There are many different symbiotic relationships in Tropical Agriculture. As this web page grows we will try to feature some of the unique ones.
In Traditional East African farming (slash and burn), the termite is considered an enemy. If left in the field they can devastate a crop. For the poor farmer, chemicals poisons are to expensive, not to mention harmful to the soil. However, there are a number of ways to deal with the problem. First stop and learn from this little bug. His casings (poop) and saliva which he uses to glue the granules of dirt together to build his home is very rich in Nitrogen and other beneficial nutrients.
1. The reason the termite eats the crop is because the farmer has removed all the dead bio-mater off the field. But if you have mulch on your soil, the termite would much rather eat the mulch and leave your crop alone. He will also leave his castings behind to benefit your soil.
2. We like to also teach how to harvest the termite soil, without upsetting the termites and causing them to move. The termite soil is then used as a rich soil input by digging and 8″ hole and putting one big handful of termite soil in your hole. Bury it with the original soil that was dug out of the hole and plant the seed in the original soil above the termite soil. One big handful of termite soil works about as well as a cup full of cow manure.
3. If you need to get rid of termites you can use the Tithonia bush which grows wild in most parts of East Africa. We will feature this plant soon in Underutilized crops. Please check back later.