Eritrea: Keynote Speech By Minister of Agriculture At National Organic Fertilizers Conference
Mr. Chairman !
Honorable Ministers !
Honorable Governor of the Central Zone !
Excellences Ambassadors, UN
and Heads of UN agencies !
Deans of Colleges and High Government officials !
Distinguished participants from outside Eritrea !
Ladies and Gentlemen!
All protocols observed!
Today I am very delighted to welcome you all, and especially those coming from outside the country, to this conference which is jointly organized by the Ministries of Agriculture and Marine Resources.
As we all appreciate, soil is the basis of all life and is a living body itself. And that is precisely the reason why it should be treated with utmost care.
If we surf the history of farming, it has transformed from an organic practice to intensive chemical fertilizer based undertaking. While it is true that inorganic fertilizers have nutritional elements that can be readily available to the plant to boost production and productivity, they don’t stay long enough and requires constant replenishment thus defeating the very purpose of rationality, efficiency and profitability.
In the long run if one relies on inorganic fertilizers the structure of the soil will degrade eventually. Leaching takes place as you water your plants and alot of it goes to waste. Besides, inorganic fertilizers are not entirely composed of nutrients needed by the plant. They also contain salts and other compounds which result in toxic waste.
As is usually the case, inorganic fertilizers must be manufactured industrially and this involves cost in terms of both chemicals and energy thus limiting affordability and accessibility especially to small holder farmers. But most of all they affect the environment and sustenance negatively. The part of the nutrients which are not utilized properly are released into the atmosphere after which microorganisms in the soil convert it to nitrousoxide, a gas that contributes to global warming. Besides, inorganic fertilizers tend to lower soil PH making the soil more acidic which in turn makes plants suffer.
Now let me briefly walk you through the advantages of organic fertilizers which is the main theme of the conference.
Organic fertilizers are made from natural organic matter decomposed or fermented by microorganisms. They have the advantage of having wide sources of raw materials, comprehensive nutrients and profound effects. They are widely used in agriculture.
Organic fertilizers contain a variety of trace elements which are normally nontoxic, harmless and nonpolluting natural substances which fully guarantee the production of green food which contain a variety of sugars. These sugars provide energy for the growth, development and reproduction of soil organisms.
Organic fertilizers increase collides in the soil and thus improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil-water retention, fertilizer retention and air permeability. This creates a good soil environment for plant growth.
Organic fertilizers reduce toxicity of heavy metal ions on crops. They are readily decomposed in the soil and transformed into varioushumic acid substances.
Humic Acid has a good adsorption effect on heavy metal ions which reduces the damage they cause on crops. This process is very beneficial to the production of pollution free, healthy and safe green food.
I hope it is now very clear why the Ministries of Agriculture and Marine Resources have taken the initiative to produce organic fertilizers in Eritrea. Considering that we have to provide safe and nutritious food to our population, the government has decided to focus on organic fertilizers. Of course a lot of our farmers have been using animal manurefor many years but it was not until the beginning of 2021 that the government made a determined plan to promote the production of bio- fertilizers both in solid and liquid form. After forming a core technical team which started the process by raising awareness amongthe public and conducting training of farmers, small, medium and large scale compost producers took no time to get established and make a dent on the campaign.
Soon after, technologies were introduced and refined to make compost making as farmer friendly as possible. Digging trench for compost making was no more. The time that it used to take for compost to mature was cut to almost one fourth. That is from 4 months to a maximum of one month by introducing accelerators, like indigenous effective micro-organisms (IEM) and Indigenous microorganisms (IMO). Besides compostable materials were expanded to include domestic (Kitchen) waste under the theme “even our waste is our resource”.
Parallel to the development of the solid fertilizers, the Ministry of Marine Resources was experimenting with liquid fertilizers with discared fish and sea weed. After fine tuning their trials they came up with fish amino-acid and sea-weed products.
They have made great effort to increase and refine the process of production, formulations and packaging. The required doses for different plants in the different agro-ecological zones were studied in conjunction with the agricultural extension agents. Trials are also being conducted on the impact of each product and their combinations in different ratios.
It has been only over two years since we embarked on this important undertaking. And because of this the experience we have accumulated so far is very modest. And that is precisely the reason why we have organized this platform in order to share experiences with different internal and external actors in order to draw a much more robust roadmap for a better result. I am sure you would learn more about what has been achieved in Eritrea so far from the national presentations and from your field visits.
In conclusion I thank you again for your participation and commend the organizing committee and the host of this venue and facility for a job well done.
I thank you for your attention !