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Spilling the Beans: Farming Without Fossil Fuels
Another thread by Jusper Machogu
Beans farming in Kenya. What is like to farm without Fossil Fueled machines, a tiny amount of fertilizer and all rain dependant? We plant beans twice a year. We intercrop them inside maize. I have done organic beans farming and conventional🧵 Karibu
The usual, 12-15 people to dig a ha of land. Then we do furrows or holes(I should have a demo for both soon) Furrows need 6 people unlike for maize because of the crop population. Two other people place the seeds in the furrows
4-5 seeds per hole, ~10 cm apart. Then the furrows are ~30 cm apart. (For maize it is usually 2-3 seeds per hole, 30cm apart, furrows 1m apart, in places where people have big land. In my village, we do about 60cm apart, one of the reasons why our yields are at 2T vs US at 11T)
Back to beans We use manure to plant the beans for organic. I got about 400 kilos of dry sheep manure from a nearby farm. A bag at only 50 cents($) I carried the manure in polythene sacks on my shoulders. 60-70 kilos each for 500m. It took me 3 days to gather and spread it..
.. along the furrows. And of course, that's not enough for ½ a Ha-the area I planted beans. We need about 10-30T of manure per ha to supply the required N. Easily done by urea with 46% nitrogen at 100Kgs/ha/yr (5% N for well decomposed manure) ~Ready cow dung
Then after placing the seeds in the holes, we cover them using soil of course. If using DAP, we skip the manure part, which is time consuming! 8 people are enough to plant a ha of land from 8 am to 1 or 2 pm. They earn $1.50 a day. How sustainable! A month later..
..we start weeding. Depending with your spacing, you might need second weeding or just uproot the weeds to avoid disturbing them especially during flowering. Weeding requires 6 people per ha. There isn't much work. Then we start the spraying for organic and conventional.
Organic. To control pests, I used a mix of hydrogen peroxide, aspirin and liquid soap-all organic). Aspirin relaxes the bean plant-a booster, hydrogen peroxide and soap clears the pests. We have a particular plant used as a pesticide but found in specific locations.
For a 20l pump(I forgot to mention we spray using hand knapsack sprayers), 10-20 tabs of aspirin for 10 cents, 10 ml of H2O2 12% concentration or 20 ml if 6% conc costing less than 5 cents. 20 ml liquid soap for less 5 cents. I did 3 pumps for the half ha(6-8 per ha) weekly
A month later they start flowering. I might stop using liquid soap, but depends with the weather. And of course done very early in the morning or late in the day. For conventional I buy particular pesticides, $1 per pump. I add in 20 teaspoons of urea. Helps a lot
This is what the organic beans look like at 2½ months later. From flowering to harvesting, it will take 1½ months. https://t.co/k3GfOTn2Ka
I did weeding for these beans. Rodents caused some destruction. Rabbits and especially some mice species. Organic control(using traps) couldn't work. I had to get rat and rat. For rabbits, I threw food around the farm. My neighbor's dog enjoyed looking for it.
Then there is the harvesting. Tedious is an understatement! Your back has got to stay bent throughout the day. Then we have large sacks to carry that. Not heavy at all. 30-50 Kgs depending on how dry the beans are. And how large the sack is. https://t.co/59mpXHAKtm
We have to get the seeds from the crop. We do that using sticks. I don't have numbers for that. 4 people could beat the harvest from 1 ha per day. Then the beans are winnowed to remove leaves, pods, and dust. Most men can't do the winnowing. It requires some expertise. https://t.co/BpisMZC5n0
I got a lady to do it for me. I tried my best but I just couldn't. The last step is drying. We dry our produce by spreading the produce under the sun. The sunnier the merrier. Otherwise you going to do a lot of lifting and worrying because 2 days later, you'll have rotten beans
I managed 110 kgs of dry beans from half a Ha, organically. I couldn't find a buyer to buy my expensive beans-twice the price of conventionally farmed beans. I enjoyed a full year of eating some delicious beans and chapatis Otherwise I should have gotten 300+kgs plus from ½ a Ha
We don't have driers unless in maize seed factories. 99% of farmers dry their produce under the sun. Again, sustainably! January harvest is clean else, we have a lot of rotten waste seeds.
I hope you enjoyed it. Machines would amplify and expand our capabilities. Fertilizers would increase productivity by far. Would I compare organic and conventional farming methods? Nope. Organic is a scam unless you have rich people willing to pay 2 or 3× the usual price. Cheers
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