The miracle of Chinadango manure


The green that characterises the maize in the field mocks the sweltering heat that usually comes with dry spells during rainy season in Karonga District.

When such dry spell comes, the maize paints a sorry picture. The leaves wilt to the point that one can mistake it with onion leaves, and in most cases the stalks are bent as if they have been battered by a storm.

But for those that have tried what is known as Chinadango manure, maize wilting when dry spells hit is but a dream. And that has been the case with maize gardens of Kosamu Field School members in Group Village Head (GVH) Mwambelo’s area at Mlare in Karonga.


“We have been testing this manure and now we have decided to adopt it for our gardens,” said Agnes Kaira, Kosamu Field School chairperson.

“We have been trying different conservation agriculture (CA) initiatives but this manure has beaten the rest. If you can see the plots where we have been demonstrating this manure you can make a better judgement.”

On one plot, members of the group planted the maize on flat land, mulched the field and applied chemical fertilisers. However, at the peak of the dry spell, Kaira said, the maize wilted.


The members also planted the maize on another plot, mulched the field and applied Chinadango manure. The results were different. Kaira said the maize did not wilt during the dry spell; it remained green and robust throughout.

“This is how we settled for the Chinadango manure and most of our members have liked it. We have not yet harvested the maize but we can tell from the progress that we have found a solution to the problems we have been experiencing,” she added.

Chinadango manure is a mixture of chemical fertilisers – both basal and top dressing – and some locally sourced organic material, including maize bran (madeya) and cow dung.

It derives its name from Chinadango Mhango, a lead farmer at Hangalawe in the southern part of the district, who was tasked by the Karonga Agricultural Development Division (Kradd) to test the combination as a cheaper means of reaping bumper harvests and an adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change, including dry spells.

“The manure is made of two types; for basal dressing and another for top dressing,” said Lughano Mwalughali, one of the farmers involved in scaling up the use of the manure in the district.

“For basal dressing, we use 40 kilogrammes of decomposed cow dung, 40 kilogrammes of maize bran, 20 kilogrammes of ash, 10 kilogrammes of basal dressing fertiliser and five litres of water,” said Mwalughali.

“The same quantity is used when making that for top dressing. The only difference is that here, the basal dressing fertiliser is replaced by the top dressing fertiliser. In this case, it is Urea.”

He said the mixture is then kept in sealed plastic bags for 21 days to restore heat for the ripening of the manure.

Mwalughali said for basal dressing, the manure is applied in a line dug where planting holes are made and it is applied before planting.

On the other hand, he said, for top dressing the manure is applied after planting the seed.

Francis Chilenga, Chief Agriculture Extension Officer for Karonga ADD, said when used to produce Chinadango manure, a bag for basal and top dressing chemical fertiliser produces 20 bags, making a total of 40 bags for the manure, which is enough to apply to a hectare of the maize crop.

“This is why we say that this is a cheap way of attaining high yield because a hectare of maize requires five bags of basal dressing and top dressing chemical fertilisers. If you use Chinadango manure, you buy only two bags of fertiliser and the rest of the materials used to produce it are free. It’s like you are applying only two bags of fertiliser to a hectare,” said Chilenga.

“The advantage with this cheap initiative is that its organic content enriches the soil quality and guarantees a bumper harvest even during erratic rains because of its moisture holding capabilities,” added Chilenga, who was awarded for designing the concept along with Frank Msiska of the Catholic Development Commission (Cadecom) of the Karonga Diocese of the Catholic Church.

The project was voted among the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) top 20 innovations and scooped 5,000 Euros.

Mwalughali added that after growing the same maize variety on three plots and applying Chinadango manure, cattle dung and chemical fertilisers, respectively, he noticed that the maize to which he applied Chinadango manure beat the rest in terms of output, including the size of the maize cobs.

“The maize crop to which I applied Chinadango manure remained vigorous and green throughout its growing period. The one to which I applied manure and chemical fertiliser faltered,” he said.

“The one to which I applied chemical fertiliser had a better output than that to which I applied manure. But as it grew, the one to which I applied chemical fertiliser withered. I have to scale up the use of this manure because it is promising.”

Chilenga said, so far, over 1,500 farmers have adopted Chinadango manure, adding that the use of the manure has scaled up in Karonga ADD both as a cheap means of achieving bumper harvest and a means of adapting to the adverse effects of climate change, particularly during dry spells.

GVH Mwambelo said people from his area, which is under Lupembe Extension Planning Area (EPA), are eager to adopt the manure saying “people have realised that surviving adverse climatic conditions is easier now because of this manure.”

“We have even set bylaws that nobody should be grazing cattle in other people’s fields because we have learnt that when we use this manure and mulch the fields, output is higher than when we do not mulch the fields. Those contravening the bylaws are charged K25, 000,” he said.

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