Ithaka Institut


by Harald Bier

The GIZ-project is part of the special initiative "One World, No Hunger" of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). In Benin, the Ithaka Institute was engaged to focus on the introduction and adoption of biochar based fertilization. The initiative contributes to two main objectives, firstly eradicating hunger and malnutrition and, secondly promoting sustainable agriculture so that future generations can enjoy sufficient, healthy, and affordable food.

The project supports especially women farmers who see their future in organic agriculture. Organic production aims to make them independent from the purchase of agrochemical inputs, to protect them and their families against diseases caused by pesticides, and to improve the quality of the soil. On their cotton and vegetable fields, they use biochar-compost as fertilizer. The biochar is produced Kon-Tiki kilns and partly in TLUD stoves that are used for daily cooking.

Generally, in this patriarchal society, women receive the most degraded plots of land from men, as those plots no longer allow them to be cultivated in the usual way. What is remarkable is that, despite the infertility of the received land, the yield of organic crops has been the same size as conventional ones. According to the women farmers, the yield increases with each cultivation period. As a fertilizer, the women use compost with biochar in a ratio of 6:1 which made them compete with the man that produce the cash crops on the (still) most fertile land.