Mary Kumwenda adopted Conservation Agriculture methods some three years ago for maize production. Among the many methods, she uses complete soil cover and pit planting with manure instead of fertilizer.
Being a single mother (widowed), manure has proven to be a good substitute to fertilizer because the cost of manure is much lower as compared to that of fertilizer.
She says manure helps conserve moisture in times when rainfall is not enough making the crop productive as opposed to fertilizer which requires a lot of water.
Because of using manure and ground cover, her crop performs well even when there is insufficient rainfall.
She uses different types of manure such as liquid, bokash, and livestock manure. Mary is so committed to manure making as she makes more than 500 kgs of organic manure each year which she uses as basal and top dressing fertilizer to reduce the costs of production.
Mary is still in the process of trying the different methods of CA to find the most appropriate for her. Apart from using ground cover, each and every year, she tries a new method including intercropping with legumes such as beans.
One astonishing thing about this woman is that she has gone a step further in manure making by grinding poultry manure into smooth powder which she says is more nutritious for maize as compared to 23:21:0+4S.
Over the past years, she has not been keeping records of her yield but during the 2010/2011 season she has harvested 78 bags of maize weighing 50kgs each. She has a family of 5 people who need 31 bags in a year for food. This means that she will sell the rest of the maize for money to meet her different financial needs.