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Cotton farmer overcomes rising fertilizer costs and shortages using compost


In 2022, a global shortage of chemical fertilizer caused problems for farmers worldwide. However, the negative effects of chemical fertilizer on health and the environment have led to a search for alternatives. CABI received funding to train farmers in Pakistan on using natural compost as a fertilizer. Composting improves yields, is cost-effective, and doesn’t harm the environment. Wazeer Ali, a Pakistani cotton farmer, reported excellent results using compost instead of chemical fertilizers, saving money and promoting sustainable practices. He plans to expand composting and encourages other farmers to do the same.

The story

In 2022, the world faced a shortage of chemical fertilizer. Farmers struggled to find enough of this valuable agricultural input to feed their crops. For smallholders in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan, this spelt disaster.

But chemical fertilizer can be harmful to agricultural workers’ health and the environment. And farmers are tiring of its negative impacts.

Wazeer Ali, a cotton farmer from Pakistan, explained how he was fed up using chemical fertilizer on his farm. “[It] had detrimental effects on my soil, the environment, and human and crop health,” he said.

In 2022, CABI won £1.59m from the Better Cotton Growth & Innovation Fund to help Pakistan produce over 124,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton annually until 2025. To achieve this, we aim to train more than 32,000 farmers and 80,000 farm workers with cotton growing advice, including training on how to create and use natural compost as a fertilizer.

Alternatives to chemical fertilizers, like manure, are abundant and cheap. And approaches like composting not only improve yields but are cost-effective and safe to use too.

Compost enriches the ground, maintains water and inhibits plant pests. And it promotes beneficial bacteria and fungi. These decompose organic matter and produce nutrient-rich soil. Compost also reduces carbon emissions by slowing the decomposition of plant materials. After attending CABI’s training, Wazeer reported outstanding results on his farm.

The compost increased his crop’s growth and yield by the same levels as chemical fertilizers. But it caused no damage to groundwater, the environment or human and animal health. Wazeer praised this low-cost approach that re-cycles waste like leftover animal food and farmyard manures.

“Using compost, I was able to save nearly 50% of the money I would have spent on synthetic fertilizer,” he said.

He plans to expand the use of compost next season and is encouraging other farmers to try composting too.

Sustainable Development Goals

No Poverty

Helping small-scale farmers improve their livelihoods by providing knowledge about plant health and access to markets.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Helping grow more from less land by introducing higher-yielding and environmentally responsible food production techniques.

Climate Action

Helping agricultural sector to supply sufficient, safe and nutritious food, embedded in a healthy and climate resilient landscape

Partnerships for the Goals

Organizations must develop and enhance partnerships to find the best and most sustainable solutions to the world's challenges.

Related projects

Producing better cotton in Pakistan

Cotton is Pakistan’s largest industrial sector. In total though, the industry is losing around 10-15% through poor traditional practices. Using the Better Cotton Standard System, we are encouraging farmers to implement Better Cotton production principles and criteria, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) by providing participatory training to 22,024 small, medium and large-sized farmers and their 38,000 farm workers in ‘Learning Groups’ and medium farmer’s fields.

Start: 01/04/2014 End: 31/03/2025