Samoa: Farmers take on mud challenge
17 January 2012
HEADLINE: Farmers take on mud challenge
Now that flood waters have receded, Samoan farmers face the challenge of how to treat the mud on their farms.
Women in Business Development organic projects officer Pule Toleafoa advises farmers to be careful when handling mud because it can contain sewage waste, chemicals gathered from factories, homes and cars.
However, “floodwater mud can be used safely used on plantations if the farmer goes through a process and breaking down the contaminants,” says Toleafoa.
He adds that farmers should not be planting during heavy rains because the water erodes the soil, causing other problems such as fungal diseases.
Melanie Scanes, an Australian volunteer working as an organic agriculture advisor with Women in Business, recommends a process that was used to treat mud on farms after the 2011 Queensland floods.
To prepare the garden for putting mud on the soil, Scanes suggests farmers apply this seven-step approach.
1. Turn the soil until is loose with small clods.
2. Spread the mud onto the soil so that it is broken up and even and there are no clumps larger than 10cm.
3. The farmer can spread mud over soil already prepared compost, or dry leaves and dry grass as well as freshly cut grass and any green vegetation.
4. Generously spread crushed dead coral over the soil.
5. Thoroughly mix everything into the soil, getting as deep as possible by turning with a fork or shovel.
6. Water the area so it is almost saturated.
7. Turn every few days and keep soil wet for four to six weeks. The water is needed to breakdown the contaminants.
Scanes says the first planting should not be root crops or crops that sit on the soil such as taro, yams or cabbages.
She suggests planting tomato, cucumber, eggplant, beans or any tree crops, including bananas.
Toleafoa says planting a ground-cover crop such as mucuna or gatae during this time will add nitrogen and naturally fertilise the soil. Although, gatae is not recommended to be planted near vanilla.
Tolefoa and Scanes are part of a Women in Business team looking at the impacts of Cyclone Evan upon farmers and the resulting needs.
The organisation is working with Oxfam NZ to help affected farmers revive their plantations and livelihoods.
Women in Business staff spent the past two weeks conducting a Needs Analysis Survey with farmers in cyclone-damaged areas.
Staff are now analysing the data so they can design a programme to assist the most vulnerable farmers and provide advice and resources to the farming community.