Harpenden partnership piloting new African farming techniqu

Spotlight on Africa (HSOA) is working with Rothamsted Research Centre

Spotlight on Africa (HSOA) is working with Rothamsted Research Centre - Credit: Archant

An African community will be feeling the benefits of a collaboration between a renowned research institute and a charity.

Rothamsted Research Centre, in Harpenden, has come together with town-based charity Spotlight on Africa (HSOA) to implement a ground-breaking farming technique in Mbale near Uganda’s border with Kenya.

The process, named ‘companion planting or the ‘push-pull’ technique, sees two crops planted among the crop. One drives the pests away with its scent, and another attracts the pests and traps them in a glue-like secretion.

The farmer who first piloted the scheme in the area saw a four-fold increase in his maize crop and so far more than 2,000 local farmers are seeing first hand the positive effects.

The centre collaborated not only with HSOA, but also with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to help boost crop yields in the area, as many have fled there to escape the country’s internal conflict.

More than 100 people gathered at the research centre last Wednesday (29) to hear about the revolutionary technique, which has been praised for it’s efficiency and sustainability.

Rothamsted Research’s Professor John Pickett explained about how a 20 year research programme between ICIPE and Rothamsted pioneering the ‘push-pull’ strategy had helped alleviate the threat of starvation for thousands of farmers.

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He said: “Communities around Mbale rely on maize to survive yet cannot afford pesticides to protect their crops.

“This approach is sustainable, environmentally friendly and above all, successful. We are delighted that this is making a difference to some of the poorest people in Africa.”

Harpenden Town Mayor Cllr Brian Ellis, who was joined by other councillors at the event, added: “It is remarkable to think that such a difference is being made in Uganda by two Harpenden organisations. Both Rothamsted and HSOA do outstanding work. Together they are a powerful force for good.”