New land for new ideas - high-quality farmland as the basis for development and prosperity
CALAFI sets new standards in farmland reclamation
for the agricultural sector
The year 2022 marks the beginning of a new era in farmland reclamation for CALAFI and its partners. While slash-and-burn and manual clearing are still the order of the day in many regions of Africa, we are already leaving behind the age of arable land reclamation with bulldozers.
Using state-of-the-art forestry mulchers and rotary tillers, the vegetation is finely shredded and fed directly into the area as organic, humus-forming material. This further improves good soils and significantly enhances the frequently degraded, sandy soils in the northern regions of Togo with humus-forming components. In particular, the nutrient content of the soil and its ability to bind water are improved.
Through tilling or deep mulching, the entire root system of the bushes and shrubs is also shredded and added to the soil as further humus material. This not only creates a homogeneous, airy soil horizon but also a soil that can be cultivated better and more economically. Ploughs and harrows encounter fewer solid obstacles such as roots and stones and less resistance in the upper soil layers. This protects the material and allows a higher driving speed with lower diesel consumption at the same time.
This type of agricultural land reclamation creates the basis for sustainable, modern and mechanised agriculture. This makes the sometimes inhumane physical exertion of working in the fields a thing of the past, and working in agriculture a prospect for the future for generations to come.
Togo has a total of 3.4 million hectares of unused land intended for agriculture. About 50% of this, i.e. 1.7 million ha, is privately owned. The national development plan for agriculture provides for 500,000 hectares to be brought under cultivation within 5 years.
Anyone who knows that a farmer in West Africa cultivates an average of 1-2 hectares of farmland, mostly with laborious manual labour, can imagine that every additional hectare of cultivated land significantly expands the possibilities and perspectives of the farmers. And since 2/3 of the population work in agriculture, this additional arable land is of extremely high economic relevance as well as of decisive social and developmental significance. They are the key to prosperity, social peace and prospects for the young generation.
CALAFI sees it as both an obligation and a challenge to support this strategy and to make a significant contribution to the implementation of the plans for new cultivation areas.
Until now, CALAFI has carried out land development projects with bulldozers. The vegetation was removed from the area with heavy equipment and large rootstocks were pulled out of the ground. The resulting holes had to be backfilled and the area levelled with a dozer blade or grader. Then the actual cultivation could take place.
Money is like dung, it belongs in the field where it can grow
German management trainer
Project evaluation, environmental and social impact assessment
Before we start work on a land reclamation project, we support the project coiner in discussions and negotiations with all project stakeholders. These can be local communities, representatives of authorities at all levels or associations and organisations. CALAFI documents and records all discussions and agreements, thus ensuring maximum conformity with the applicable legal, environmental and social standards for all parties involved.
The reconnaissance of the area is carried out in cooperation with the clients and our geographers, forestry and agricultural engineers. The aim is to optimally parcel out the area to be prepared with regard to the planned use and against the background of the topography, hydrology, access and existing vegetation. The focus is both on the creation of arable land that enables efficient cultivation and on a landscape that fits both visually and functionally.
Planning the project resources
In order to be able to plan the project well in terms of time and costs, conditions such as soil, vegetation, access, local human resources, climatic parameters, the planned time frame and future crops must be known. With this knowledge, I can plan the equipment and machinery to be used as well as the staffing and prepare a cost budget.
Project camp set-up
Once the budget, schedule and resources have been determined, we set up a camp at the project site with an office, storage facilities for machinery and equipment and, if required, accommodation for CALAFI staff. If the construction or extension of access roads is necessary, this is tackled first. Only then does the delivery of the tools follow.
Clearing and mulching
Depending on the vegetation, larger plants and trees that are obstructive in the course of land parcelling have to be removed with chainsaws and mulchers. As a rule, usable wood is left to the communities. Brushwood and branches and leaves are worked into the soil.
While mulching shreds the vegetation and leaves it on the surface, tilling works the mulch into the soil and shreds root systems and stones. The mulchers used by CALAFI can also work to a certain depth in the soil, but this is at the expense of working speed. Our tillers, suspended behind the tractor, on the other hand, are designed for efficient tilling of soil from 10 to 40 cm deep. From the point of view of efficiency, you should only work as deep as necessary.
Creation of irrigation systems
Where water is only temporarily available for agricultural use, irrigation systems are required. In the context of new agricultural areas, it is therefore important to create the hydrological conditions for optimal land use. Especially in the northern regions of Togo, where there is only one rainy season, well-planned irrigation is important to enable two cultivation and harvesting cycles. CALAFI has the expertise and the machines to perfectly equip new cultivated areas hydrologically.
Once the new farmland has been mulched, milled and parcelled, cultivation can and should begin immediately. If the client has no or no suitable equipment available for cultivation, we recommend, also for reasons of quality, that at least the first soil cultivation be carried out by CALAFI. Depending on the planned crop, we plough, cultivate or harrow the fields in preparation for the first sowing.
Upon completion of the commissioned services, the project is handed over including detailed documentation. This includes survey data, a description and localisation of special conditions such as swampy areas, work documentation, management recommendations, a list and description of the recommended machines and, optionally, a soil survey with soil analysis and fertiliser recommendations.
In the event that the client decides to outsource all or certain management services for economic or budgetary reasons, CALAFI is happy to take over these services. We have a machine park that covers the entire spectrum, from soil cultivation to harvesting, and work at fixed costs per hectare. You can find out more about our management services here.
Where the farmer is poor, the whole country is poor.
Mulching & Tilling -
Better water balance for the soil
Mulch, i.e. small pieces of wood, in contrast to non-organic soil components, store water and slowly release the moisture back into the soil or plants. This regulates the water balance much better, especially in sandy, humus-poor soils.
Loose, well aerated soils
In heavy, humus-rich soils, which are more common in southern Togo, incorporated mulch loosens the upper soil layers. This ensures better aeration and even irrigation of the soil.
Very good regulation of the soil temperature
Especially in sandy soils, the incorporation of mulch acts as an insulator. Since organic material (e.g. wood) does not heat up as quickly (e.g. stone, sand), a more constant and, in the hot periods, lower overall soil temperature is achieved. This is clearly better for cultivated plants.
Protection against washout and erosion
A large amount of mulched material in the top layer of soil prevents the already composted humus from being washed out during tropical heavy rain events. This effect is due to the buffering and shielding effect of the wood particles. Mulching makes an important contribution to preventing the erosion of unprotected soils, which is so problematic in Africa.
Nutrient input and storage
Successive composting of the mulch adds nutrient-rich material to the soil. This constantly increases the humus content. The quality of the soil increases and with it the productivity of the land.
Basis for sustainable mulch sowing systems
The mulching of crop residues (maize straw, soy straw, etc.) during the cultivation phase using rotary and disc harrows continues to introduce organic material into the soil even after years, when the mulch of the original vegetation has already been composted and converted into humus.