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Humus and fertility

Humus is the backbone of soil fertility. It is a habitat and a soil organism in itself, that enables thriving, biodiverse soil life, the Soil Biome. The Soil Biome interacts with plants in the Soil Food Web.

Humus basically consists of

  • Space for life, air and water
  • Dead Organic Matter (DOM)
  • The Soil Biome

​Humus boosts soil properties like fertility, looseness, decompaction and easy root penetration, high water infiltration rate, high water and nutrient retention capacity, increased resilience against erosion and climate change.

Humus is rare in semi arid climates. The humus content of the soil in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria for example, is below 0.5%. Without humus the soil is compacted and does not allow water to infiltrate fast, which leads to runoffs and erosion during the heavy rain events in the rainy season.

The runoff water that causes erosion during the rainy season is lost for plant growth during the dry season.

Also, compacted soil does not allow roots to penetrate deep, which leads to even weaker growth or need for more irrigation. Irrigation leads to higher costs and less income. It can also lead to salination due to the evaporation being higher than precipitation. Excessive irrigation also leads to a lower groundwater table and thus to a further dry out of whole landscapes. (See desertification around Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan)

Since humus is scarce, farmers in some areas resort to health threatening ways to fight soil compaction:

I. Plastic bags, old batteries, oil cans and the like are burnt and the ashes of the burnt waste are worked into the soil in which vegetables are grown. The fumes of burnt plastic are highly toxic and the ashes are contaminated with heavy metal, which is consequently taken up by plant roots, deposited in the crop and coequently ingested by consumers. Especially Cadmium contamination leads to painful and even lethal sickness (see Ita-Ita in Japan.)

II. Some farmers buy humus that is brought from the hill sides. This practise leads to a further decrease of forests on hillsides. A deforested hilltop speeds up erosion in the whole landscape because the water and soil retention of the tree roots is lost. Denuded hilltops on the long run lead to a lowered water table.

Rain Planting

Rain planting was developed over a 30 year period by late Mr Zephania Phiri Maseko of Zvishavane, Zimbabwe, known as “water farmer”. Through long and continued observation, he constructed small water catchments with farm available materials, dug fruition pits to plant trees and turned his depleted farm into a lush garden that never went dry even through long spells of draught (far less than the average 570mm rainfall per year)

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Cut banana meristems provide moisture for suckers


There are basically two ways of composting: cold composting and hot composting. The result is always called Humus.

In Cold Composting anything that was once alive is thrown on a heap and left there for a year.


  • Simple, hardly any work


  • Process takes up to 1 year
  • High loss and unpredictable balance of nutrients
  • The produced humus is not hygenised and may contain weed seeds, antibiotic residues or pathogens

Another form which can be classified as Cold Composting is Mulching (e.g. with crop residues). Depending on material, climate and the biodiversity of the Soil Biom the breakdown (=composting) of mulch can be quite fast. On the other hand depleted soil does not accommodate an active Soil Biome and accordingly the mulching material cannot be broken down at all and its nutrient contents is not available for plants. But as mulching keeps the soil covered it is always beneficial and highly recommended.

Hot Composting is a monitored and nursed process;


  • If no chopping machine is available, the chopping by hand is hard work
  • Hot composting is a bit tricky and needs practice and patience for beginners.It is best to enroll in a composting training. Please contact us or send us your questions


  • Produced humus is hygenized, meaning that harmful diseases and unwanted weed seeds have been eliminated due to the high temperatures which give this method its name
  • It only takes 3 – 12 weeks, depending on how you want to apply the produced humus
  • If biochar is used, the loss of nutrients is considerably reduced and the humus will be more stable in the soil
  • The nutrient contents and therefore the best application is predictable
  • The pH value of humus is always neutral to allow best plant growth
  • High microbial activity

Trees in landscape

There is hardly a farm with enough trees. Farmers are reluctant to grow trees, for fear of trees competing with their crops over sunlight, water and nutrients. But if planted with proper considerations, farm trees come with many benefits:

  • Tree roots penetrate deep and serve as water and nutrient pump
  • Tree roots stem erosion
  • Tree canopies protect soil from the destructive forces of heavy rain
  • Light and deep shade trees create microclimates that allow certain crops to thrive better
  • Trees serve as windbreaks to protect soil from dry harmattan
  • Wood is an important ingredient for nutrient rich compost
  • Fruit trees or timber trees add to a farmers income
  • Some trees grow livestock fodder
  • Trees attract wildlife predators

Trees play a major role in the water cycle. Without the performance of trees the water cycle is broken leading to pastoral draughts.

Moreover, spores of fungi that live in symbiosis with tree roots form a majority of the microparticles that induce clouds to rain

Heirloom Seeds and Communities

Take a people’s seeds and you have taken the entire Nation.

Seed independence is a big topic when it comes to a Nation’s sovereignty within its own land. There is no food without seeds, there is no independence of decision without food.

Seeds that were cultivated and “improved” in laboratories are not apt to grow well in all real landscapes. Almost all of them are not heirloom seeds, meaning no farmer can use them to grow the next generation. Many of them lost the ability to mycorrhize, many need a lot of chemical input to thrive, thus cutting down a farmer’s profit.

Treated seeds destroy the microbiome in the soil and are stripped of plants inheritage for their next generation: microbes that a plant puts around seeds to make sure that any offspring is coated with the beneficial microbes particular to that species.

Adapted, local seeds still hold all of the wonders of God’s creation as stated above, they are heirlooms to grow new crops in the next season. And they can be adapted to a farmer’s individual operation. Since no operation is like any other we support individual seed propagation.

Farmers – Herders Conflict

The conflict between farmers and herders has a multitude of causes. Uncountable narratives, antagonistic groups of interest, hidden agendas, historic and gossip stories are entwined, so that today these issues threaten the whole Nation to fall apart.

We focus on a basic interest, that the prime groups – farmers and herders – have in common:

The landscape that ensures their livelihoods.

Jos is not only situated in a brittle climate that has little defense and repair mechanisms against land mismanagement, it was and is traumatised by tin mining, destroying vast amounts of then productive landscape.

We believe in reclaiming destroyed landscapes as a joint effort to see and appreciate the valuable contribution of each stakeholder.

In the farmers Herders conflict, we hope to foster communication by creating an enabling environment for a healthy dialogue.

Moveable pig paddock

Moveable pig paddock

We note that there exists a communication chasm between the Herders and farmers, which is evident in the completely different perspective people have about the cause and fuel for this crisis. While we are not placing ourselves as solutions to the problems, we hope to leverage on our passion to find an end to this conflict by working with like-minded and passionate people, Non-Governmental Organizations and similar bodies in opening an honest communication dialogue between the herders, the farmers or even the political office holders, enabling them to have an honest dialogue in working towards a lasting solution to this problem.

It’s our hope that by doing this and not relenting even in the face of the many challenges we are definitely going to encounter, we can create a regenerate people by creating an enabling environment where business thrives especially in the rural farm communities as well as the protection of the most vulnerable class of the society, the women and the children.

Planned Grazing

Whether livestock is a means of desertification or regeneration of the landscape depends entirely on how it is managed.

Planned Grazing was established by Allan Savory. It manages the ratio of the number of livestock, grazing time in a particular paddock and the resting time for fodder plants to prevent overgrazing. Planned Grazing is the fastest tool to regenerate the soil. It has successfully reversed desertification all over the world.

Moveable chicken pen

Moveable Chicken Pen

Cattle as walking composter

Cattle carry an enormous mass of microbes in their bellies to compost biomass. No other means of composting is as efficient and fast as a herbivore’s digestion. Faeces have been used as manure ever since farming has evolved. It is true that faeces can carry unwanted passengers like pathogens and weed seeds.

As a grazed paddock has to be left for regrowth of forage, the beneficial microbes of a paddock will outcompete the pathogens.

Weed seeds are Nature’s way to regenerate plant cover of the soil to avoid bareness. The weeds will establish as tell-tale-plants to indicate the stage of succession. As the health of the soil increases, unwanted weeds will decline.

If a paddock is used as a field after grazing, a light superficial tilling might be indicated or cow patches can be collected and used in a hot rot composting

Farmers and herders complement each other

Farmers and herders are both stewards of the land, both can either deplete or regenerate the land. Nomadic pastoralists know how to read the landscape, farmers know how to read their fields. The joint knowledge of both groups is the foundation of regenerating landscapes and making them more productive.

Agro Forestry Systems are complex systems

Holistic Approach

Complex and complicated systems

We are living in a network of systems like relationships, water cycles, family, education, laws, public transport, nature, social media, business. Some are complicated and others are complex. Complicated systems require different ways of management to complex systems.

Tools for example are complicated systems. Man Made tools from stapler to cellphones fall into this category. They do what they were designed and made to do, they serve us. They do not regulate or organise themselves and do not have feedback loops. If there is a problem it can be found, clearly defined and solved (at least by professionals). Complicated systems do not evolve into something unexpected. They can be handled by experts.

Complex systems are not man made. They exist with their own rules. Examples are physics, human inbuilt grammar, instincts, ecosystems, relationships, even governance, which is evolving from relationships.

Agro Forestry Systems are complex systems

If they are managed without insight and humility they produce severe backlashes (climate change, the Naija System). Problems are extremely difficult to solve. Complex systems are self organizing. Even if they break down they reorganise themselves. They do not take the wellbeing of humans into account. They need a holistic approach.

In decision making it is extremely important to know in which system we are moving. Can the system be made or managed? Be careful not to mix up these systems. When you move in complex systems be aware that you cannot make them. Try to understand the inherent laws and abide by them. Be attentive to feedback loops, monitor how the system you are moving with evolves, stay open to constant learning and readjusting.

Educate yourself to get a taste of experiencing in that aware manner what is going on around you. Let it become more entertaining than social media entertainment. Definitely it is more productive and rewarding.

Feel the joy!

Machines are complicated systems (seed sorter)

Machines are complicated systems (seed sorter)