Key Findings Manure Management Practices

The results of the in-depth surveys confirm the findings of the more general assessment on manure policies and the enabling environment. It also provides more in-depth understanding of manure management practices. Manure, and especially liquid manure, when stored, are poorly stored and handled and relatively often discharged into the environment. Despite the wide geographic range of countries and the variation in agricultural systems, some general conclusions regarding manure management can be drawn.

Awareness & knowledge

A key barrier in manure management is the lack of awareness of integrated manure management opportunities, which is often linked to a lack of knowledge and to a poor or incomplete provision of information.

Policies

The surveys on manure management practices showed that manure policy is only considered as a barrier for improvement by the Argentinian feedlot farmers, a group of well-educated farmers actively searching for knowledge and very aware of the manure problem. In other countries, manure policy is not considered a primary barrier.

Subsidies & credits

Proper manure management is associated with investments in capital, labour and knowledge which increase costs of production. Limited access to credit to invest in integrated manure management is an important barrier. Subsidies for synthetic fertilisers have an adverse effect on utilisation of manure as a fertiliser, while subsidies for bio-digester are often not directed at the maintenance of the digester and the value of the digestate.

Labour & Equipment

Proper manure management, storage, treatment and application is labour intensive. The combination of lack of awareness/knowledge, lack of labour and the inability to handle liquid manures in a non-mechanised environment, results in a low prioritisation of manure storage and application.

Maintenance of bio-digesters is often reported as a problem, resulting in a loss of methane emissions and energy production. Maintenance of manure management infrastructure should be a key part of manure management policies and practices.

Illiteracy

Twenty-one percent of the interviewees cited illiteracy as being an important constraint in accessing information on improving manure management. This emphasises the need for visual communication materials tailored to the local circumstances. It also confirms the findings that television, radio, farm/field visits, group meetings and bi-lateral contacts are the most used and appreciated communication channels/methods. Notably the use of television and radio might be non-appropriate in places with a lack or limited availability of electricity.

Incentives

The majority of the interviewees who invested in improving manure management in the last five years consider improving human health, receiving (financial) incentives and complying with regulations as the most important drivers for their investment.

Culture

Awareness of ‘the problems and or solutions’ and having the knowledge and even the resources to act accordingly, is no guarantee for practice change. It also needs to be accepted as a solution. Improving manure management with eventual use as organic fertiliser has a trade-off that manure is no longer available as a fuel for cooking or for construction. The use of dung cakes for cooking is a common tradition in many of these regions.

Closing remarks

An effective manure policy, focussing on the added value of manure, should work on four main barriers: the lack of awareness and knowledge, the development of customised solutions for simple manure storage and application equipment and the access to incentive mechanisms. The successful bio-digester programmes in many countries have proven the success of this approach. It is shown that maintenance and the required expertise and knowledge infrastructure is important to ensure continuous use of bio-digesters. It is fair to extend this to manure management as a whole, this is not a one-time action, but requires constant attention in training farmers and extension workers and permanent/long term programmes for financial credits.