recent decades has led to a decrease in pastureland and, consequently, manure, causing a reduction in banana harvests. Green manure crops such as herbaceous legumes provide a solution embraced by local farmers, writes Frederick P. Baijukya in his doctorate thesis at Wageningen University.
In his research, Frederick Baijukya examined agronomical and socio-economic aspects of the integration of leguminous plants into the agricultural system and reached some encouraging conclusions. His study began with making an inventory of changes in land use via geographical information systems, interviews with local growers and historical documentation. In addition, field tests involving various legume varieties were carried out together with farmers to determine which species were the most suitable.
Local farmers had various reasons for legume cultivation, including weed suppression, increasing harvests and improving the availability of cattle feed. Models were computer-designed, allowing Baijukya to propose optimal solutions tailor-made to the objectives of individual farmers.
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