In an effort to combat drought conditions, some farmers in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, have adopted a simple technique known as “micro-dosing,” which involves the application of a small bottle cap full of fertilizer directly to the roots of crops, and spares farmers the time and expense of fertilizing an entire field. According to the October 2010 issue of New Internationalist, micro-dosing can increase crop yields by as much as 55 percent. In addition, it’s estimated that if even a quarter of Niger’s farmers micro-dosed, the savings in food aid costs in 2010 would have been greater than $60 million.
That such a simple solution hasn’t been more widely embraced in drought-affected countries is a result of widespread economic hardship in those same regions. Many farmers, who earn less than a dollar a day, are too poor to afford even such small quantities of fertilizer. In an effort to remedy this, an exchange system is being developed to allow farmers to get loans in exchange for contributing a portion of their harvest to a community store, with the hope that investing in workable ideas like micro-dosing might avert food crises in the future.
This article first appeared in the March-April 2011 issue of Utne Reader.