Hope Sakuma's first "oven" a mounded earth kiln to make fine ironing charcol of the highest quality; a technique used worldwide and dating back thousands of years, where dry, seasoned wood is packed tight and covered with clods of turf.
After a couple of days drying out holes are made at the bottom of the kiln and the wood burns at a high heat. This pile of seasoned wood represents all of last years' clearance constructing our demonstartion farms' rice paddies, azolla pits and vegetable beds and although we try not to cut down trees when we have to we plant more saplings than we cut down and last year we planted more than 200 cashew saplings to replace the trees lost.
But this ancient technique of creating charcoal or "biochar" not only boosts plant growth but also hugely increases how much carbon soil can store and scientists say this "revolutionary" farming technique could be a cheap way to reduce greenhouse gases by trapping them in charcoal-laced soil for hundreds and thousands of years. In fact, it's so good for plants and the planet scientists dub it "black gold."
Raking through the resulting coal - enough to last Mama Mayila's Cradle for a year - the small pieces and ashes, the biochar "Black Gold"desintined to join our Azolla's "Green Gold" to make a top quality bio fertilzier and store planet warming CO2 while we're at it.
Bocashi is a Japanese term that means "fermented organic matter" and the resulting Azolla and Biochar based fertilizer improves soil condition and research shows not only is it significantly richer than other composts in all the things plants in general and vegetables in particular need to thrive: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and all the other minerals, sugars, starches and proteins but also stores planet-warming CO2 for hundreds and thousands of years.
Hope Sakuma's farmer field school starts soon in Sanda Magbolontor chiefdom and will see farmers learn how to harvest Azolla and construct Azolla and fertilizer pits and vegetable beds to provide all the nutrients vegetables need to grow - a sustainable low-cost, high-nutrition, high-profit model benefiting subsistence farmers in the most disadvantaged Chiefdom in Sierra Leone.
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