Examples of Organic Technologies and Practices in Africa


The push-pull method developed by the International Research Institute ICIPE in Kenya, together with local farmers is an effective and low-tech solution to control maize stem borer in Africa. The Push-pull strategy is scientifically well evidenced. It reduces stem borer attack and improves soil fertility, resulting to yield increases of up to 200 percent, while reducing dependency on chemical pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

The technique involves planting the legume desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum or silver leaf) between rows of maize. Desmodium produces an odor that “pushes” away the stem borer moths from the maize crop. Desmodium also suppresses striga weed and being a legume, fixes nitrogen in the soil and thus improve soil fertility. Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) is planted as a trap in the border around the maize fields. Napier grass has an odor that makes it more attractive to stem borer moths than maize and it “pulls” the egg laying adult moths away from the food crop to the trap crop. Most of the eggs are killed in the sticky sap of the Napier grass. Therefore very few stem borer larvae survive and the maize is saved because of the “push-pull” strategy. 

For more information on how the technology works, click here.


·       Increase maize yield,

·       Continues supply of cattle feed from the Napier grass,

·       Nitrogen fixed to the farm by the desmodium legume, so one saves money,

·       Soil protected from erosion as demodium acts as soil cover,

·       Soil retains more water as desmodium acts as mulch,

·       Money from selling of desmodium seed,

·       Money from selling of milk from the cows.

·       Saving on farm labor as no need to weed the string weed,

·       Maize protected from strong winds by the Napier grass.

All these benefits result to improved standards of living through the increased level of education and health status.

A case study - A novel farming system for ending hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
This Case study was done to evaluate on the impact of the push - pull technology developed and promoted by icipe and its partners in Eastern Africa. 

For the full information on the case study, click here

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a “set of insights and practices that change the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients used in growing irrigated rice.” Unlike the continuous flooding of paddy fields, SRI involves intermittent wetting and drying of paddies as well as specific soil and agronomic management practices.

SRI involves some combination of the following changes in rice agronomic practices:

·       Transplanting seedlings at a very young age – 8 to 12 days old, at most 15 days old, instead of the usual age for seedlings of 3-4 weeks or more.

·       Raising seedlings in un-flooded nurseries, not planted densely and well-supplied with organic matter. There is an option of direct seeding, but transplanting is most common.

·       Transplanting seedlings quickly, carefully and shallow – taking care to have minimum trauma to roots, not inverting plant root tips upward which delays resumption of growth.

·       Transplanting seedlings at wider distance and singly (one seedling only) – instead of clumps of 3-4 seedlings per hole -- and in a square pattern, usually 25x25 cm, giving roots and leaves more space to grow.

·       No continuous flooding of the soil – soil saturation cause plant roots to degenerate and suppresses soil organisms that require oxygen; either apply small amounts of water daily, to keep soil moist but not saturated, or alternately flood and dry the soil.

·       Weed controlling preferably done with a simple mechanical hand weeding. This aerates the soil as it eliminates weeds, giving better results than either hand weeding or herbicides.

·       Providing as much organic matter as possible to the soil – while chemical fertilizer gives positive results with SRI practices, the best yields will come with organic fertilizers or manures. This does more than feed the plant: it feeds the soil, so that the soil can feed the plant.

For more information on this technology, click here.


·       SRI gives higher yields - more tons of rice per hectare, sometimes up to 200% increases over flooded paddies.

·       It requires less seed and water compared to traditional methods or improved methods using synthetic fertilizers. The water savings, for example, can be by up to 50% water - because plant populations are reduced, and paddy fields are not kept continuously flooded.

·       SRI makes use of what the farmer has. It may not be necessary to purchase any extra external inputs. SRI does not require the purchase of new seed varieties – since practically all rice varieties give higher yield with SRI.

Case studies - SRI practices in the Senegal River Valley and in the Podor region
During 2007-2009, Tim Krupnik and colleagues at FAO and the Africa Rice Center did a series of evaluations that included adapted SRI practices in the Senegal River Valley and in the Podor region. Their research during 2008-2009 showed that adapted SRI practices resulted in significantly higher yields than farmer practices and were as good as or better than recommended management practices.

For more information, click here.

Zaï Permanent planting holes 

Zaï is a hole, a planting pit with a diameter of 20-40 cm and a depth of 10-20 cm depending on the type of soil. Pits are dug during the dry season and the number of Zai pits per hectare varies from 12,000 to 25,000. The number of zai pits per hectare and their dimensions determine how much water they harvest. The bigger the number and the smaller their size, the less water they each harvest. The excavated earth is ridged around the demi-circle to improve the water retention capacity of the pit. 

After digging the pits, composted organic matter is added at an average, recommended rate of 0.6 kg/pit. After the first rainfall, the matter is covered with a thin layer of soil and the seeds placed in the middle of the pit. 
Zaï fulfills three functions: soil and water conservation and erosion control for encrusted soils. 

For more information on the technology, click here.


On degraded and encrusted soils, the Zaï 

• Captures rain and surface/ run-off water; 
• Protects seeds and organic matter against being washed away; 
• Concentrate nutrient and water availability at the beginning of the rainy season; 
• Gives much better crop yields than normal cultivation without planting holes; and 
• Reactivates biological activities in the soil and leads to an improvement in soil structure, water infiltration and water holding capacity. 

The manure applied to the pits contains seeds of trees or bushes. This helps the regeneration of the vegetation on fields treated with pits. 
The application of the Zai technique can reportedly increase production by up to 500% if properly executed. 

A case study - The emergence and spreading of an improved traditional soil and water conservation practice in Burkina Faso
The Zaï emerged in a context of recurrent droughts and frequent harvest failures, which triggered farmers to start improving this local practice.

For information about the case study, click here.