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African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

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  • biopact@biopact.com
    Dear biochar researchers, I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund s field trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
      Dear biochar researchers,
      I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
      trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
      frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
      interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
      concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
      practise shifting cultivation-- said they know about an ancient soil
      improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
      still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
      are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
      people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
      us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?

      The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
      the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
      any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
      fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
      make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
      the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
      again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
      strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
      fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
      environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
      crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
      several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
      becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
      rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
      fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
      Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
      knowledge of this Batibo technique.

      We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
      the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
      enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
      carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
      own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
      we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
      loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
      interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
      Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
      "biochar" technique?

      Best regards,
      Laurens Rademakers
    • MFH
      Brilliant discovery Laurens. I ve thought since ever since stumbling across biochar that there would be other peoples who used similar techniques. I ve
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009

        Brilliant discovery Laurens. I’ve thought since ever since stumbling across biochar that there would be other peoples who used similar techniques. I’ve exhausted my ex-PNG agricultural research friends unfortunately without a comparative result but that doesn’t mean that the technique wasn’t applied somewhere there at some time in the past.

         

        Look forward to your further news.

         

        Max H

         

         


        From: biochar@yahoogroups.com [mailto: biochar@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of biopact@...
        Sent: Thursday, 12 February 2009 7:28 PM
        To: biochar@yahoogroups.com
        Cc: info@...
        Subject: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

         

        Dear biochar researchers,
        I am here in SouthWest Cameroon , implementing the Biochar Fund's field
        trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
        frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
        interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
        concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
        practise shifting cultivation- - said they know about an ancient soil
        improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
        still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
        are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
        people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
        us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?

        The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
        the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
        any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
        fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
        make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
        the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
        again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
        strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
        fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
        environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
        crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
        several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
        becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
        rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
        fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
        Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
        knowledge of this Batibo technique.

        We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
        the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
        enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
        carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
        own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
        we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
        loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
        interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
        Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
        "biochar" technique?

        Best regards,
        Laurens Rademakers

      • Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa
        Who said Laurens de Orellana? :-) I am kidding, but indeed, exciting news you are giving us Laurens. Now, I know why we haven t read your messages for a while.
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
          Who said Laurens de Orellana? :-)

          I am kidding, but indeed, exciting news you are giving us Laurens. Now, I know why we haven't read your messages for a while. I hope you keep us posted with your findings.

          Have an adventurous exploration and take care of yourself,

          Ruy

        • Folke Günther
          *He is mentioned in the beginning of this article FG* 2009/2/12 Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
            He is mentioned in the beginning of this article
            FG


            2009/2/12 Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa <korscha@...>

            Who said Laurens de Orellana? :-)
            But i was Francisco Orellana

             
             



            I am kidding, but indeed, exciting news you are giving us Laurens. Now, I know why we haven't read your messages for a while. I hope you keep us posted with your findings.

            Have an adventurous exploration and take care of yourself,

            Ruy




            --
            ----------------------------------------
            Join the Facebook group Charcoal against Global Warming!
            ----------------------------------------
            Folke Günther
            Kollegievägen 19
            224 73 Lund
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          • Peter Read
            good on you Laurens - hope you manage to get there before the rains and hope the rains do indeed come Best Peter ... From: biopact@biopact.com To:
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
              good on you Laurens - hope you manage to get there before the rains
              and hope the rains do indeed come
              Best
              Peter
              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 10:28 PM
              Subject: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique
              snipped, peter
            • Sean K. Barry
              Lorenzo! ... This is a great discovery. I hope that you can get to this Batibo region soon and see and photograph this phenomenon. I think Elephant grass
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
                Lorenzo! ... This is a great discovery.  I hope that you can get to this "Batibo" region soon and see and photograph this phenomenon.
                 
                I think "Elephant grass" is the common name for Micanthus giganteus.  This plant can produce more biomass per hectare per year than almost any other plant.
                 
                Regards,
                 
                SKB
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:28 AM
                Subject: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

                Dear biochar researchers,
                I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                practise shifting cultivation- - said they know about an ancient soil
                improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?

                The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
                the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
                any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
                fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
                make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
                the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
                again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
                strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
                fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
                environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
                crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
                several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
                becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
                rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
                fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
                Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
                knowledge of this Batibo technique.

                We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
                the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
                enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
                carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
                own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
                we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
                loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
                interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
                Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
                "biochar" technique?

                Best regards,
                Laurens Rademakers



                ____________________________________________________________
                Need cash? Click to get a loan.

              • Sean K. Barry
                No ... Elephant grass in Africa is is Pennisetum purpureum. ... From: biopact@biopact.com To:
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
                  No ...  "Elephant grass" in Africa is is Pennisetum purpureum.
                   
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:28 AM
                  Subject: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

                  Dear biochar researchers,
                  I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                  trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                  frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                  interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                  concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                  practise shifting cultivation- - said they know about an ancient soil
                  improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                  still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                  are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                  people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                  us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?

                  The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
                  the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
                  any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
                  fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
                  make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
                  the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
                  again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
                  strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
                  fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
                  environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
                  crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
                  several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
                  becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
                  rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
                  fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
                  Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
                  knowledge of this Batibo technique.

                  We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
                  the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
                  enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
                  carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
                  own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
                  we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
                  loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
                  interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
                  Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
                  "biochar" technique?

                  Best regards,
                  Laurens Rademakers



                  ____________________________________________________________
                  Click here to find the perfect picture with our powerful photo search features.

                • Sean K. Barry
                  Very good, Ruy ... very good ... From: Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa To: biochar@yahoogroups.com Sent:
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
                    Very good, Ruy ... very good Smiley emoticon
                     
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:56 AM
                    Subject: Re: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

                    Who said Laurens de Orellana? :-)

                    I am kidding, but indeed, exciting news you are giving us Laurens. Now, I know why we haven't read your messages for a while. I hope you keep us posted with your findings.

                    Have an adventurous exploration and take care of yourself,

                    Ruy



                    ____________________________________________________________
                    Need cash? Click to get an emergency loan, bad credit ok

                  • Sean K. Barry
                    But, it s Laurens Sombroek ... From: Ruy Korscha Anaya de la Rosa To: biochar@yahoogroups.com Sent:
                    Message 9 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
                      But, it's Laurens Sombroek
                       
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:56 AM
                      Subject: Re: [biochar] African terra preta tradition? Batibo technique

                      Who said Laurens de Orellana? :-)

                      I am kidding, but indeed, exciting news you are giving us Laurens. Now, I know why we haven't read your messages for a while. I hope you keep us posted with your findings.

                      Have an adventurous exploration and take care of yourself,

                      Ruy



                      ____________________________________________________________
                      Need cash? Click to get an emergency loan, bad credit ok

                    • Philip Small
                      Laurens: Very exciting. I have passed along .
                      Message 10 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009

                        Laurens: Very exciting. I have passed along.

                        --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, biopact@... wrote:
                        >
                        > Dear biochar researchers,
                        > I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                        > trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                        > frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                        > interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                        > concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                        > practise shifting cultivation-- said they know about an ancient soil
                        > improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                        > still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                        > are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                        > people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                        > us excited.

                      • ifzama5
                        Hello Everyone: I grew up in Cameroon, precisely in Santa in the NW Province of Cameroon. The technique described by Laurens was quite a common practice when
                        Message 11 of 13 , Feb 23, 2010
                          Hello Everyone:
                          I grew up in Cameroon, precisely in Santa in the NW Province of Cameroon. The technique described by Laurens was quite a common practice when we were growing up. In our Ngemba language, the process is called Ankara.
                          I can testify that it works very well, and the crops grown on this particular bed is no way compaired to crops on regular beds. I think that it is the potassium from the burning of the biomass the causes the crops to do well.
                          I am new to this list, and reading back posts and coming along.
                          Nice to be with you guys.
                          Isaac Zama


                          --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, biopact@... wrote:
                          >
                          > Dear biochar researchers,
                          > I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                          > trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                          > frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                          > interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                          > concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                          > practise shifting cultivation-- said they know about an ancient soil
                          > improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                          > still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                          > are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                          > people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                          > us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?
                          >
                          > The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
                          > the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
                          > any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
                          > fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
                          > make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
                          > the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
                          > again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
                          > strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
                          > fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
                          > environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
                          > crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
                          > several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
                          > becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
                          > rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
                          > fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
                          > Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
                          > knowledge of this Batibo technique.
                          >
                          > We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
                          > the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
                          > enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
                          > carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
                          > own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
                          > we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
                          > loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
                          > interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
                          > Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
                          > "biochar" technique?
                          >
                          > Best regards,
                          > Laurens Rademakers
                          >
                        • Dr. Reddy
                          Dear All, RAAB is an old Terra Preta System as practices in parts of India, which is no more seen. Mr. Bernard Declercq, Auroville had seen this system about
                          Message 12 of 13 , May 11 2:43 AM
                            Dear All,

                            RAAB is an old Terra Preta System as practices in parts of India, which is no more seen. Mr. Bernard Declercq, Auroville had seen this system about 30 years back, explains it as "Raab is a system of charring biomass used by some tribal communities in India. It consists of making beds of various layers of dry, half-dry and fresh woody and leafy biomass, dung and clay. The thus layered bed is fully sealed with clay and cold fired (burning in reduced conditions). In the resultant residues rice nurseries are started. The tribals affirm that this gives perfect growth to the rice plants. Charcoal bits, ash, even wood vinegar as well as sulfur that may have been absorbed by the clay, would explain the growth enhancing factors of the raab system".

                            Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy

                            --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "ifzama5" <ifzama5@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hello Everyone:
                            > I grew up in Cameroon, precisely in Santa in the NW Province of Cameroon. The technique described by Laurens was quite a common practice when we were growing up. In our Ngemba language, the process is called Ankara.
                            > I can testify that it works very well, and the crops grown on this particular bed is no way compaired to crops on regular beds. I think that it is the potassium from the burning of the biomass the causes the crops to do well.
                            > I am new to this list, and reading back posts and coming along.
                            > Nice to be with you guys.
                            > Isaac Zama
                            >
                            >
                            > --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, biopact@ wrote:
                            > >
                            > > Dear biochar researchers,
                            > > I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                            > > trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                            > > frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                            > > interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                            > > concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                            > > practise shifting cultivation-- said they know about an ancient soil
                            > > improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                            > > still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                            > > are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                            > > people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                            > > us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?
                            > >
                            > > The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
                            > > the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
                            > > any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
                            > > fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
                            > > make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
                            > > the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
                            > > again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
                            > > strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
                            > > fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
                            > > environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
                            > > crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
                            > > several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
                            > > becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
                            > > rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
                            > > fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
                            > > Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
                            > > knowledge of this Batibo technique.
                            > >
                            > > We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
                            > > the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
                            > > enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
                            > > carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
                            > > own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
                            > > we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
                            > > loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
                            > > interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
                            > > Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
                            > > "biochar" technique?
                            > >
                            > > Best regards,
                            > > Laurens Rademakers
                            > >
                            >
                          • Paw
                            I was reading about Raab in India just now and it seems they consider it destructive of the forests but I imagine that s because they want the timber for
                            Message 13 of 13 , May 11 9:44 AM
                              I was reading about Raab in India just now and it seems they consider it destructive of the forests but I imagine that's because they want the timber for railroad ties and other resources so they can over-exploit the land's resources for the benefit of the ruling elite.

                              -Paw, Doomer in Chief
                              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/brierpatch/



                              --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "Dr. Reddy" <saibhaskarnakka@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > Dear All,
                              >
                              > RAAB is an old Terra Preta System as practices in parts of India, which is no more seen. Mr. Bernard Declercq, Auroville had seen this system about 30 years back, explains it as "Raab is a system of charring biomass used by some tribal communities in India. It consists of making beds of various layers of dry, half-dry and fresh woody and leafy biomass, dung and clay. The thus layered bed is fully sealed with clay and cold fired (burning in reduced conditions). In the resultant residues rice nurseries are started. The tribals affirm that this gives perfect growth to the rice plants. Charcoal bits, ash, even wood vinegar as well as sulfur that may have been absorbed by the clay, would explain the growth enhancing factors of the raab system".
                              >
                              > Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy
                              >
                              > --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, "ifzama5" <ifzama5@> wrote:
                              > >
                              > > Hello Everyone:
                              > > I grew up in Cameroon, precisely in Santa in the NW Province of Cameroon. The technique described by Laurens was quite a common practice when we were growing up. In our Ngemba language, the process is called Ankara.
                              > > I can testify that it works very well, and the crops grown on this particular bed is no way compaired to crops on regular beds. I think that it is the potassium from the burning of the biomass the causes the crops to do well.
                              > > I am new to this list, and reading back posts and coming along.
                              > > Nice to be with you guys.
                              > > Isaac Zama
                              > >
                              > >
                              > > --- In biochar@yahoogroups.com, biopact@ wrote:
                              > > >
                              > > > Dear biochar researchers,
                              > > > I am here in SouthWest Cameroon, implementing the Biochar Fund's field
                              > > > trials. During a workshop in Kendem, a small village at the forest
                              > > > frontier between Mamfe and Bamenda, we stumbled upon a very
                              > > > interesting piece of information. As we were introducing the biochar
                              > > > concept, several of the participants -- small subsistence farmers who
                              > > > practise shifting cultivation-- said they know about an ancient soil
                              > > > improvement technique based on charcoal. The technique is supposedly
                              > > > still practised in the "Batibo region", further up north. Soils there
                              > > > are notoriously poor, but, according to our informants, the charcoal
                              > > > people seem to succeed in getting good yields. This information got
                              > > > us excited. Could there be an ancient African "terra preta" tradition?
                              > > >
                              > > > The Batibo technique was described to us as to work as follows: before
                              > > > the planting season, farmers collect big piles of elephant grass or
                              > > > any other type of savannah grass, which they spread out over their
                              > > > fields to dry it. After the grass has dried, they pile it so as to
                              > > > make long strips, on which they will grow their crops. Then they cover
                              > > > the big rows of grass with a layer of mud, which they leave to dry
                              > > > again. After the mud has dried and hardened, they open one part of the
                              > > > strip and set fire to the grass contained in this "container". The
                              > > > fire travels slowly through this "kiln", providing a low oxygen
                              > > > environment, and chars all the biomass. After this operation, they
                              > > > crush the mud layer, and the char beneath it. They repeat the effort
                              > > > several times to create layers of char and crushed mud. This then
                              > > > becomes their soil bed, on which they start planting crops when they
                              > > > rains arrive. The rains turn this soil layer into an apparently
                              > > > fertile soil. To our own amazement, the farmers of our workshop in
                              > > > Kendem immediately understood the biochar concept, because of their
                              > > > knowledge of this Batibo technique.
                              > > >
                              > > > We are now planning an expedition to this Batibo region, because if
                              > > > the technique has been practised for a long while, there must be
                              > > > enough traces of it in the soil. This expedition needs to be planned
                              > > > carefully and will be quite costly, as the region is very remote (our
                              > > > own presence in Kendem is already very heavy on the logistics.) I hope
                              > > > we can get to the area before the rains arrive (mid March) and take
                              > > > loads of pics. But in any case, perhaps we have stumbled on a very
                              > > > interesting soil improvement technique, not dissimilar to the
                              > > > Brazilian terra preta? Has anyone else heard of this apparently simple
                              > > > "biochar" technique?
                              > > >
                              > > > Best regards,
                              > > > Laurens Rademakers
                              > > >
                              > >
                              >
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