Agriculture in rocky and hilly areas

How do I go about planting crops in a rocky area with less soil but more stones? Has anybody faced or is facing that challenge? I’d like to plant vegetables for my community to solve the problem of malnutrition. Your advise or training is highly appreciated.

Hi Nshekan it will take time to build soil. If it’s a small area for growing vegetables then raised beds are great if you can accumulate biomass, compost and/or soil. If it’s a large area, letting land be fallow will help start, so keeping off livestock, no burning etc. (but mob grazing in the right context can build soil quickly). Mulching and keeping chickens on the land to mix manure with mulch & biomas for a while can also help. Making swales and bunds - you can use the rocks to make contour bunds to stop water & nutrients disappearing off the land. So there are many ways, depends on size, slope, availability of biomass, livestock pressure, etc. Also using crops that will grow in those conditions.

There are speed methods for building up soil and getting into production more quickly. You should consider planting trees on the contour. You will need to select the species based on what is likely to survive. I like legume trees because they build nitrogen and organic matter in the soil. Prune the trees based on what productive or service function is needed from the trees (biomass for soil fertility enhancement, partial shade, fuelwood, etc.). Fruit trees may survive if they are of a very hardy type such as jujube. They are more likely to survive next to areas where water is channeled and/or slope is less where water has a chance to infiltrate. You can improve that effect in the draws, places where water flows, through dams or gabbans, etc. or directing the water flow sideways. I am not sure of your rainfall & length of dry season and knowing that might help me provide better advice. Several legume trees can be planted around the fruit trees in those areas and pruned constantly to help with fertility. Vetiver grass if you have it should be planted on the contour but you could also multiply any bunch type grasses you find in the area and use them on the contour between the trees. Then you can plant perennial herbacious legumes on both sides of the bunch grass and tree contour lines. Jack bean is your best bet for working given the situation you are in. Keep multiplying the jack bean and you will be able to slash it back more than once when you eventually go to plant vegetables. You may need a little Roundup on the jackbean to set it back enough next to your vegetables so it does not compete. You don’t have to kill it where it is far enough away to control by slashing it. Perennial peanut may be another possibility if you don’t want to use Roundup on your perennial legume in order to grow vegetables. I don’t use compost due to the time required to make it. I just collect what is locally available (collect from neighbors what they are not using or cut your own somewhere nearby and use a tarp to move it to the location of use) and use Zai hole planting methods and in your case you are going to need a lot of organic matter in the planting hole. Dig your hole so that moves the soil downhill which if some is left (not replaced) helps with water harvesting. You add a little soil over the organic matter (brown material goes in the hole, green and brown used on the surface as mulch). All vegetable starts and trees, particularly fruit trees must be raised in low nitrogen fertility soil under water stress in the nursery in pots to produce good hardy plants/trees that will survive and they all should be planted with Zai hole system, with the trees, particularly the fruit trees dug much deeper if possible. Put some charcoal fines in each hole or 1 tbsp wood ash if you don’t have them. Use human urine for fertilizer. I put it on in the rain so there is limited cultural stigma since it does not smell and the rain dilutes it and moves it down well distributed into the root zone. Just wait 2 weeks and use very little urine with transplants at first. When using urine you don’t need to make compost which will limit the size of your plot greatly due to tremendous labor needed for compost making and the weight of the product makes it harder to move distances. Dig a v shaped water harvesting guide to each vegetable hole and give it a stomp or two in the v area so that water will more likely move into your hole instead of infiltrate in the v. The v should touch the v of the next vegetable hole so water is guided into the holes. Leave the holes with a divet so you are reaching deeper soil water profile and your hole is marked with the divet for the next season. As Chris above has suggested the rocks can be pushed up into the tree and grass area but this is not something you should spend a lot of time doing since the trees and grass will collect soil and build the terrace. It could be a dry season activity when you have time. Take the tree prunings and grass prunings and lay them on the uphill side at the base or put them in rows in the alley area and pull soil over the top of them so they form bunds for water harvesting… My Whatsapp is 16162042268. You can call or message me. Email

Here are some videos that show farming strategies to deal with hills and rocks.

If your people are really in need you could try growing Jack beans.
Here is a quote from;

*Compared to other leguminous cover crops, jack beans are the best option when it comes to protein content and replenishing nitrogen in the soil. *
*Jack beans are also easy to store and extremely drought and pest resistant. *
Jack beans survive when other bean crops suffer with lack of rain or to weevil infestation, a common storage pest. But most importantly, jack beans play a vital role in repelling a recent invasive species, Fall Armyworm – a pest wreaking havoc on the maize harvest in Mozambique. Jack beans are a win-win when intercropped with maize, as they repel moths that lay the worm eggs while also enriching the soil.

They grow in every SSA country and even resist locust attacks, we have shown!